The ninth in a 10-part series counting down the STLhighschoolsports.com preseason football rankings.
They may not be cranking out superstars on an assembly line, but the O’Fallon football team has developed a knack for replacing key players.
Last season, the Panthers were 6-1 in the Southwestern Conference and 10-2 overall, losing to Chicago St. Rita in the Class 7A quarterfinals. Graduation losses included Ejay Johnson (1,475 total yards, 30 touchdowns) and Ka’Ra Stewart (492 yards, 10 touchdowns).
“We’ve got some new fresh faces that we feel can replenish the ones we lost,” O'Fallon coach Brandon Joggerst said. “Todd Porter is back for his third season at quarterback, and Darius Mosely is back for his third season at wide receiver. We also return three offensive linemen, so hopefully we’ve got enough key components back to pick up where we left off.”
As a junior, Porter completed 110 of 174 passes (63.2 percent) for 1,823 yards with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions. A University of Illinois recruit who also starts at defensive back, Mosely caught 33 passes for 665 yards and five touchdowns.
“We’re excited about the experience and leadership that Todd brings to our program,” Joggerst said. “Darius is probably the most skilled kid we’ve had at wide receiver since I’ve been here.”
The returning offensive linemen are tackles Dan Ryan and Charles Harmon and guard Sam Talley. Senior Traveon Stevenson, who started last season in the secondary, is a potential starter at running back along with freshman Kentrail Moran.
“It’s the first time since I’ve been here that we’ve brought up a freshman to play a key role on the varsity,” Joggerst said. “We also lost a couple good receivers, but we feel that (senior) Greg Gibson, (sophomore) Tae’Mon Franklin and (junior) Patrick Riley can be big contributors for us.”
The secondary features Mosely and Stevenson along with Gibson and Franklin. A new group of linebackers includes senior Johnny Little, sophomore Marques Cooper, Moran and junior Micquell Cotton.
Junior Dewayne Hendrix and senior Tyrus Brothers, who saw varsity action last season, will start at defensive end. The defensive tackles are junior Steve Middendorf, senior Joey Edwards and Kory Poelker.
“Defensively, we’ll continue to be aggressive and take some calculated chances,” Joggerst said. “We try to put pressure on people, and hopefully we’ll continue to be able to do that.
“Offensively, we adapt each year to the scheme we have and the people we have. This year we may try to be a little more up-tempo at times.”
The Panthers open the season Friday at home against Cahokia. With the recent closing of Madison Prep (formerly Imagine Prep), O’Fallon will earn a forfeit victory for what was supposed to be its second game on Aug. 31.
“We’d love to play a game rather than take a forfeit, but at this stage, it’s going to be hard to find somebody,” said Joggerst, whose team opens Southwestern Conference action Sept. 7 at Belleville West. “In terms of goals, we want to compete for the conference title, and we want to advance in the playoffs. Hopefully the kids have a taste from last season and want to go a little farther.”