Winning a championship is a mammoth task, but experts will tell you that repeating that feat is even more difficult.
The Goochland Bulldogs enter this season with that mission clearly in mind, and expectations around the courthouse are high. The word repeat is still just a whisper, but that will all change in a matter of days.
Coach Joe Fowler’s troops face a challenge made no easier with a road opener against last year’s state championship runner up, Essex. And, then there are the usual suspects when it comes to James River District competition in Amelia and Buckingham, both road games for the Bulldogs.
If it seems like a daunting schedule, that’s because it is. But the Bulldogs won’t face those hurdles without returning experience at key positions.
Junior Jordan Jefferson continues his Bulldog career as a legitimate triple threat on offense, and a Division I prospect on the defensive side of the ball.
While Jefferson took the majority of the snaps last year, that’s likely to change with the new campaign.
“Both Chenault and Jefferson got valuable experience at quarterback last year and both will get time there,” Fowler said. “Jefferson is a dual threat who can score every time he touches the ball. Chenault threw for 814 yards and 12 TDs as a freshman on less than 90 attempts.”
Connor Saunders, a standout on defense last year, will likely join Jefferson in the backfield, but Fowler has a wealth of running backs as the season begins.
“Connor will also get a lot of carries after playing mostly defense last year. He did score two TDs in the state title game,” Fowler said.
David Dyer who provides his own brand of muscle to the Bulldog running attack will join Saunders and Jefferson.
“David Dyer is a big bodied downhill back that can punish the opposing defense,” the coach said.
It all adds up to what could become one of the best groups of running backs in recent memory.
“We might be as deep at running back as we have ever been,” he said. “We have four more running backs who can step in for the three listed and not miss a beat,” he added.
Defensively, the Bulldogs lost seven starters, and Fowler said it might take some time for the defense to gel.
“We will be young in some places but by the end of the season, we will be a veteran defense,” Fowler said. “We might take some lumps early with a tough schedule, but by playoff time, we will be dialed in,” he added.
Jefferson and Saunders will anchor the secondary, and Akia Timberlake will return to either the line or linebacker. Markell Cooley, a sophomore, returns at the other corner.
Cephas Harden also returns to the line for the Bulldogs. “He has the potential to be an all state defensive end. He is just growing into his own,” Fowler said.
Nothing is a certainty, but Fowler thinks his team has the potential to record another great season.
“We could be very potent if the offensive line comes together and all of our kids put the team accomplishments ahead of individual goals and glory,” he said.
The depth at running back could open some other avenues for the usually ground based Bulldogs.
“We will be physical in the running game with the stable of running backs, we feel like we can keep a fresh guy in there at all times,” Fowler said. “That will open up the passing game and allow us to keep people honest defensively and not load the box with eight or nine guys.”
Sophomore quarterback Reid Chenault (18) will return and share time with junior quarterback Jordan Jefferson in the Bulldog backfield, adding another dimension to Goochland’s offense as the Bulldogs begin their campaign for a second-straight state title