On The Other Side Of The River

By: Jeff Doke

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

How do you follow up history?

The Frederica Knights football team is facing a 2024 season that will be missing a huge part of their identity for the last four years; the Air Force Academy-bound Jordan Triplett.

Where does the team go without the player who was responsible for three out of every four rushing yards over the last four years?

That would be a good question for Coach Brandon Derrick. He’s faced with that task of dealing with a significant talent drain for the second time in his career under the oaks.

“We’re trying to see what we’re gonna have and what we can do this year” the 12th year head coach told me recently. “It’ll all depend on how fast our young guys step up. We’ve only got four seniors this year and only about 4 or five juniors. How quick are our kids going to grow up & get ready, that’s the big question.”

There wasn’t a lot of time for the underclassmen to get any growing up done last year. With Triplett rushing for an all-time state record-tying 3,172 yards and 41 total touchdowns, there weren’t a lot of snaps for anyone else to make a significant contribution.

That’s not to say that there weren’t any other bright spots that made the Frederica faithful wonder what’s in store.

Jaylin Baldwin is one example. When asked his future plans for the rising sophomore, Coach Derrick was understandably noncommittal.

“We’re in limbo with him, but we’re gonna use Jaylin at a lot of different areas – WR, RB, QB. We’ll use a lot of different packages with him. Try to get him the ball out in space.”

When pressed about whether or not Baldwin would see significant time at the quarterback position, Derrick had another name in mind when it comes to who might be the signal caller this season – fellow second-year player Stanton Beverly.

“Stanton might be a little ahead of everybody. There’s a few others in the mix as well.”

Another member of the Class of 2027 that is expected to make a big jump this year is WR/DB Jayden Gibson. Coach Derrick sees both Gibson and Baldwin to see significant playing time on both sides of the ball.

“Both will be playing both ways. A lot of guys will need to be ready to come in and play 140 snaps per game.”

As usual, Coach Derrick is already stressing the importance of conditioning, and once again a roster diminished in numbers is a key factor.

“We’re gonna hit (the conditioning) pretty hard in June and July because numbers are going to be a factor. I’m guessing we’re only going to have 25 maybe 30 kids this year. We’re going to have to be in shape and we’re going to need to get as many quality reps in as possible early in the season.”

In addition to feeling the loss of The River,” Coach Derrick recognizes the loss of the team’s defensive heart-and-soul, the graduating Hamp Thompson.

“Back in 2018, we last 4 or 5 guys from that group that won the state championship. Then we had a lot of injuries in that 2019 season, and that 2020 group responded. Back then, it was Jordan and Hamp that led the charge. Now it’s up to (rising Senior) Hayes Carter and (rising Junior) Gavin Grantham that will need to handle that inside LB spot. They’re gonna have to stay healthy.”

Regardless of the losses, Coach feels pretty solid about his defense.

“(Hayes and Gavin) have a ton of experience, our D-line is returning, 3 out of 4 of our DBs are returning. The big question is going to be OLB. I’m pretty excited. We’re gonna have a chance to sneak up on people.”

If they do, it won’t be the first time – and that’s one of the things we love the most about the Knights.