By Tommy Keeler Jr.
WINCHESTER -- Handley has had some explosive teams over the years. That's why it says a lot about this year's team when head coach Tony Rayburn says this squad will be on par with some of the speedy teams from the past.
"They're probably some of the most explosive athletes we've had," Rayburn said. "[Handley graduate and current JMU defensive back] Jeremiah [Wilson] and all those guys -- we've had some really good ones. [This group is] an awfully talented group."
Handley's speed starts at the skill positions. The Judges will have 6-foot-4, 215-pound senior Justin Washington back after missing six games last year with an anterior cruciate ligament tear. Washington has already received a scholarship offer from the University of Delaware.
Speedster Dontae Mauck is also back and will be at running back and receiver.
"We're going to try to get him the ball a lot," Rayburn said.
Mauck ran for 434 yards last season, and led the Judges with 49 catches for 867 yards. He had a combined 18 receiving and rushing touchdowns.
Jarett Cestaro (33 receptions for 461 yards) is back at receiver and Ben Nelson will once again be the tight end.
D.J. Frisby will also return at tailback, after rushing for 706 yards on 118 carries and five touchdowns for the Judges last year.
"He's a talented kid," Rayburn said of Frisby. "He's got a lot of potential."
Will Dearing will be the quarterback for a fourth year. Last year Dearing threw for 2,542 yards on 156 for 268 passing and 27 touchdowns.
"He's probably improved his athleticism as much as anybody," Rayburn said of Dearing. "He's a lot stronger. He's become an athletic quarterback. He continues to grow in every facet."
The key to success on offense will be on the offensive line. The Judges only have one starting lineman back.
"Basically two guys played last year," Rayburn said of the offensive line. "We're not very deep at that position. If our offensive line stays healthy, and some of the younger guys keep betting better, we'll have an explosive offense again."
Cole Daylor is the only starter returning on the offensive line. He will be joined by senior Noah Climer, junior Tommy Shea-Roop, senior Max Prado and junior Deauntia Green.
Senior Marquaye Jackson will look to lead the way on the defensive front. Jackson had 72 tackles last year, third on the team.
Climer, Shay-Roop and Daylor will also be starting in Handley's front line.
Rayburn said Nelson, Tre Jackson, Dolan Delaney, Green, Anthony Smith and Jacob Shade will see playing time at linebacker.
Frisby, Mauck, Johnlynn Washington, Tyler Mudd and Cestaro will split duties at cornerback. Mike Felder, Marcus Tactikos, Justin Washington and Dustin Cutter will share duties at safety.
Senior Nick Marshall, who made six field goals last year, will be doing the kicking duties again. Rayburn said he was not sure who would be the punter.
The Judges have all the pieces to have a very strong season, Rayburn said the key is for the players to keep working hard and staying focused.
"We have the experience and leadership," Rayburn said. "The kids know what to expect, know what it's like. They have some goals, obviously, they're trying to meet. I feel like we have a chance to be successful. You have to take it each day and keep working at it."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd