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Dragons prepare for 2011 gridiron

A group of Dragons take to the field during two-a-day practices. Itís time for Lake Orion to start thinking football again. Photo by G. Ouzounian (click for larger version)
August 17, 2011 - Nearly nine months have passed since the Lake Orion varsity football team triumphed over Plymouth to become the 2010 MHSAA Division 1 State Champions.

It's time to start thinking Dragon football again.

Despite a mostly intact roster of four-year players, coach Chris Bell is modest about the team's ability. He and his veteran coaching staff want to concentrate on preparing their team before worrying about its opponents.

"We have 92 kids on the roster, a lot of great talent and have had a lot of great competition in camp - it's just a matter of finding kids that can play on the level we need to be successful," Bell said. "We're only concerned with ourselves right now. We will scout our opponents eventually but, at this time of the year, we need to focus on how good we can be, need to learn our system and techniques, and that process takes time."

That talent, according to Bell, includes returning players Sean Charette, a four-year starting quarterback; Kevin Croner on the offensive line; defensive players Andrew Shafkalis and Jon Gall, defensive MVP last year; and wide receiver Robert Aiello. Bell also mentioned the team's six-foot, six-inch wide receiver Chaz Miller, juniors Nick Vogelmeier and Brandon Clements, and up-and-comers Davis Rossman, Derek Delaura and Jeremy King.

"Rebuilding the offensive line is going to be a challenge and we lost our punter and our kicker," Bell said. "Delaura will be our punter and back-up quarterback, and we expect Rossman to be one of our leaders as a defender at linebacker.

"But it's not just those guys - we have a ton of players on the team that all look good. At this point, what we have are leading returners and a bunch of talented guys battling at all spots."

The head coach said the defensive line is "very athletic," a trait of this group for the last several years. Other team strengths include the passing game, "especially with Charette," and noted his wide receivers are coming along well.

Leadership of the team has been assumed by Rossman, Croner and Charette, who "continues to be a really good leader." Bell said he's happy to see the starting quarterback helping and guiding the younger players.

Despite losing 18 starters from last year's championship team, Bell is not looking for leniency. The key to the season rests on the team becoming great at all phases of the game, not just in any one particular area like the offensive line, he said.

"We have the talent, and we cannot use age or inexperience as an excuse," said Bell. "These guys are good, but now they have to show how good by playing well."

Lake Orion finished 13-1 in 2010 en route to the OAA Red championship and state title. Coach Bell is in his 14th season coaching football at Lake Orion High School.

The coaches may be concentrating on their own players now, but their first opponent, rival to the north Oxford, will receive the team's undivided attention on Aug. 26, as it begins its quest to return to the playoffs.

The Review will publish a full color special section, Gridiron, on August 31. The section is dedicated to all things football: rosters, schedule, marching band and cheer team for Lake Orion and surrounding community.

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