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By Yaneek Smith
Over the past few seasons, the Danbury football program has made progress.
The Lakers have gone from wondering whether or not they would even be able to have a program to becoming consistently competitive to in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference.
Needless to say, it won't be easy to take that next step.
Gone from last year is TAAC Defensive Player of the Year Lucas Kennedy, who is set to play football this fall at Baldwin Wallace College. The defensive back had 101 tackles, four interceptions and four fumble recoveries. Kennedy also earned first-team league honors for his play at quarterback, doing damage with both his arm and his legs as he threw for 1621 yards and 11 touchdowns and ran for 1266 yards and 15 scores.
The Lakers also lost standout players Ben Adams (OL/LB) and Justin Tester (OL/DL) Cory Schenk to graduation. In 2011, Schenk set the school record for receptions (62) and receiving yards (1087) in a single season.
Taking over for Kennedy under center is senior Zach Kalinoski, who has previously seen time at quarterback, wide receiver and even center. While faced with the task of replacing one of the best players in school history, head coach Bryan Dudash is confident that Kalinoski can do a sufficient job of replacing the production left by Kennedy's graduation. (Former head coach Tim Heffernan is staying on as an assistant.)
“(Kalinoski) throws a nice football, he throws accurately — he's got a pretty good arm,” said Dudash, who served as the team's offensive coordinator for the past two seasons. “I think he throws the ball a little better than Lucas, but doesn't run it as well. I think he was 17-of-28 for 160 yards passing in our last scrimmage. He's done some nice things for us.”
Wide receiver Brandon Bahnsen returns after missing the last five games of the season with a back injury. Aside from Bahnsen, the Lakers lost all of their starting receivers to graduation and must replace, according to Dudash, approximately 90% of their offensive production from '11. Cody German, who will split time between running back and wide receiver is expected to see an increased load.
“We expect him to get 20-25 touches per game,” Dudash said.
Passing the ball is what the Lakers do. They like to run a lot of four-wide receiver sets and focus on a short passing game that gives their receivers a chance to make plays in the open fields. And, while they don't run many plays, they do use a variety of formations to confuse the defense.
Defensively, Dudash sees the defensive line as being one of the team's strengths. Austin Morin will be the primary run stopper and Cooper Eller and John McClellan will rush from the edge. Taylor Molnar is taking over at middle linebacker and fills the void left by Adams.