Consistency and sustaining success will be the theme for the 2016 Blue Devils after a disappointing slide left Norcross with a 7-4 record and first-round exit last season. Head Coach Keith Maloof and his talented squad opened up the season winning each of their first seven games, but it was the team's four straight losses to close the year by a combined 88-23 points that has left a bad taste in Norcross, Ga.
Senior quarterback Baron Radcliff leads the Norcross offense this season after having a solid junior year. Due to his 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame and athleticism, Radcliff has received offers from a number of Division 1 programs. They include Boston College, Vanderbilt, Georgia Southern, Tulane and South Alabama.
Joining Radcliff in the Blue Devils backfield is returning starting running back Necholas Sermons. Sermons played a significant role for Norcross last season, finishing with 113 carries for 487 yards and four touchdowns. Sermons was also a receiving threat out of the backfield, as he led the team in receiving with 214 yards while hauling in 13 receptions and one touchdown.
The Norcross defense returns a plethora of talent in 2016 that continues the Blue Devils' tradition of fast and hard-hitting defenders. Senior middle linebacker Monty Montgomery will lead the unit this season. As a junior, Montgomery was able to compile a stat line that included 137 total tackles, 33 tackles for a loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles and two defensive touchdowns. He has received college offers from Tennessee Tech, Mercer, Georgia State and a few others. He will be joined on the defensive line by standout defensive end Jalen Pinkney. Pinkney was able to compile 10 hurries last season from the end position and tallied 6.5 sacks, while adding 68 tackles.
The key loss for the Norcross defense is defensive end Robert Beal. Beal is a 5-star player who had five sacks and four fumble recoveries last year. He has decided to transfer to IMG Academy in Florida for his senior season. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Beal recently committed to the University of Georgia.
In his third year as Walton head coach, Mo Dixon will look to improve off an impressive 9-2 campaign that ended with a 49-20 loss to Central Gwinnett in the first round of the playoffs. It will be difficult for the Raiders to match last year's success after losing 24 seniors from the team. Walton's biggest losses will be on defense where 10 of its 11 starters were members of that impressive senior class. Strong safety Joey Goodman, corner Christian Sullivan and corner Ryan Roegge will be suiting up for Harvard, Princeton and Dartmouth this fall. The trio of defensive backs combined for 198 tackles.
On offense the Raiders will be without four year running back KK Brooks who rushed for 1,121 yards and 22 touchdowns in the 2015 season and tight end Sam Letton who had 800 yards receiving and 11 scores his senior year. Brooks will be playing at Penn against his other three Ivy League teammates while Letton signed with Troy.
The Raiders will return several key players that will be crucial to establishing a new foundation in 2016. Starting quarterback Addison Shoup threw for 2,631 yards and 24 touchdowns last year with only two interceptions. Shoup will team up with sophomore playmaker Dominick Blaylock. Blaylock has nationally-recognized talent and already boasts offers from powerhouses such as Georgia, Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida State and Auburn. As a freshman, Blaylock recorded 795 receiving yards, eight touchdowns and averaged 23 yards on punt returns.
The Raiders defense will require large contributions from young players to hold the team to the high defensive standard it set last year. The strategic leaders of the defense in terms of calling plays will be junior linebackers Kris Kollias and Aaron Shapiro. Both players played scarce minutes on varsity last season, but helped lead the JV team to a 5-1-1 record. Defensive end Kamian Brooks, is a talent to watch in his first varsity snaps.