CAMERON — An unbeaten regular season last year was overshadowed by an unexpected first-round exit in the playoffs for the Cameron Dragons.
As he enters his fourth year at the helm, Cameron coach Tim Brown has his team concentrating on focus, communication and committing less penalties in order to make sure that heartbreaking end to the season doesn’t repeat itself.
“We had a great season and one bad day,” Brown said. “We’re going to have a lot of focus on penalties. We can’t have 175 yards of penalties and we can’t jump offsides five times. We were offside three times all year and then we were offside five times in that playoff game — we can’t have that kind of mental breakdown. So, we’re going to focus on not having penalties and making sure we’re paying attention. Even the way we run the weightroom now is in 30-second intervals and we switch. We’re talking and communicating together. Everything we do is about communication and making sure everybody is on the same page. I think we had a lot of talent last year but were just unfocused at times so we’re trying to sure that up a little bit.”
Picking up diplomas last year were senior running backs Isaac Ball and Jourdan Presto; receivers Landen Tustin, Connor Powell and Colton Lyons; O-linemen Xavier Stoneking, David Yeater, Cole Cumpston, Landon VanTassell, Clayton Bryan and Tyler Fortune.
Ball led that senior class with 1,520 yards rushing and 20 total touchdowns to go with his 51 tackles and seven interceptions on defense, which earned him first team all-state.
Coach Tim Brown discusses the upcoming campaign
“Isaac Ball was a senior last year and he was outstanding in all phases of the game,” Brown said. “It’s going to be hard to replace someone like that. Eight of the guys that graduated last year started both ways for us, so we are losing a lot of experience.”
Picking up the slack will be four returning seniors and another who is in his first year but learning the ropes very quickly.
“Seniors Gunnar Bryan (OL/DL), Cole Burkett (WR/CB), Adam Angel (WR/C/LB) and Payton Neely (WR/DB) are four of the best athletes in the state,” Brown said. “They are multi-sport athletes and they bring us a lot of stability and they will be our leaders. Also, senior Mason Debolt came out this year and is doing a great job for us. He’s been to every summer camp.”
It also helps when the quarterback has two years of starting under his belt and is locked and loaded for an even bigger junior campaign.
“Colson Wichterman is back for his third year starting at quarterback,” Brown said. “He’s faster, stronger and he’s looking good back there. He has good rapport with the rest of the team, which is fantastic and when you have a quarterback that everybody is used to and works well with everyone, that makes a big difference.”
Freshman Kason Angel provides strong depth at QB.
“Kason Angel is going to be our backup quarterback for Colson,” Brown said. “He is a very skilled kid who is going to help a lot. He can throw the ball for a freshman. He is a big, athletic kid and we are expecting big things out of him.”
Neely is looking to take the role of starting running back and filling the shoes of Ball.
Last year, Neely was second team all-state as a receiver with 612 yards and nine scores. He also had a kickoff and punt return for touchdowns.
“Payton is a tremendous athlete,” Brown said. “He’s been able to play quarterback, tailback and honestly anywhere on the field. He will be a pretty dangerous running back. Junior J Ross is a stronger, bull type of kid who can play there and Wes Starcher is a young sophomore who has good skills and will be good at the running back position.”
Burkett will lead the receiving corps this year, along with Debolt and Adam Angel, juniors Ashton Hoge and Delbert VanTassell and sophomore Mason Scott.
“Burkett is back and he is a tremendous receiver,” Brown said. “Mason Debolt is a heck of an athlete. He is a hard-working kid, he’s a great kid and he fits right in. We’re expecting big things on both sides of the ball from him.
“I give Adam props, too. He can play any position. He’s a tremendous athlete, wrestler, baseball player and football player but we needed a center. He had never played center before. He was a quarterback, running back and everything else but he said he would do it and we became so much better so quickly because he is so quick and so strong. He can pull from that position, which is sort of unheard of in high school. He knows the offense, too. We probably have one of the most athletic centers you’ll ever see. He wants to help his team and he knows that’s where we need him. On defense, he is just a beast and can play anywhere on defense.”
Bryan returns to the O-line after earning All-OVAC honors a season ago.
“Our line, if everyone stays healthy, is going to be a tremendous group led by Gunnar Bryan, who is probably one of the best linemen in the state,” Brown said. “Juniors Ryder Stern and Thad Dempewolf are going to be key linemen, too. They’ll probably be playing both ways on the line. We’re not going to have a whole lot of linemen but the ones we have are good kids.”
Freshmen Brody Hill and Noah McCombs are also in the running for time on the offensive line.
On defense, Wichterman, Neely, Burkett, Scott and sophomore Camden Frye will handle defensive back duties.
Linebackers will include Starcher, Ross, VanTassell, Hoge and Adam Angel.
Defensive lineman consist of Bryan, Dempewolf, Hill, Stern and McCombs.
Freshmen Dylan O’Neil, Gunner Lilley, Ike Yoho, Carter Paczewski and Ryan Schrack will be vying for time, as well.
“One problem we have is we don’t have enough numbers,” Brown said. “I think we’re going to be in the low 20s. If we can stay healthy, I think we’ll be pretty competitive but a couple of key injuries could put a damper on that.”
Brown will be assisted by Matt Burge, Gibbs Davidson, Derek Martin, Nick Myers and James Rogers, along with statistician Sharon Brown.
“This year has been enjoyable in the weightroom, 7-on-7s and the big man competition,” Brown said. “These guys work well together. They’ve all been playing together since pee-wee ball. That, along with our community, is our strength.”