Raiders focused on a new look for 2023 season

RAIDERS’ ROCK:  Three-year starting linebacker Derrick Edwards will lead the Huntington defense. (Photo by JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports) 


You don’t have remind Huntington football coach Stephen Dennis that things have changed for the Raiders as the 2023 season approaches.

He is well aware that quarterback Kam Evans is now playing college football.

He is well aware that two of Evans’ top receivers have graduated and another transferred.

He is well aware that his leading rusher from a year ago is also playing college football.

But Dennis is the kind of guy who wants to talk about what he has, not what he doesn’t have. Yes, there will be some comparisons to 2022 early in this season, but he likes what this team has already done to establish its own identity.

“I think a lot of the fruits we have built are getting ready to blossom,” Dennis said. “I think this is one of the better groups I’ve had. The kids have really bought in and are doing everything that a coach could ask them to do. When you get that question answered, the execution and discipline and the things you need to build a winner take care of themselves.”

The Raiders will open the season Friday night against Mansfield at 7 p.m. at Independence Stadium. Huntington won last year’s season opener against the Wolverines 58-18.

Huntington’s season was basically broken into two parts – with and without Evans. With him, they were rolling along with a 5-2 record. But playing without him after he suffered an arm injury … not so much. The Raiders lost three of the last four, including a first-round playoff game.

But it did teach this year’s team about how to play without Evans, something Dennis feels like will be to the Raiders’ advantage this year.

“Our offense was built around Kam and his mental approach as well as his ability, so when you lose a guy like that you have to change gears,” he said.

And it will be Lorenzo “L.J.” White, Jr., changing the gears for the Huntington this year. Without saying it outright, Dennis said there is no reason to feel sorry for the Raiders as White takes over.

“He’s been in our program for two years,” Dennis said. “(White) is an extremely hard worker and comes from a great family. Kam was a pocket passer; LJ is more of a dual threat. I‘m really excited about him coming  in and putting his mark on it. He doesn’t need to be Kam; he needs to be LJ.”

White should get all the help he needs in making his mark. Dennis said he will rotate three running backs – all at least 6-0 and 210 – in addition to star receiver Caleb Tucker.

“He will be the big-guy receiver for us,” Dennis said.

When Evans got hurt last year, Jamarion Washington was one of those who filled in at quarterback. You might see him there this year as well as a Wildcat quarterback. Or at running back. Or kick returner. Or slot back.

“He’s our Swiss Army knife,” Dennis said. “He can do a little bit of everything.”

Derrick Edwards, a three-year starter at linebacker, leads a defense that is loaded with juniors.

Huntington will also play non-district games against Byrd and Neville before starting District 1-4A play.

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