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First Down: Dominion Titans

It's time for the second installment of First Down!

As coaches and players start training camp in the coming week, we're all anxious to see which teams could contend for district titles and who might surprise some teams in the upcoming season. Over the next few weeks I'll be previewing each of the Dulles District teams with a feature I'm calling "First Down." I'll just do some quick hits with stats and key losses and returning players and tell you what I'll be watching in each team's training camp.

Feel free to contribute any inside information, share notes about up-and-comers from the junior varsity squad or tell my I'm crazy for thinking a certain player is in the running for one starting job or another. As the coaches let on at media day, there are lots of unknowns heading into camp. So feel free to speculate, ruminate and debate any and all football topics here at the Extra Points blog.

Next Up, the Dominion Titans...

DOMINION TITANS
Coach: Karl Buckwalter, second year
Last year: 1-9 (1-6 Dulles District)

In his first season at the helm of the Titans, Buckwalter spent his honeymoon at Titans training camp in the sweltering August heat. Now, with a full year under his belt, Buckwalter and his team are looking to bounce back from a frustrating 1-9 campaign in 2008 that felt nothing like a honeymoon. The coach has a history of reclamation projects - both at McLean and Colonial Forge where he took struggling or new programs out of the cellar and into the playoffs. Could this be the year the Titans take the next step?
With scintillating running back DeAndre Reaves leading the attack and junior Trey Baxter returning for a full season as the starting quarterback, the Titans will rely on their speed to make plays in the open field as they aim to put points on the board - something they struggled to do last season. The defense will continue to be the focal point in Sterling and that unit could develop into one of the strongest in the Dulles District. At media day Buckwalter was talking playoffs, meaning he's not looking ahead to 2010 when his crop of juniors will be seniors with even more experience in his system. This might not be the year that Dominion challenges for a district title but expect them to erase the memories of last year early on and make the rest of the district take notice of their potential to compete over the next few seasons.

Offense


Junior QB Trey Baxter can mix things up with the pass and the run. (Photo by Katherine Frey, TWP)
Returning Starters: 4
Overall: 8.5 points per game
Passing: 51-115, 618 yds, 4 TDs, 14 INTs
Rushing: 326 carries, 1,037 yds, 6 TDs
Kicking: 1 FG, 10 XPs

Key Losses
QB Chris Taylor, TE Aaron Good, QB Andrew Pont, RB Derek Geegbae

Key Returners
RB DeAndre Reaves (Jr) - 194 carries, 853 yards, 6 TDs; 8 rec., 60 yds, 1 KR TD
Despite finishing second in the league in carries and scoring all of his team's 2008 rushing touchdowns, the Titans' speedy tailback ended up fifth in the district in rushing yardage on the season. Much of that can be placed on an offensive line that could not create holes for Reaves to run through, forcing him to bounce it outside far too often to elude a collapsing pocket. But while the stats may not match his stellar freshman campaign (218 carries, 1,280 yds, 14 TDs), Reaves was still the only true offensive weapon his team had last season. For him to challenge for the rushing title again in 2009, he'll need to get more help from the line and learn to trust their blocking ability. If that happens and the Titans can develop a passing game with QB Trey Baxter, we could see several performances like the one Reaves dropped on Freedom in Week 5: 24 carries, 247 yards, 3 TDs.

QB Trey Baxter (Jr) - 21-43, 245 yds, 2 TDs, 5 INTs; 85 carries, 250 yds
Baxter took over quarterbacking duties from senior Chris Taylor at the midway point of the season and was reasonably productive the rest of the way in an offense that was overly-reliant on the running game. With his experience as a tailback, Buckwalter expects Baxter to be a dual-threat under center who should progress as the season goes along. His main duty will be handing the ball off to Reaves but if he can find success in the short passing game and use his legs to evade the rush and avoid sacks, Baxter could drastically improve an offense that was the lowest scoring unit in the district a year ago, averaging just 8.5 points per game.

WR Derrick Lewis (Sr) - 10 rec., 108 yds; 1 carry, 20 yds
Lewis is speed, speed and more speed. The guy can flat out fly and should see a greatly expanded role in year two under Buckwalter. He likely won't be used as a home-run threat on deep balls because Baxter won't be asked to bomb the ball down the field, but if Lewis can catch the ball in space, he's always a threat to break off a big run after the catch.

Position Battles to Watch
Offensive Line - Buckwalter watched his line get better as the season wore on, but a quick look at QB Chris Taylor's rushing totals (14 carries, -104 yards) tells you all you need to know about the pass protection they provided. This season he's taking the reigns as the offensive line coach, putting the onus on himself to make sure his big fellas are fundamentally sound and better prepared to run block and pass protect. Senior guard Riley Sullivan - last year's middle linebacker, sophomore center Kenny Sisson and junior tackle Alex Ward (6-1, 280) will anchor that unit and they can expect to be worked during camp as Buckwalter focuses his attention on getting this unit ready to go for the season.

