DUBOIS, Pa. (EYT/D9) — For the DuBois Beavers football team, the leadership of the upperclassmen is going to be a key factor to their success on the field.
The majority of the senior class has played together since youth league and the expectations to win and get this team to the playoffs are at the forefront.
“Our seniors have been through a lot,” said Beavers’ coach TJ Wingard. “In general, these seniors know that this is their last who-rah together. You know, those guys are bonded together since Junior High, they’ve experienced a coaching change, good seasons, bad seasons and they weathered the storm. Now they are starting to bring some of the underclassmen along with them and it’s a great thing to see.”
DuBois will enter the season with 37 players on their roster, the majority of them being upperclassmen.
Although head coach TJ Wingard has been a staple in the DuBois community for 20 plus years, it is just his second season at the helm of the varsity program. The expectations remain the same, but the Beavers will continue to find their identity during camp.
“Our expectation is to fly around and go full speed once we put pads on, heat week was a great opportunity to fine-tune the details, but we are full go come Monday,” Wingard said. “We want to have a healthy mix this year. When it’s time to run the ball, we want to do that with success, if it’s a passing situation we expect our skill guys to execute at a high level.”
Just a single trip to EJ Mansell Stadium in the small DuBois community, it’s no surprise that the Beavers program is built on tradition and pride.
“That stadium is just so historic,” said Wingard, “When you can hear the band coming through the parking lot and see that student section filling up, you have to take a second to take in all the sights, sounds, and smells of Friday Night Football.”
The Beavers are ready to get back to their roots and appreciate Friday nights with the DuBois community, and they will do that with many familiar faces.
Austin Mitchell will be the guy under center for Wingard. The 5-foot-10, 140-pound senior is poised to lead the Beaver offense this season.
“Austin has had a really great camp and stepped up as a senior,” Wingard said. “We have a lot of great athletes at our skill positions, we just need to block, protect our quarterback and give him time.”
“There isn’t a featured back or receiver in this offense,” Wingard added. “Each week things will vary, whoever has the hot hand that game we will use that. We have a really good backfield behind Austin, our line will just need to make the holes for those guys.”
A team with a plethora of skilled positions, Dubois will look to their experience to carry the load. Speedsters Dereck Berkett, Eric Benjamin, and Caden DeLaney are dangerous both as slot receivers inside the hashes and single covered outside the numbers.
Anchoring the Beavers in the backfield will be Braxton Adams, Dalton Yale, and Austin Henry all posing as big-play threats if they get a few blocks from the offensive line.
Brycen Dinkfelt, a 6-2, 220-pound senior, looks to impact the passing game from the tight end position this year along with fellow senior Christian Kirk.
On defense, the Beavers are going to fly to the ball and attack, but it starts with the front seven.
“Coach McCleary is our defensive coordinator,” said Wingard. “He really has those guys hustling to the ball this week. There won’t be any surprises really, we just want them all attacking and getting as many guys to the ball as we can.”
If you ask Christian Kirk how he wants to start every game on Friday, there is no hesitation: Defense, defense and more defense.
Kirk couldn’t hold back his excitement, stating, “As a unit, we are just going to get after it, wherever the ball is, we need to have 11 red jerseys there at all times.”
A guy who will be expected to make plays, Kirk said, “We just all have to make plays, that’s how we win games, there’s no room for ‘me’ guys on this team. There’s no question that we will be physical this year, we just have to go out each week and execute.”
Floating around the secondary this year will be senior safety Derraick Burkett, who racked up 40 total tackles last year and one forced fumble.
“There’s a lot of excitement this season,” said Burkett, “We really hold ourselves to a high standard week in and week out.”
Offensively, Burkett, who hauled in 23 catches for 180 yards last season, expects big things from his offense, stating, “If we work together and everyone does their job, we should put up points and really just do what we are supposed to do.”
The Beavers open up week one with a good old-fashioned rivalry game against Clearfield, two programs that pride themselves on tradition.
“We 100% have week one circled on our schedule,” Wingard said, “It’s an old rivalry that has been around for decades. Coach Janocko has a great tradition down there. That’s the biggest one, it just happens to be the first one.”
COACH: TJ Wingard (2nd Season)
LAST YEAR: 3-5, picking up wins against Punxsutawney, Moniteau, and Brockway.
STRENGTHS: The Beavers have a core group of skilled players and size returning on the offensive line. … Senior Christian Kirk will anchor the defense. … Senior Derraick Burkett will be electrifying on both sides of the ball and will be a player to watch week in and week out.
WEAKNESSES: The Beavers will look to build on the foundation from last year, with few new faces it all comes down to execution.
OUTLOOK: With a strong core of players returning from last season and experience on their side, if the Beavers can use their offensive weapons and stay healthy there’s a chance for great success in the district and even a late playoff push at the conclusion of the season.