A DEFINITE YOUTH MOVEMENT IS UNDERWAY AT PEPPERELL. The Dragons are young, but coach Rick Hurst points out that the offseason went well, and that while the players may be young they are ready to step up and see if they can get the Dragons back to the state playoffs again in 2023.
“We’ve had really good attendance all summer long,” Hurst says. “We do have a lot of younger players and our numbers are down a bit, but we really like what we do have.”
The team’s youth will definitely be tested early on in the season.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys, and they have to grow up really quick. We have a lot of sophomores, who didn’t play as freshmen,” Hurst says. “That’s sometimes really tough to ask a sophomore to step in but these kids have known this since January, so it’s time for them to step up.”
One key player stepping into a different role this season is sophomore Sam Ross. Ross played primarily at defensive back last season and was one of the team leaders in tackles. This season he takes over the starting quarterback role for the Dragons.
“He is a very talented athlete, and he gives us a threat in both running and throwing. He’s been making good decisions all summer but he’s only a sophomore and will go through some growing pains at quarterback,” Hurst says. “I think people will be impressed with his athleticism.”
Pepperell lost their dynamic running back, DJ Rogers, to graduation, but Rogers’ younger brother Tyler is waiting in the wings.
“I think any time you lose a major player like DJ Rogers that’s kind of hard to replace. I’ve been impressed with his younger brother Tyler. He is going to be a force to deal with as a sophomore,” Hurst says. “He didn’t play tons last year, but he showed some flashes and has had a good summer catching it and running it.”
Hurst mentions that last year’s starting quarterback Erik Jensen will move to a wideout or tight end role this year and will be all over the field for the Dragons. He also says the line will be anchored by Eliot Goggans and Peyton Owen.
“Those two are big bodies that can definitely move people around,” Hurst says.
Like many years, Pepperell faces a daunting non-region schedule that should get the Dragons honed and ready for the start of region play in late September.
“We came out of the same non-region schedule 2-2 last year. If we could go .500 again this year or even come out with three or four wins, that would really give us momentum heading into region,” he says. “Hopefully, we can get better every week and stay healthy.”
If so, the Dragons could definitely be in the mix for the region title and another trip to the state playoffs.
“I think Trion is probably the favorite because they return a lot. After that there are probably three or four teams battling for the two, three, and four spots,” Hurst says. “It’s really a grind week in and week out. If we can stay healthy, our goal is to make the playoffs and host a playoff game here.”
Although the Dragons are young, several players have experience and a good offseason could have Pepperell ready to compete for the region title and get back to the playoffs.