LANHAM – In his first season under new head coach Carlos Lockwood, DuVal running back David Dupree rushed for more than 1,600 yards and totaled 15 touchdowns last year.
Now, with Dupree back for his senior season and Lockwood more comfortable at the helm with a year under his belt, the two say the goals for this high school football season are simple: win the 4A class and break every rushing record imaginable.
“I want to start with winning the 4A class. I think that's everyone’s common goal, but here at DuVal it is realistic,” Lockwood said. “We want to start with getting out of the 4A, and then hopefully we can get out of the county and represent the 4A South in states.
“With David, we want to break every record we can with him. And that's what we talked about.”
And according to Lockwood, who is close with Dupree and family since they grew up in the same neighborhood, the young man has bought it. Things like altering his running style and eating healthier, although slightly difficult at first, have Dupree setting his sights higher for 2017.
“Since I had around 1,500 yards last year, I want to get to 2,000 this year,” Dupree said. “At least 20 touchdowns too. That’s our minimum.”
Dupree ran for 1,656 yards and 13 touchdowns on 210 carries last year – good for a 7.89 yards-per-carry average. He barely out-gained Eleanor Roosevelt's Karl Mofor (1,650 yards) for the rushing title, but did so in one less game and 11 less carries.
His biggest game of the year came against Parkdale in September, when he rolled up 313 yards and four touchdowns (three rushing) on just 19 carries. He had other big games against Suitland (205 yards), Northwestern (167) and Laurel (156). In fact, he rushed for at least 100 yards in every game but two – the season opener versus Charles H. Flowers (89) and Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. (68). However, Dupree later gashed the Pumas for 147 yards in a losing effort in the state playoffs.
“He is big and physical. He has great feet and hand-eye coordination for a kid his size,” said Wise Head Coach DaLawn Parrish. “You must know where he is at all times and old-school gang tackle him.”
With that, Dupree will not be sneaking up on any defenses this year. Opposing teams will undoubtedly focus a majority of their attention to stopping the 5-foot-10, 200-pound back. But Lockwood has a plan for that.
“We are going to move him around,” Lockwood said. “It is funny because in seven-on-sevens he plays slot a lot. At the end of the day he is our most complete and best offensive weapon. So we have to find a way to get him the ball in different ways.”
Lining up out wide is something that is a-okay with Dupree.
“I know defenses will key on me a lot, so I have been playing running back, slot and receiver,” said Dupree, who has received interest from schools such as Michigan State, Pittsburgh and Maryland. “I have been playing a lot of different positions. It is different, but I still like it. I just like the ball in my hands, so any way I can get it I am all for it.”
Dameon Powell, who is now the head man at Charles H. Flowers but coached Dupree his sophomore year when he was still the head coach of the DuVal program, gave the running back the ultimate compliment by saying he is a “football player.”
“When you got a guy like David Dupree - he is a football player,” Powell said. “That’s just the bottom line. He understands the game and he is a hard worker. He is bound to make plays.
“You can’t really stop a David Dupree, but you can try and slow him down. And to do that you need all 11 guys on defense focused on what they need to do.”
Suitland Head Coach Ed Shields had a more light-hearted take on how his team would stop Dupree.
“We already planned on it, so what we are going to do is put 15 men in the box. We are going to fool the refs and dodge them in and out,” Shields joked. “Seriously, you just have to keep fighting. When he plugs you have to plug back at him and hope for the best.
“He is an excellent back. He runs hard. Strong, tough guy. You can hit him and he will still come back. I have nothing but good things to say about him.”
Added touches may be mandatory, as the Tigers will start an inexperienced quarterback following the graduation of C.J. Smith. Six-foot-two junior Akil Woods will be a first-year starter and has not taken a meaningful snap since his freshman year on junior varsity. Because of that, Woods may go under center more early on in an attempt to limit his pass attempts.
“(Akil) is the frontrunner,” Lockwood said. “He is a prototypical quarterback. Not really a runner, but he can run. But he is inexperienced. He did work with a quarterback coach this offseason and he has improved a lot, but it is one of those things that we have to go with him.”
