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First Down: Loudoun County Raiders

With training camp underway, 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.

Today's team is the Loudoun County Raiders...

Coach: Todd Hill, third year
Last Year: 6-5 (4-3 Dulles District)

Following a 3-1 start to the 2008 season, the Raiders dropped three straight and had to win out to reach the postseason. They did just that, punching their ticket with an emotional 27-21 win over Leesburg rivals Heritage in their final regular season contest. A first round matchup with the would-be state champion Broad Run Spartans resulted in a quick exit, but the Raiders made great strides in their second year under Coach Todd Hill.
County lost loads of speed and athleticism and a core group of leaders with the graduation of QB Joe Bushrod and WR/DBs Brett Tagg and Tim McLister. Those three won't be easily replaced, and neither will bruising RB Andrew Walczak, but the Raiders do return plenty of starters from last year's squad, including the district's second-leading receiver, Michael Ayoub, and leading tackler, LB/TE Chase Williams. The Raiders were a trendy sleeper pick heading into last season but no one can afford to sleep on them this season. They're motivated and stocked with enough talent to get back to the postseason and advance past the first round if everything goes their way.

Returning Starters: 6
Overall: 22.9 points per game
Passing: 104-198, 1,539 yds, 12 TDs, 15 INTs
Rushing: 390 carries, 1,845 yds, 23 TDs
Kicking: 1 FG, 29 XPs

Key Losses
QB Joe Bushrod, RB Andrew Walczak, WR Tim McLister, WR Brett Tagg

Key Returners
WR/K Michael Ayoub (Sr) - 43 rec., 652 yds, 6 TDs
Ayoub quietly emerged as one of the best receivers in the Dulles District last season, finishing second in receptions and receiving yards. Even with a fresh face under center, he should at least approach those numbers in 2009 and could surpass them if the Raiders work to get him the ball in the open field. He's got speed and good size and could be poised for a real big year. Ayoub was also a very reliable kicker last season and could retain the duties this fall.

Senior WR Michael Ayoub will be the Raiders' top target in the passing game. (Tracy A. Woodward, TWP)

RB Adam Yesuf (Sr) - 68 carries, 539 yds, 5 TDs
Yesuf was the Raiders' second leading rusher a year ago and returns as one of the stronger candidates for the starting tailback role. At 5-10, 165, he's not a big bruiser but he's got speed and experience and should have a big senior year with increased touches in this offense. Yesuf averaged a whopping 7.9 yards per carry a year ago and scampered for a ridiculous 171 yards on 18 carries in a 20-2 win over Musselman (W. Va.) early last season.

RB Mike Howard (Sr) - 37 carries, 146 yds, 2 TDs
Howard is another returning veteran in the backfield who received much praise from Hill at media day. He'll get a big bump in carries and will be expected to run it up the gut quite a bit. He and Yesuf could be nice compliments for one another.

TE Chase Williams (Sr) - 31 rec., 416 yds, 3 TDs; 3 carries, 4 yds, 2 TDs; 1-2, 56 yds, 1 TD
The Raiders will try to get the ball in their star's hands any way possible - just take a look at the numbers from last year. After recently signing on at Virginia Tech for the 2010 season, Williams should be able to focus on leading the Raiders back to the playoffs in his senior season. He'll be a primary target for new QB Austin Campbell because of his size and great hands.

QB Austin Campbell (Sr) - 16-32, 147 yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
Austin Campbell is not Joe Bushrod. Let's just get that out of the way. He's not going to run circles around the backfield, buying time against the pass rush before finding a receiver downfield or taking off for a 20-yard run. Campbell is much more of a pocket passer who will rely on quick reads and time in the pocket to complete his passes. He saw some time a year ago and has played behind Bushrod on the football field and basketball court, so he's learned from one of the better field/court generals in the Dulles District over the past few years. With targets like Williams and Ayoub and stretching the field and a solid ground attack to keep the pressure off of him, Campbell could be a very solid QB for County.

