By Bill McCaughey
For The Fort Bend Star
Elkins went 8-3 last season but lost in the first round of the playoffs.
This year, the Knights have a defense and offensive line worthy of a district champion, but it will be up to some talented but unproven skill positions to seal the deal.
Kenneth Murray, a returning All-District linebacker, VYPE Magazine 2016 All Season pick and a Friday Night Football Magazine All-5A team selection, leads a strong defense.
“Murray has All-American potential and is a hard hitter,” said Coach Dennis Brantley.
Murray recently announced he will go to the University of Oklahoma. The two other schools on his short list were The University of Texas and Texas A&M.
The defensive line is solid with All-District returnees’ defensive end Kenneth Orji and defensive tackle Semaj Stokes.
“Orji is quick off the ball,” said Brantley. “He just makes plays.”
Orji, who wants to study chemical engineering in college, is considering offers from Vanderbilt University, the Air Force Academy, the Naval Academy, Fresno State and Illinois. Orji knows the entire schedule is tough.
“We are just going to take it game by game,” he said.
Stokes at 6-2 and 340 pounds is tough to move off the line. Joining them is Dante Emebo, who may surprise opponents this year.
The secondary will be handled by Jaylyn McGuire, Rodney McGraw and Myles Banks. Banks played both ways last year but will concentrate on cornerback and safety this year.
“I would like us to get off to a good start and that will let us keep rolling into the playoffs,” Banks said.
The strength of the offense is the line with All-District returnees junior Luke Matthews (6-4, 305), and Cole Baker, and tight end Joshua Izi. David Bennan and junior Albert Tamdjo add to the talent on the line.
“Luke Matthews is another great player. He is very strong and his technique is great,” Brantley said.
Brantley is looking for a good season from junior quarterback Luke LeBlanc.
“He is smart and an accurate passer. He will be a good Division 1 quarterback,” Brantley said.
LeBlanc’s targets this year will be Sha’Mon O’Bryant, Javion Glass and junior Vernon Harrell, with Leonard Harris Jr. as the primary running back.
“I coached his father, Leonard Harris Sr., an all-state running back, when I was an assistant coach at Willowridge,” said Brantley. “I think we will have a good running game.”
All-District kicker Jordan Colesante will also be back.
The Knights are preparing for arguably the toughest district in 5A by scheduling three 6A teams in pre-district play. They will travel to Dickinson and Conroe Oak Ridge, before meeting Travis at Mercer. All three of them are expected to make the 6A playoffs. Coach Brantley likes to travel.
“The team bonds faster when you have an hour bus ride and team meals,” Brantley said. “Plus when you go to Dickinson or Galveston Ball where everyone is against you, the team can’t help but to bond.”
The last four weeks of the season will decide the district champion as the Knights take on Manvel (Oct. 14), Marshall (Oct. 20) and Texas City (Nov. 5).