Wide Receiver - Lewis has a good chance at winning a starting job but who will join him on the outside? Junior Sammy Coleman, who took last year off, is another burner who should make an impact this season and senior Aaron Gravallese has decent size and could be a nice target over the middle and in short yardage. Look for more competition at this position as summer practices heat up.

Defense
Returning Starters: 4/5
Overall: 26 points allowed per game
Passing: 72-142, 850 yds, 10 TDs
Rushing: 311 carries, 1,967 yds, 23 TDs

Key Losses
DB Henry Lobo, DB Aaron Good, LB Andrew Russell, DL Kleydelman Diaz, LB Anthony Bartolotti, DB Sean Cooper, DB Andrew Pont

Key Returners
DE Riley Sullivan (Sr)
The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder led the team in tackles a year ago at middle linebacker and moves up to defensive end where he'll be called upon to put pressure on the quarterback and prevent backs from turning the corner. Sullivan has good quickness and should remain one of the Titans' top tacklers, despite the change of position and stance. He's also become the heart and soul of this team, leading the younger players in practice and remains the voice of the defense.

SS Derrick Lewis (Sr)
Lewis moves from cornerback to the strong safety position where he'll be called upon to make more plays in the running game while still defending against the pass. Last year the Titans allowed only three teams to crack 100 yards through the air and Lewis' strong coverage was a key reason why.

Position Battles to Watch
Defensive Line - Look for Buckwalter to tap his top offensive lineman to play both ways as so many teams around the area do to put their best guys on the field as much as possible. This could mean additional playing time for Sisson and Ward but it also means the guys behind them will need to step up and be ready to come in to keep everyone fresh. While the pass defense was a strength of this team for much of last season, the same cannot be said for a run defense that allowed five 200-yard rushing performances.

Linebackers - Most of Dominion's linebacking corps graduated, meaning the second line of defense against the rush needs to be restocked. The Titans have plenty of juniors and seniors with experience at the position but it remains to be seen which of those individuals will prove they belong on the field when the season begins.

Schedule
8/28 - @ Loudoun Valley
9/4 - vs. Ballou
9/11 - @ Wakefield
9/25 - vs. Potomac Falls
10/2 - @ Freedom
10/9 - vs. Broad Run
10/16 - @ Loudoun County
10/23 - vs. South Lakes
10/30 - vs. Park View
11/6 - @ Briar Woods

Odds and Ends
- Dominion fields a junior heavy roster this season, with its full backfield returning from last season to lead the way. Buckwalter said he won't allow his team to look ahead and consider how good they might be in 2010 when Reaves, Baxter and several other key players will be seniors, but that doesn't mean we can't speculate. If the Titans can fill out the majority of their starting spots with members of that talented junior class this season, you have to figure they could develop into a real contender not too far down the line.

- The Titans had a very strong stretch in the middle of last season when they really seemed to find their stride. After drubbing Freedom 35-7 in what would be their lone win, Dominion more than held its own against two playoff teams in back-to-back weeks. The Titans held Briar Woods to a single score in a 7-0 loss and one week later were within 11-6 against Broad Run and driving in the fourth quarter before the wheels fell off. The next two weeks they loss close contests to Heritage (14-7) and Park View (13-0). It was a nice preview of the potential that the young Titans had and a competitiveness they'll surely display more of in 2009.

Coach's Corner
- "We've got to have the threat of throwing and have the reputation that we can throw. If we can't throw, they're going to gang up on us again. I think with Trey getting to work and putting more pressure on the secondary and keeping people off balance, that's what's going to happen. And our offensive line is going to have to give us time. DeAndre, as good and as intelligent a young man as he is, he can't do everything himself. He's going to have to learn the trust of the line."

- "We want to have a successful year every year, but what I haven't done is put in the expectations of 'just wait 'til next year.' Even our first year, when we didn't tackle very well or do some things at the beginning, we thought, 'you know what, if we do get this done and we make a couple stops here and get some power points, we might get in.' We kept talking about playoffs and we'll always talk about playoffs and how to get there and what we need to do...They're not looking towards two years down the road. They want to start changing the culture and changing the opinion of Dominion High School now, and so do I, because we have some players and we can play some football. We have to go out and prove it now." - Coach Buckwalter

And now for your poll questions...

Previous Entries
Freedom

By Matt Brooks  |  July 31, 2009; 2:53 PM ET
Categories:  Dominion High School , Dulles District , Football , High School Sports  | Tags: Dominion High School, Dulles District, Football  
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Next: First Down: Park View Patriots

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