Last Modified: Thursday, August 22, 2013 8:54 PM
DERIDDER — Before the DeRidder football team can get settled in its new district, it must open the 2013 season with three games against teams it lost to last season.
Westlake, Natchitoches Central and Jennings will be on DeRidder coach Eric Parmley’s mind as the Dragons begin their campaign.
“I don’t think anybody knows how good or how bad they are until about Week 4 or 5 anyway,” Parmley said. “But by having those three tough challenges right off the bat, we’re going to have a much better idea of where we should be, where we could be and where we need to be.”
The Dragons are a year removed from one of the most successful seasons in recent school history. They finished the 2012 slate with a 7-5 record (4-1 in District 4-4A), a share of a district championship and a 10-6 playoff win against O. Perry Walker before losing 42-7 to Holy Cross in the second round of the playoffs.
Now DeRidder will move to District 3-4A, where it will face district opponents Tioga, Bolton, Grant, Peabody and Leesville.
“It’s all brand new,” Parmley said. “It’s going to be new territory. It’s exciting to get a change. The playoffs splits are going to be exciting to see how it plays out.”
DeRidder returns plenty experienced players, but only four starters in the same position they started last season.
Parmley, in his eighth year as head coach at DeRidder, said he shuffled around a number of his returning players prior to the season in order to accommodate the Dragons’ needs after senior departures.
Junior running back D’Angelo Reder, a first-team all-district selection last season will head the Dragons’ rushing attack, aided by the lone returning offensive starter, fullback Drew Victor, an all-district honorable mention last season. But DeRidder’s rushers will need to rely on a reorganized offensive line to lead the way.
Senior Chuck Harlow moved from defensive tackle to offensive tackle, while junior Wesley Allen has shifted from center to guard. Junior Ty Harris, who has spent time at a few positions on the offensive line, will anchor the group at center.
“You can’t do anything without an offensive line,” Parmley said. “There’s a lot of jumbling around there, but we know it all starts up front and that’s what we’re hoping for.”
Senior D’Andre Bellamy, who played quarterback last season, has made the move to cornerback along with fellow senior Jamon Bradford, who played running back last season.
Senior linebacker Delano Stenson and senior safety J.J. Faccione will be two important defensive mainstays, Parmley said.
At quarterback, senior Tyler Herring will take the reins.
“I’m looking forward to (Herring’s) maturity and growth throughout the year. He has a good arm, he’s stable, he’s smart and he makes good decisions. With him at that role, we’re hoping that’s going to carry over.”
With the multitude of changes on both sides of the ball, Parmley’s message to the Dragons as they enter the season is simple.
“Get better every day. Take advantage of every opportunity you’ve got and when the time comes for you to start shining, start shining.”