Dragons Offense Keeps It Positive And Real
By Carlos Mendez
Photos by Ron Jenkins
Part of coaching is being positive. Part of it is keeping it real.
When Riley Dodge looks over the 2023 Dragons, especially on offense, he gets to do both.
He can be positive and know he’s being real.
“I’m probably more optimistic and excited about this crew than the five previous that I’ve had,” the Carroll head coach in his sixth year as the sideline boss said. “We’ve had some really talented football teams, talented individuals. This group has had an amazing offseason. We’ve got some dudes at all three levels on defense that have played a lot of football for us. Offensively, we have an opportunity to be really explosive.
“I’m really optimistic about this group.”
Start with the quarterback. Graham Knowles averaged almost 11 yards per attempt — that’s really good, if you don’t follow analytics — with 18 touchdowns, a score on more than 10 percent of his passes (also really, really good) after he took over late in the season following an injury to starter Kaden Anderson.
The 6-foot-7 passer can throw to wide receivers Jacob Jordan, Clayton Wayland and Brock Boyd, and tight end Jack VanDorselaer. That’s just for starters. Dodge hopes to see a stat sheet filled with names in the catch column that include running back James Lehman, whose wideout-like skills tempt the Dragons to line him up wide and let him go.
The names don’t stop there.
“Caden Jackson was a stud quarterback for us as a freshman,” Dodge said. “Moved him [to receiver] his sophomore year. He’s one of those guys you can’t take off the field because he knows every position. Super productive when the ball hits his hands.”
Making room for the ball carriers and protecting the passer is a seasoned offensive line, anchored by center Harrison Moore, a Vanderbilt commit. Who would know better what he has up front than the quarterback?
“We’ve got a couple of new guys, but from the look of it in spring, they look great,” Knowles said of the five projected starting offensive linemen. “I’m excited to see what they’re able to do. It all starts up front. Southlake historically has had a very good O-line room.”
Historically, Southlake has had a very good everything when it comes to football. Optimism is properly in place again with another quest for a state championship about to begin.
“It’s a mature group that understands,” Dodge said. “We’re very aware of who we are and who we’re not. We have an opportunity as an offense to be pretty special.”