ROCKVILLE – Georgetown Prep will only return nine starters from the 2018 Interstate Athletic Championship (IAC) squad, including IAC Player of the Year running back and Virginia Tech-commit Jalen Hampton and four returning starters on their offensive line.
“I do believe on the offensive side of the ball your offensive line dictates the mentality of the offense,” Head Coach Dan Paro said, “We are a run-oriented team, and pretty much we go as the o-line goes.”
How far Georgetown Prep goes this season rests on the shoulders of their experienced o-line and Hampton. The Little Hoyas offensive line returns four starters, including All-IAC performers Patrick Donovan-Jenkins and Chris Singleton.
“They’re the leaders of that offense, and I think it’s important for our backs, not only with Jalen but for all our backs, to make sure they understand that. They got the lines back, and the lines got their backs,” Paro said.
Last season, Hampton rushed for 1,443 yards and 14 touchdowns, on 7.8 yards per carry. For this upcoming season, Hampton set two goals of running for 2,100 yards his final year, a goal that he believes is attainable thanks to an experience coming back in front of him.
“Our offensive line is going to be really big in helping me reach that goal,” Hampton said, “They’re probably the best, position-wise, that we have this year.”
Hampton also plans on dedicating this season to teammate junior Connor Berry, who will not be able to play with the squad this season after undergoing surgery to remove a benign brain tumor. According to Hampton, he met Barry during his sophomore year at Georgetown Prep, and the two formed a strong bond as their friendship grew.
“I’m dedicating this season to my teammate, Connor Berry,” Hampton said, “He’s like a little brother to me, and I know we saved his number for him.”
According to Donovan-Jenkins, the Little Hoyas and Prep have gone through great measures to keep Berry’s name and presence around the school and team itself. Donovan-Jenkins says that the school halls are littered with signs supporting Berry, and that the Little Hoyas try to keep Berry updated as much as they can.
“We pray for Connor every day,” Donovan-Jenkins said, “Our coach always helps us remember to keep Conor in our thoughts when we play.”
Plenty of questions remain at several positions heading into the season for Paro, including at quarterback and on defense perhaps being the most pressing.
Seniors Joshua Brown, Brian Maddox and junior Will Angrick are in a tight quarterback battle during camp. The defense looks to reload around the talents of their All-IAC linebacker corp of seniors University of Pennsylvania-commit Jack Plank, Jamaal Jaware and junior Kyonte Hamilton. Junior Zach Whittier is the lone defensive back with starting experience in the Little Hoyas secondary.
“Just trying to teach them, the attitude,” Plank said on how he’s leading his teammates. “There’s going to be ups and downs in a season, but just the attitude of mental toughness and perseverance.”
Replacing 12 combined starters will be a tall task for Paro. They have plenty of youth, but that comes with the bumps and bruises that come with that same inexperience.
As a result of replacing 12 starters captains such as Plank and Donovan-Jenkins have tasked themselves with keeping everything tightknit and holding their teammates accountable on the field as they learn the playbook.
“We have a few talented young guys this year it’s still early for them,” Donovan-Jenkins said. “We’re trying to get their assignments perfectly and also create a lively and competitive atmosphere during practice.”
“Knowing that if we focus on our goals and do our thing, don’t worry about the other team and things will work out.”
The Little Hoyas start their season Aug. 31 on the road versus Woodberry Forest High School and play their annual rivalry game against Gonzaga College High School Week 3 on Sept. 14.
“We all want to win a championship,” Paro said, “At the end of the day if we just focus on the right things, just getting better every day, focus on our teammates, focus on each other. It’s amazing how if you do things the right way, some good things start coming to you.”