Spelling Dupree in the backfield will be juniors Corey Ewing and Maurice Lyles. Ewing should mainly line up at running back, while Lyles’ “shiftiness” will allow him to line up in the slot at times. Both saw limited action last year, but will be asked to do double-duty this year. At six-foot and 205 pounds Ewing will anchor the linebacker corps. Lyles will play free safety.
The main threat outside will be senior Jalen Brooks. Brooks hauled in 32 passes for 682 yards and six touchdowns last season. Antoine’s little brother has the speed to get by most cornerbacks, and while he may not have the size his brother had, Lockwood said his football IQ is off the charts. Brooks will also roam the defensive outfield at strong safety and despite his smaller stature (5-9, 163) is not afraid to lay the wood when someone comes in his area.
Although Lockwood lost three starters on the offensive line, two starters will be back along with another that started half a year. Bladensburg/DeMatha transfer Abraham Bonilla (5-10, 280) will play center or guard. Senior Jamaine Hines (6-2, 230) will play tackle, while younger brother and freshman Jamal will see time as well. Kayode Akinyode (6-2, 235) rounds out the notable starters.
On the other side of the ball, Lockwood is excited about his defensive line. Davon Hill (6-0, 250) will be the anchor and will play up and down the line. The senior has only received some Division II offers due to his lack of size, but can move and is explosive. Fellow lineman Elijah Fontem was the only freshman to play last year and is very athletic and strong – having played both basketball and lacrosse at six-foot, 315 points. Lockwood hopes these two can apply enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks so that his secondary won’t be as exposed as much.
While the secondary may be the team’s “area of improvement,” it is not a weakness. Aljareek Malry, Jr. is the team’s best cornerback and started in the Roosevelt playoff game two years ago as a freshman.
Although Lockwood expects his team to put up a lot of points offensively, he feels his defense will be able to hold opponents down in the event his offense isn’t clicking on all cylinders.
“We are going to score points,” Lockwood said. “You have to. You don’t want to leave any doubt, but you also don’t want to stay in a close game when you don’t have to. But that’s the thing. If it is one of those games where we can’t score a lot of points, defensively we will be able to hold it down.”
All of these young men will be looking to build off last year in which the program reached the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year. The Tigers started hot, winning six of their first eight games before dropping each of their last three – including a first-round playoff loss to Wise.
It was an interesting year for Lockwood to say the least. The first-year head coach, who joined the coaching staff in 2012 as a linebackers coach and then quickly became defensive coordinator, was ready to walk away from coaching when Powell left for Charles H. Flowers. Although Powell asked him to join his staff with the Jaguars, Lockwood was more worried about spending time with his young son. However, when Athletic Director Jason Mattern officially offered him the job, his wife told him he had to take it.
“She said you have to take it,” Lockwood said. “‘We will figure it out with the kids. You can’t pass up this opportunity.’ If it wasn’t for her I probably wouldn’t have taken it.”
Then, as fate would have it, DuVal’s first game was against Flowers. The Jaguars would win, 7-0.
“It was weird (seeing Powell on the opposite sideline),” Lockwood said. “We always talk football. After the game we shook hands and he was like, ‘let’s get together tomorrow so we can talk about the rest of the season.’ We didn’t do much talking from April until the game because we knew we were playing each other.
“I was glad when the clock hit zeros and the game was over. Of course you want to win, but it was getting the first one off your back.”
This year DuVal will open with five very winnable games before running the gauntlet for the last five. The Tigers’ second half of the schedule reads as: Eleanor Roosevelt, at Potomac, at Oxon Hill, Bowie and Wise – four playoff teams from a year ago. Lockwood knows his team must start out strong in order to have a shot at the playoffs.
“We basically have to start 5-0,” he said. “Every one of those games in the second half is going to be tough and can go either way. So if we want a shot at the playoffs we have to come out fast.”
Yes, DuVal will have to start out fast – much like a track meet. But when it has a star like Dupree, who is ready to make the rest of the county eat his dust, it just might be the Tigers crossing the finish line in first place.