Lightning will have a different look

Eastview emphasizing speed over bulk

Note: fifth in a series of previews of high school football teams in the Sun Thisweek and Dakota County Tribune coverage area.

Everything fans remember about Eastview football could be flipped on its head this season.

Mohamed Mahmoud (left) and Jeremy Lombardi are returning players on an Eastview team that will feature a lot of new starters. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy

Known previously as a big, physical team that liked to pound away at opponents until they proved they could stop it, the Lightning is looking at an identity change, at least for this season. The roster is populated with quick but smaller players, and that will dictate changes in how Eastview plays on both sides of the line.

“I feel like we’re going to be more of a passing team this year. In the past we’ve been more rush-dominant. We have some weapons,” said senior tight end Mohamed Mahmoud.

“I would say we’re quick on both sides of the ball,” coach Kelly Sherwin said. “We have playmakers on both sides of the ball. Now it’s got to show up on the field somehow, some way.”

Did we mention the Lightning gets to try this out Thursday on the road against Eden Prairie, which has won 10 state large-school championships in the last 21 years?

“It’s awesome we get Eden Prairie right away,” Sherwin said. “I think we’ll experience some adversity and hopefully we’ll have success too. How they learn to react to both those situations is what’s important. It’s a long grind. Week 1 is way different from Week 8 and Week 9.

“We have so many guys who haven’t played varsity football yet. It will be an eye-opening, educational experience for them. And then we need to stop the run. That’s getting ready for Eden Prairie, right? Someone that’s going to come downhill right at us and be very physical. We need to see how we stack up against that, then we need to see if we can make a team adjust to us by getting some pressure and giving them some different looks.”

Eastview was 3-6 in 2016, a step forward from its 0-9 record in 2015, only the second winless season in school history.

Last season was “an improvement, but not as good as we would have liked,” said senior offensive lineman Jeremy Lombardi. “We can be better this year. We have a lot of young guys who have a lot of potential. They seem really determined to do well, and the grades below us always have been very successful.”

“We’re not the biggest team, but we’ve got a lot of heart and we work hard,” Mahmoud said. “We all just need to do our jobs. If we do that we’ll be pretty successful.”

Eastview’s offense is likely to try to work the perimeter, getting the ball to some speedy backs and receivers.

“We’ve definitely remade ourselves offensively,” Sherwin said. “Getting the ball to our guys in space is going to be important as well as being able to run enough. We’re a little undersized up front, as small as we’ve ever been.

“Defensively, it’s going to be kind of a movement defense. We’ll have to be able to get some pressure. We’re going to be athletic, but again undersized. Being able to stand up against a big, physical team is going to be a question, but our kids are smart. Once we can figure out what we’re good at, and it’s going to take some time, we’ll be fine.”

Junior wide receiver Larry Wright could be one of the Lightning’s top offensive players. Sherwin described him as a potential Division I college player. Demetrius Covington, a 200-pound senior, got some carries at running back last season. “We’ll also give him a role defensively,” Sherwin said. “Mohamed (Mahmoud) is the same way. Those are two guys who started the last seven or eight games last season.”

Many of the offensive linemen will be new starters, as will the Eastview quarterback, whomever it is. Sherwin said last week there were three candidates, one senior and two juniors. “Our quarterback will be doing a lot of decision making,” Sherwin said.

Roy Boese, a 200-pound senior Sherwin described as “quick and disruptive,” returns on the defensive line. Senior Brady O’Neil returns at linebacker. “Defensively, we have so many good young kids,” the coach said. “The secondary is going to be all new. We’ll probably have four juniors starting.”

For the Lightning, 2017 will be about building steadily for a playoff run in late October into November. Even though the Lightning won just three games last season, Sherwin said he believes the program rediscovered its attitude.

“We started getting back to where we expected to win and expected to be successful,” he said. “It was hard. The year we didn’t win a game, even during that season, practice was always outstanding. We’ve been able to carry that on and now when something goes wrong, we don’t fold our tent. That’s what we got out of last year.”

Contact Mike Shaughnessy at [email protected]

 

Eastview football
(Games at 7 p.m. Friday unless noted)
Aug. 31 (Thur.): at Eden Prairie
Sept. 8: at Burnsville
Sept. 15: Shakopee
Sept. 22: Edina
Sept. 29: at Rosemount
Oct. 6: Wayzata
Oct. 13: at Farmington
Oct. 18 (Wed.): Prior Lake