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Youth offers depth to MA

After working all summer to replace an accomplished senior class, Marengo Academy will open its season Friday night in Hope Hull against Hooper Academy.

“They are big and strong,” MA head coach Robby James said. “They’ve got some big ol’ boys.”

James, whose team dropped down to AA in the AISA this year, was on hand Friday night to watch Hooper drop its regular season opener to Lowndes Academy.

“On offense, they are more of a running attack. They are pretty much a power team,” James said. “Defensively, they were in a (four-man) front most of the time. they are very aggressive.”

Hooper’s approach of utilizing a power ground game on offense and relying upon a strong defense is almost identical to the strategy most often employed by James’ Longhorns. However, given Hooper’s size advantage over the Longhorns, James may offer a slightly different look this week.

Among the seniors the Longhorns lost from the 2009 team were a handful of offensive and defensive linemen, making the trenches one of the biggest unknowns MA faces this season.

“It’s hard to replace those linemen,” James said. “We don’t have a whole lot of depth, but we’re proud of the ones we do have.”

In order to help with the sparse numbers and provide some measure of depth to the roster, Marengo Academy will allow its eighth and ninth grade players to dress for varsity games for the first time.

“The biggest thing for us is we need some numbers out there to work,” James said. “I feel like, if a boy comes out here and works all summer , he should get to dress out with the team.”

The addition of the younger players will give Marengo Academy nearly 35 players on its sideline for varsity games. That is nearly a 100 percent increase over last season’s team.

But while their presence bolsters the numbers on the roster, James expects a handful of the younger athletes to contribute this season.

“I think our kickoff guy is going to be a ninth grader,” James said, referring to Brant Lewis, who has put together a strong offseason for the Longhorns in that department. “A guy at guard, Daniel Creel, is going to have a chance to play for us a good bit.”

The Longhorns will get their first full test Friday night, but did get a sneak peek at their team last week in a practice-style scrimmage against Wilcox Academy and Jackson Academy.

“I think it helped us some. We didn’t start out too well. But all in all, I think we did okay,” James said. “I think we ran 30 plays offensively and then we ran 30 on defense. Going against somebody helps you figure out what kind of shape you’re in.”