Last Modified: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 6:11 PM
IOWA — The Yellowjackets began to turn their program around last year.
A 10-3 record and two playoff victories has led to added excitement this season. However, there is still plenty of room for growth.
Iowa finished tied for second in district play and was forced to the road in the playoffs. Both are subjects of change in team goals this year.
“We are still a ways away from having our program be where it once was in terms of the state and what where we want to be,” said head coach Sean Richard.
“There is a lot of talent we have coming back, but we want to make sure we keep working and know this is a new season. We are in a new district and the playoffs will also be new. We have to be ready for it.”
Iowa should be ready when it comes to explosive plays. Last year, the Yellowjackets’ special teams helped fuel an offensive fire that was filled with big plays.
Chaz Key led the way with seven touchdowns on kick and punt returns. Every time he touched the ball on special teams he was a threat to go the distance.
“We work hard on our special teams and take a lot of pride in them,” Richard said. “We like to use them as a part of our offense. We find kick returns as a way to get our guys the football in the open field and let them work.”
It paid off last season and will likely be a key this year.
Speaking of Key, the all-State kick return man is back for his junior season. He also brings his team-high rushing numbers to the offense.
Key ran for 1,154 yards on 161 carries (7.2 per attempt) and scored 13 touchdowns as a sophomore.
“He is a very good player,” Richard said. “He can do a lot of things on the field. Once he gets going he is hard to catch.”
But Key is not the only weapon in the backfield. Iowa is expected to rotate three running backs.
“We like to keep fresh legs out there,” Richard said. “We have confidence in all our backs. They all can make plays.”
However, the Yellowjackets will have to replace three-year starting quarterback Austin Theriot, who last year was 63 of 100 for 979 yards and 13 touchdowns with only two interceptions.
“Austin was our leader and he will be hard to replace,” Richard said. “We are counting on our offensive line to make things happen, especially early.”
Junior Koby Buquet will take over under center, but he will have four starters on that line.
Senior T.J. January will led the group. A first-team all-district performer at left tackle last fall, January heads an offensive line that is experienced. Also back is center Morgan Smith, right guard George Trahan and right tackle Joey Ramero.
“We will count on them to be our leading force on offense,” Richard said.
Last year the group opened 3,824 yards of holes for Iowa rushers.
Iowa has four starters returning on defense, led by junior safety Jarel Piquet, who was an all-district first-team selection.
“Jarel is a solid football player who makes the big plays for us,” Richard said.
Piquet led the Iowa defense in tackles last year with 62 solo and 38 assists. He also had five interceptions.
Also back are two linemen in nose guard Pepper Bourgue (second team all-district) and end Tremel Alfred. With January seeing a good deal of time at the third linemen position, the Yellowjacket front should be pretty solid.
Junior linebacker Ronnie Guillory is back as the fourth returning starter on defense.
“We played a lot of kids on defense last year, so they have experience even if they weren’t starters,” Richard said. “And we will play a lot of kids on defense this year, maybe up to 18 a game. We like to play a lot of people if we can.”
We won 10 games last year but still have a ways to go. We like the direction the program is headed but we really want to win the district this year and get that first playoff game at home. Then we can make a postseason run"
“We have set the bar higher, but I think this group is ready for the challenge.”
With a powerful special teams this could be a special year for the Yellowjackets.