Prep football preseason countdown: #15 NORTHROP BRUINS

Northrop's James Jones targets Concordia's Amir Drew last season. (News-Sentinel file photo)
Northrop quarterback Bailey Meerzo throws a pass during the Bruins game against Snider last fall. (News-Sentinel file photo)

OUTLOOK

If there is a time for Northrop to get out of the funk it’s been stuck in since Jason Doerffler took over, now is the time. The Bruins showed flashes last year where they could score on a consistent basis, but couldn’t stop the other team.

Doerffler has an experienced staff and an upperclassmen core so he will need to take advantage of that immediately and will be tested significantly by Homestead’s offense in Week One.

“We’ve been knocking on the door and we’ve got to break through,” Doerffler said. “We’ve scored lots of points and there is no question about that. We’ve got to be able to play defense. As we told our kids the other day, in eight of 10 games last year, at the end of the third quarter we were either ahead, tied or within seven points and we won two of those eight games. That has to change.”

Knocking off a team traditionally in the upper half of the conference could go a long way in getting Northrop on track.

OFFENSE

Northrop had no problem scoring last season, putting up 28 points per game, including 35 against Snider and 34 in sectional play against Carroll. But how can they match that output this season?

The Bruins will boast experience under center as senior Bailey Meerzo will return after coming just shy of 1,000 yards passing a year ago (957 yards). Meerzo was forced into action early last season when Gavin Schoenle went down with a knee injury in the first series of the second game of the season.

“Bailey stepped in and did a great job as a run-pass threat that gives us a lot of options and when the ball is in his hands, we are comfortable with that,” Doerffler said.

His receiving corps will be a question as only one of his four big targets from last years returns in fellow senior Davieun Berry (29 receptions, 334 yards). Berry will also see action on the defensive side of the ball. Berry will be in his third year starting at wide receiver and is set to break every major school receiving record this year, Doerffler said. Behind him, new receivers will need to emerge as the Bruins lose 57 receptions between graduated Tyler Clibon, Ty Smith and Ben Arruza. Junior Qualen Pettus, who is coming off a big summer on the basketball court, could add athleticism in this area, and Amarion Green has transferred in from South Side.

The run game will also be new with the loss of Keishon Edwards (150 rushes, 1,211 yards and 12 touchdowns). Most of the handoffs will go to RaShawn Vaughn, who managed 216 yards on 43 carries last year. He will have to shoulder a load on the ground, but Meerzo is also capable of taking off out of the pocket.

“We have a battle of three to four guys who can all run the ball and they are talented,” Doerffler said.

The line work will have some experience in center Brad Poiry, tackle Nicholas Price and two-way lineman Rashaad Moore but the team will lack some size from last season.

DEFENSE

Two of the better Bruin defensive returners will see time on both sides of the ball at points. Moore, on the defensive line, was credited with 25 tackles last season while Berry had 23 in addition to a pair of interceptions.

Senior linebacker James Jones will be an anchor for the defensive unit that will be expected to make significant strides. Jones picked up just one sack last season but had 22 tackles, including three for a loss. The Bruin defensive unit gave up 451 yards per game on average last year with opponent attacks coming equally from ground and air.

“Our defensive tackles and ends are the strength of the unit,” Doerffler said. “They are kind of the anchor of our defense so we just need to finish.”

Look for help in attacking the run game coming from juniors Nigel Robertson and Raymond Logan as well as linebacker Caleb Martinez (19 solo tackles) and possibly a push from Jose Reducindo, who would be one of the few sophomore contributors. Marquavious Jenkins and Berry lead returns to the defensive backs.

ABOUT THE BRUINS

2017 record: 2-8

2017 storyline: Fifth-consecutive season with a record of 2-8; Last winning season was 2003 under Matt Stinson.

Coach: Jason Doerffler (8-32 in fifth season)

KEY LOSSES

Keishon Edwards, RB (150 rushes, 1,211 yards, 12 TDs; 15 tackles, 1 INT)

Cameron Cephus, OL (Second Team All-SAC)

Tyler Clibon, WR (14 receptions, 297 yards, 2 TDs)

Ty Smith, WR (20 receptions, 199 yards)

Simon Gilbert, OL

Ben Arruza, WR (23 receptions, 357 yards, 6 TDs)

Jake Price, OL

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