Prediction: Vincent poised to be one of 2A’s top teams again
Published 11:17 am Thursday, August 10, 2023
By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor
VINCENT – If Vincent didn’t have everyone’s attention before, they certainly do now.
That’s what happens after a school record ten-win season where their only regular season loss was to the state runners-up in the final seconds.
After reaching the second round of the playoffs last year, the Yellow Jackets want to go even further now that they’ve proven they can hold their own against some of the top teams in Class 2A.
It won’t be easy after losing key members of that team like Blake Allums, Zach Wright and Zac Carlisle, Vincent has other impact players returning and solid young talent behind them that should slide right in and keep Vincent at a top level.
Taking over for Allums at quarterback will be Casen Fields, a baseball standout who steps into the quarterback spot for his first year as a starter. He’s already shown a great arm and solid athleticism in his limited game time at quarterback and receiver last year, and he’ll use both of those to be a dual threat for Vincent this year, which opens up Weatherford’s playbook even more.
Another position with some question marks is receiver since the Jackets lost both Carlisle and Tray Youngblood from the 2022 team. Those questions will likely be answered by the veteran Aiden Poe, standout tight end Ray Albright and potential breakout candidate Phoenix Maxwell. Mattson Davis will be another strong locker room leader at this position, and Deontaye Robertson will round out a solid group of receivers that should help Fields find his footing as a signal caller.
Luckily for Fields, he’ll have an experienced running back behind him in Rykelus Robertson. Robertson led the county last season with 1,824 yards, which he gathered through explosive plays all throughout Vincent’s successful run to the playoffs. Quenterrius Robertson has also said that he is stepping up to help make the team better, and he’ll play a key role in the run game as well.
Like the rest of the team, the offensive and defensive lines are a mix of old and new blood. The veterans on both sides will be Ethan McElrath and Zach Gable, and they’ll be joined by Zahmir McMillan and Kendarius Chapman. Grayson Gulde is also back at offensive guard to protect Fields while also enabling Robertson to get great runs between the tackles.
Ray Albright will lead the way on the defense after a phenomenal season at linebacker last year, and he will team with Gulde to become Vincent’s new linebacker duo after losing Zach Wright. Aiden Gasaway will be another strong linebacker to round out the group.
The cornerback room will also be a very athletic position group with Fields, Rykelus Robertson, and Deontaye Robertson at cornerback and Maxwell, Jayden Roberts and Noah Scott at safety. Each of them is a top athlete on the team, which should be a problem for opposing offenses.
Vincent is clearly solid across the board even with a lack of experience at some positions simply because of the talent that exists on the roster. Weatherford said that Vincent has always had this talent, but now the culture is there to not only encourage top players to stay at Vincent, but for the Jackets to thrive as a team in a positive, hard-working, family-like atmosphere.
Prediction: 9-1. This is somewhat of a bold prediction for a team that lost its starting quarterback, top two targets and defensive leader, but Lucas Weatherford has built a program that is more than just one class of players. Vincent is deep, talented and built to be successful for years to come. Weatherford says the standard is now to be as good as last year, if not better. I believe that with how they dominated their region last year, even if Vincent is a step behind where they were last year, they shouldn’t have a problem with most of the teams in their region. The real tests will come when they face B.B. Comer, who beat the Jackets by just one to hand Vincent their only regular season loss, and Isabella, who was their lone single digit win in the regular season. Both games are on the road and will be the measuring sticks to see if Vincent is as good or better than last year. I think they’ll be as good as they were in 2022 and have another chance to get out of the first round again.