Dragons looking to soar to new heights
August 15, 2007 - After tying a school record for wins and outscoring their opponents by 300 points in their 10 victories, the bar is definitely set high at Lake Orion in 2007.
|Chris Lum, an All-State selection as a junior last season, returns to lead the Dragons in 2007. Photo by Nick Couretas.|
The over 80-member varsity football squad kicks off the campaign at home next Friday against Oak Park as a member of the new OAA Red division.
Head Coach Chris Bell returns for his 10th season, along with Defensive Coordinator Dave Tooley and Special Teams Coach John Blackstock. The coaching staff will have no shortage of talent with which to work.
With an All-State quarterback among their many returning stars, Lake Orion's offense has a strong chance to eclipse the 400-point mark for the second straight year.
"We return the state's best quarterback and an outstanding offensive line," Bell said. "So we're going to be aggressive offensively."
Three linemen return, led by Michigan State recruit Ethan Ruhland and fellow senior Taylor Phillips at the tackle spots. Spencer Murphy returns at guard.
The new faces are junior Tyler Benson at center and senior Adam Sally, who moves into a guard slot.
"Those guys have a chance to be the best offensive line we've ever had," Bell said.
Seniors Kevin Kelly and Jeff Chattaway will see time at tight end after the graduation of Mike Tuzik.
Seniors Ryan Broth and Chad Nieswand return as receivers after the pair split time in the slot last year. They'll be joined in the wideout mix by juniors Jeff Heath and Robby Lentz and senior Mikael Lott.
"They've all had great offseasons and they're all working very hard," Bell said. "There's talent across the board."
In the backfield, leading rusher Aaron Allen is gone, but 300-yard rusher Cortez McKinley returns. He'll be followed on the depth chart by senior James Miller, senior A.J. Palko (a transfer from Holly) and leading junior varsity rusher Branden Oakes.
"The big change there is that Miller started for us last year at fullback and we're standing him up this year," Bell said. "He's more of a natural fullback and we'll be strong with him and Cortez as a one-two punch."
Bell said Palko will be used in the bigger formations, while Oakes will serve as a change-of-pace speed guy.
Zac Clouse, who doubles as the leader of the linebacker corps will start at fullback for the Dragons.
The quarterback position is extremely secure with 1,900-yard passer Chris Lum returning after earning All-State honors a year ago. He also threw for 27 touchdowns on his way to an impressive 64.2-percent completion rate and a quarterback rating of 128.9.
Senior Mike Musary saw the field in all 11 of the team's games a year ago and is more than capable as Lum's back-up.
On the defensive side, seven senior starters from a year ago have graduated, but the team returns anchors at every level.
A three-year starter, Clouse will lead a linebacker group that includes Palko, A.J. Gill and Eric Knoblock, among others.
"We've got a very good linebacking corps," Bell noted. "Clouse is the headliner coming back on our defense."
Evan Gros and Kelly return after having breakout seasons in '06. Bell said Gros will likely see time on the line as well as at linebacker, while Kelly will be the anchor of a defensive line that also includes Ruhland and Phillips.
"They had darn good years for us last season," Bell said of Gros and Kelly.
The secondary took the strongest hit, as only Blaine Stormer (three-year starter) returns starting experience.
Senior Brock Knowles, junior Charles Fleck, sophomore Vinnie Booker and Lentz will all be counted on to replace the likes of Jake Gaudard, Nick Dunstan and Joe Barnes.
"We expect the same things out of the guys we'll have back there this year," Bell said. "They're all good athletes and they're all quick."
For the entire defensive unit, Bell said there is not so much inexperience as there is unfamiliarity in playing with each other.
"We've got to gel and learn to play at the speed we need to play at," he said.
Evan Moran steps in to replace Dylan Van Fossan as the team's kicker on kickoffs and Bell said Moran is in the mix to kick extra points and field goals too. Jacob Linklater, who filled in as punter when Barnes was injured last season, takes over that job full-time this season.
Don't miss a special announcement about Dragon TV coverage in '07 and "The LO Down" examines the team's schedule. It's all in this web edition!
Editor, Lake Orion Review. Colin joined The Review in 2005 and became editor earlier this year. He graduated from Kalamazoo College where he served as editor-in-chief of his college newspaper. Colin is a Ferndale High School graduate and currently lives in Pleasant Ridge.