The Landon Bears are coming off a fantastic 2018 season with a record of 9-1. Their only loss against bitter rival Georgetown Prep prevented them from obtaining the Interstate Athletic Conference (IAC) title.
According to Head Coach Paul Padalino, the biggest win for his team was against Bullis School. “We have not beat them in a couple of years,” said Padalino. “Big rivalry, and played them at their own stadium.”
Padalino also said that their best performances were against Bullis, Bishop McNamara and Episcopal High School.
Landon lost a total of 16 players from last year, including five playing at the collegiate level.
Notable seniors from 2018 include running back/safety Jelani Machen, who was named IAC Player of the year as an athlete, defensive back/tight end Jalen Williams, wide receiver/cornerback Chazz Harley, defensive lineman Terrance Bridgers, and lineman Joshua Chapman.
The Bears will be losing eight total seniors after this season, including running back/defensive back Tejon Ford, running back/defensive back Tyler Smith, linebacker/defensive back Zayd DeLane, lineman Tomas Kenary, wide receiver/defensive back Gerney Johnson and DB Matt Amitay.
“I think we finished the season off strong,” said Ford. “This year we’re hoping for a championship.”
Underclassmen for this season include rising junior quarterback Kino Lilly, starting linebacker/tight end Eric Ford, who has several FBS football offers, lineman Greg Johnson, who has a few FBS Division I offers, running back/defensive back Chantz Harley and sophomore running back/linebacker Deangelo Dickerson.
“We have a lot of returning guys and strong-skilled players,” said DeLane. “We’re a strong team, physical team. For the DBs, we have a little youth there, but they’re learning quickly.”
Last season as a sophomore, Lilly passed for 805 yards and seven touchdowns, with a 59.8 completion percentage in 10 games.
Padalino says the players he’s looking forward to most are seniors Smith, DeLane and Ford. “We’re looking forward to all of our guys to grow and develop as players,” said Padalino. “Excited for our seniors to lead.”
According to two of the seniors, they have certainly learned a lot from Padalino.
“I’m a senior this year,” said DeLane. “I’ve been with him since freshman year, so I’ve known him pretty well. He’s a great coach. I’m comfortable with him, so I’m confident with what he can do for this year.”
“He’s tough on me,” said Smith. “He made sure I’m the best player I can be. He’s really developed me over the past four years to be a better football player.”
In 2018, Smith finished with 523 rushing yards, 253 receiving yards, 101 kick return yards and 121 punt return yards, totaling 998 all-purpose yards, as well as 12 total touchdowns, including seven rushing and five receiving.
“It was a great year for me,” said Smith. “Lot of productivity on offense, and this year, I’m just hoping to get a little more defense to help my team win.”
Machen’s absence will undoubtedly be felt as he led all Landon rushers with 98 carries for 705 yards and 11 touchdowns, while on defense, the former Bears safety totaled 50 tackles and four interceptions.
The returning DeLane had a solid defensive 2018 with 34 total tackles, including six tackles for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery.
“I’m really prepared to for us to show what we can do as a team,” said DeLane. “I’m really sure that we’re ready to repeat as 9-1 champions, so that’s just the beginning step in that milestone, winning the IAC championship.”
The Bears’ very first game against Eleanor Roosevelt High School is a scrimmage, while their first regular-season game is against Delbarton, and the first conference game is against St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes on Oct. 11.
“It should be just getting used to playing with each other,” said Ford. “Getting the offense down, the defensive calls down.”
However, the biggest game for this Landon team will be the home game against rival Georgetown Prep on Oct. 19.
“They come, they play hard, and we play hard,” said Smith. “It’s bigger than football, really. For the school, for the student section, and all of that, it’s just a lot of hype and motivation.”
“Just because of the fact that they beat us last year and we owe them a little something,” said Ford.
Landon will take on Delbarton School (NJ) on Sept. 7 to kick off the 2019-2020 regular season.