SPRINGDALE — Last year, the Charles H. Flowers High School’s football team came out blazing in the regular season, defeating its opponents by an average margin of about 24 points per contest.
Although the Jaguars ascended as one of the more dominant programs in the county with a 9-0 regular-season record, they lost to Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School, 22-12, in the 4A regional south final to end the year on a down note.
Heading into the 2019 season, Flowers is on a serious mission to ensure they finish as state champs this time around.
“We had our eyes on the state championship and just fell short, so we’re going to make sure this year that we don’t fall short again,” said fourth-year Head Coach Dameon Powell. “We want to make sure that we’re working hard, we’re practicing hard, we’re paying attention to more detail and just being the best that we can.”
Remaining mentally sound in times of adversity will be a pivotal factor in making a state playoff run this season, he continued. To prepare for the season, Flowers will play scrimmages against two Montgomery County private school powers: Bullis (Potomac) on Aug. 23, followed by Landon (Bethesda) on Aug. 30.
“We’re just focusing more on the mental aspect of it; making sure that our boys don’t lose their head, our coaches don’t lose their heads, make sure that we’re all on the same page and try to fight through adversity when times get rough,” Powell said.
Amanni Stewart, a senior transfer from Eleanor Roosevelt High School, will fill the role as starting quarterback to begin the 2019 season. He did not have much playing time with the Raiders, only appearing in three games as he sat behind senior starter Jalen Walters. He will have big shoes to fill, taking over for Julius Duvall, who threw for 12 touchdowns on 1,165 yards passing and tallied 117 rushing yards for seven additional scores.
Melvin Crenshaw III, a 5-foot-9 junior, has moved up from the junior varsity squad and will alternate at the quarterback position with Stewart throughout the year.
Running back Tristan Shannon posted impressive numbers for the Jaguars last year as a junior with 671 total rushing yards on 87 carries for four rushing touchdowns in 2018. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound senior will likely lead the way for the backfield again while slot receiver Kyle Parker will have an expanded role on offense.
On the defensive side, Powell is spending extra time rebuilding the defensive line that bullied offenses last season. As a team, Flowers only surrendered 66 points last season, an average of six points per game, and 28 total sacks. Making sure that both lines – offense and defense – are prepared for the first game of the season is critical to Flowers’ success, Powell said.
“Those guys (linemen) been working hard so we gotta make sure we get them on the right page really quick,” Powell said. “And the back half of our offense and defense – just them coming together as a team and gelling. We got so many new parts and they got to learn each other very quickly.”
Leading the way for Powell’s rebuild is the University of Maryland commit and two-way lineman Santana Saunders. The 6-foot-5, 255-pounder said the intensity level is an additional component the Jaguars have emphasized during camp and practice. One of his personal goals for the year is to lead by example.
“State championship. Perfect season,” Saunders said of what everyone can expect from the program this upcoming season.
Cornerback LaTreil Wimberly, a Navy commit who played five games last year and completed nine tackles will be the foremost leader in the secondary this year. The 5-foot-10 senior can also play safety and receiver as well for the Jaguars. With middle linebacker Wayne Matthews providing additional help, Wimberly said the defense will have even more intensity and focus this season.
The returning members on defense will have to replace key losses, including Mekhi Williams, a free safety now playing for Bowie State University, in addition to defensive ends Tizlam Muhammad and Devin Sanders, who combined for 88 tackles and 14 sacks last season.
“This year, it’s a new start,” Wimberly said. “We got a lot of new faces, so basically we need to gel – which we did at camp – get better as a team, learn the playbook and cut down on the mistakes.”
After their undefeated regular season, all eyes will be on Flowers to continue their progress in the 4A division. The Flowers High School football community, opponents and others can expect a hard-nosed, athletic, high-IQ team this season that will battle for a state title, Powell said.
“We’re going to be really good, but it’s just going to come down to how quickly they can gel as a team,” Powell said.
Flowers’ season opener will be at Oxon Hill High School on Sept. 6 at 7 p.m.