It didn’t take long for Coach Ben Johnson to get North Side pointed in the right direction.
After two wins in 2021, Johnson led the Legends to an 8-3 season in Year 2, the most wins for the program since 2012.
There is no mistaking the fact that Johnson and his staff have utilized social media and other outlets to hype up the program. Last year they delivered on the field. The goal is to do it again in 2023.
The centerpiece is senior Brauntae Johnson, committed to Notre Dame. The two-way stud went for 69 receptions, 1,081 yards and 16 touchdowns a season ago. But there are questions elsewhere at wideout. Junior Jamari Pearson will command a great role with the transfer of Kaden Hurst to Leo. Expect some youngsters to get a chance to shine outside of the top two.
Losing Bohde Dickerson to graduation hurts. He was the unquestioned MVP of the Legends a year ago behind center, tossing for 2,111 yards and 28 touchdowns. Into the role steps senior Dylan Schible with huge shoes to fill.
A positive for Schible is the fact that he will have two advantages – a stout offensive line and a very good running game. Jordan King anchors the line, with the Purdue commit joined by fellow seniors Jeremiah Adams and Ean Coburn as well as junior Fernando Brockway.
Another key loss was 2022 OTH Player of the Year Jontae Lambert, who rushed for 2,257 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. His game-breaking ability and commitment to carrying the load each game will be missed. Johnson hopes that the addition of Homestead transfer Kamden Johnson (625 yards, 13 TDs last year) along with seniors Javius Davenport (13 carries, 65 yards, two TDs) and Chris Granger will step up admirably.
“We are playing four seniors in the backfield,” Johnson said. “Once we get chemistry going, our offense will be explosive.”
North Side will need to replace some defensive playmakers with Da’von Doughty, Brashawn Bassett and Michael Dye all having moved on. Junior Josh Masasu is back in the middle of the defense after leading the team in tackles last season. The defensive front has the potential to be nasty with seniors Da’Von Haney (38 tackles, three sacks) and Jamie Roy (27 tackles) lining up with the junior duo of Tobias Delaney and James Early (10 tackles, two sacks).
Pearson and Tristen Newsome are two of the area’s best in coverage in the secondary. Add Brauntae Johnson to that equation and the defensive backfield should be stout.
The Legends will need to find some consistency on special teams, particularly in the kicking and punting department. On the positive, North has so many weapons in the return game that it can break one at any time.
While the losses at some positions were significant, there is enough to like on the North Side roster to think this team will once again be one of the area’s best.
The clear winner in the new two-division format in the SAC are the Legends, who have been placed in the “B” divison as the only Class 5A program with four smaller schools. Conversely, North Side finds itself without Homestead or Snider on the schedule, with a visit to Carroll looming large in Week 9.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
Did North Side peak last year with its eight victories? Or can it take a step further and reach the heights of Snider and Carroll?
It is definitely possible, but the loss of Dickerson without a clear heir apparent raises eyebrows. Schible is a capable player, but can he run the offense and command the respect that Dickerson did a year ago?
Snider beat the Legends twice last year. Sadly, we won’t see them match up this year…unless it comes in the sectional. If anything, North could use the regular season to grow with its new faces and set the stage to peak when it truly matters come playoff time.
Week 6 vs. Bishop Luers
The “B” Division championship will likely come down to this game, barring any surprises. The Knights couldn’t hang with the Legends last season in a 42-16 rout. Does that change with a new cast of characters on both sides?
This is also just one of four North Side home games on the season. Expect some excitement at Chambers Field in this one.
Dylan Schible, senior, quarterback
It’s difficult to keep harping on it, but Schible must find his rhythm and find it quickly. He is surrounded by a good offensive line and some legit playmakers, so he doesn’t necessarily have to be the hero all the time. What he does need to do is manage the offense, not make mistakes and put the ball in the hands of guys who can make things happen.
If he can do that, North Side will be just fine.