Position Battles to Watch
Offensive Line - Hill singled this group out at media day, citing their potential but expressing some anxiousness about how quickly they could come together as a cohesive unit. The Raiders no longer have the luxury of a scrambling quarterback as Campbell is much more of a pocket passer than Bushrod was, meaning offensive line play will be critical for this offense to experience success.

RBs - The Raiders return five of their top six rushers from a year ago in Yesuf, Howard, junior Spencer Green, Anthony Wiley and Kevin Fitts. Each of those guys should get touches as the season progresses but whoever comes out of camp as the top two options will get plenty of totes in a run-first offense.

Returning Starters: 5
Overall: 23.6 points allowed per game
Passing: 59-133, 797 yds, 8 TDs
Rushing: 305 carries, 1,925 yds, 22 TDs

Key Losses
DB Joe Bushrod, LB Andrew Walczak, DB Brett Tagg, DB Tim McLister

Key Returners
LB Chase Williams (Sr)
Williams was a monster in the middle in his junior season and should continue to dominate this fall. He led the district in tackles and could easily repeat the feat. There's not much left to say about this guy. He's very, very talented and is the odds-on favorite for defensive player of the year honors.

Chase Williams is poised for a huge senior season. (Preston Keres, TWP)

LB Jake Wasko (Sr) - 2 rec., 79 yds, TD
At 6-2, 185, Wasko teams with Williams to form a formidable pair in the middle of the field for the Raiders. Together, this linebacker unit could be one of the best in the region.

Position Battles to Watch
DBs - As is the case with the offensive backfield, the Raiders have a whole heap of guys who can play the positions of corner and safety, but the question is, who will step up to fill the void left by the graduation of Bushrod, Tagg and McLister? Yesuf, Spencer Green, Kevin Fitts and Campbell are all strong candidates but it remains to be seen who will earn the role of the last line of defense for this team.

8/28 - vs. Musselman (W.Va.)
9/11 - @ Warren County
9/17 - @ Sherando
9/25 - vs. Liberty
10/2 - @ Park View
10/9 - @ Briar Woods
10/16 - vs. Dominion
10/24 - @ Broad Run
10/30 - vs. Freedom
11/6 - vs. Potomac Falls

Odds and Ends
- What the Raiders lost in speed and athleticism from last year's senior class, they'll need to make up for in brute strength and smart, fundamentally sound play. While they produced plenty of flashy plays last fall, they also committed more than their fair share of turnovers. A slightly more conservative approach, led by Campbell and the running game could result in fewer give-aways and more opportunities to put points on the board against quality opponents.

- The Raiders made a nice run to the playoffs a year ago but Hill is ready for his boys to take the next step. Simply reaching the postseason won't be enough for County to feel satisfied in 2009, they're looking for a return trip and an extended stay in the second season.

Coach's Corner
- "We've created a lot of depth across the defensive line, that's something we didn't have last year. Offensively we have four, five or six kids we feel comfortable with, we've got some decent depth at receiver and we definitely have more depth at the tight end position that's going to allow us to get Chase and Wasko a break. I think that's going to help us quite a bit."

- "It was a great experience to get into the playoffs but nobody cares about what you did last year. Our goal is to get back there this year. We were disappointed as a coaching staff because we excited to get to the playoffs, but that's all we did, we made no noise whatsoever. We were beaten soundly by Broad Run and we were beaten by a better team. So I think the thing this year is if we get back to the playoffs we've got to show that we're not just happy to be there. We've got to do something with that opportunity." - Coach Hill

And now for your polls questions...

Often forgotten amongst such talented wideouts as Broad Run's Adrian Flemming and Potomac Falls' Tarrell Owens, Michael Ayoub quietly had a tremendous 2008 campaign. He finished second, just behind the Panthers' Chad McMichael in receptions and yards and hauled in six scores. While McMichael is gone, the first two guys mentioned are also seniors and should put up big totals this season. Can County's top receiver do it again?

Previous Entries
Park View

By Matt Brooks  |  August 9, 2009; 11:56 PM ET
Categories:  Dulles District , Football , High School Sports , Loudoun County High School  | Tags: Dulles District, Football, Loudoun County High School  
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