The Belaire Bengals hope to make major progress in 2016 after some tough seasons in recent years.
After a 2-8 record in 2014, the Bengals reached .500 last year with a 5-5 mark. Belaire is ready to make their move now with a veteran offensive line, a slew of talented receivers, a quarterback that was baptized by fire as a freshman, and an experienced defense.
"We are returning eight players on defense this year and we have the potential to go and compete in district this year," said senior cornerback Renard Valentine.
"Everyone is back. We're no longer sophomores, everyone's older now. We're three, four years older. Three, four years faster. Three, four years stronger," said senior cornerback Tywonne Harris.
"I feel good about our program. I feel we're going to make history this year. I feel, I think, we're going to make it to the playoffs this year. We brought in a lot of new players this year. We have some returning players and I think it'll help us out," said sophomore quarterback Travon Myles.
The team lost an electric superstar from last year's squad with dynamic running back Daquan Hicks now graduated.
Last season, the 5-foot-7 Warrick Dunn finalist rushed for over 1,800 yards and 20 touchdowns. Hicks was also extremely dangerous on special teams, scoring five more touchdowns on kickoff returns.
Hicks may be at Jackson State, but he left behind great examples and work habits for the current Belaire team to follow, in particular his tremendous effort in the weight room.
The 2016 team is starting things off this season by pumping iron in the summer.
"They're hitting it hard now and they understand, you have to get stronger to play this game, and also to last a whole season," said head coach Claude Coleman. "Because also, what it does is it prevents injuries, and these guys, they see the importance of it now and they saw it last year with Daquan because he beefed up and put on about 15 pounds of muscle that carried him through the season. I think last year was the first time he made it through the entire year without getting hurt or missing a game."
"We're finally coming together as a team, because my 9th grade year, there was kinda’, a little selfishness here and there, and as we keep going, we're starting to bond together," said junior wide receiver Claude Coleman Jr.
Senior wide receivers Donald Johnson and Jonavan Pitcher recently transferred to Belaire. Johnson said he switched to play for the Bengals because "their program was up and coming and that they were doing big things."
"I knew they had a new coach coming in and last year, they went 5-5 and missed the playoffs, so I wanted to come in, try to help the team out the best way I can," Pitcher said about transferring.
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