If you followed the Adrian Maples last year, you are going to be surprised by the team that you see take the field this year. Last year, they tried to put the ball in the air and outscore their opponents. That worked out well for them as they went 7-5, going to the regional finals. Their philosophy is going to be much different this year.
The Maples will be returning 5 starters on offense, two of which will be one of the starting guards and tackles. They have a few candidates for the other spots on the line and all of them are viable candidates, all of them with good size. Keeping their new quarterback on his feet will be their job, but opening up holes for their running backs will be their priority. Their leading ball carrier will be Isaac Gradeless. There is a lot of talent to get the ball to, it will be the lines job to protect and open up holes for it.
The major change this year needs to come on the other side of the ball though. Their defense last year couldn’t seem to keep anyone out of the end zone and that led to a lot of shoot-outs. This year they are looking for more ball control on the other side and big plays in the running game, so the defense will need to step-up. They return 5 starters on defense and the definite strength will be the line. They are going to need to take up blockers and create havoc in the backfield to allow the linebackers to roam free and the defensive backs to create turnovers. This looks like a good recipe for success for the Maples.
They will have a real test in week one when they host the Carleton Airport Jets. The Maples met them in the first round of the playoffs last year and won that game at Carleton, 28-21. With this new offense and a re-vamped defense, this will be a good game to see if their changes work out. I look to see the Maples win this game by a similar margin, but it will be close.
Week two will present another test as the Maples will face off against the Fenton Tigers. The Tigers were eliminated in the same round as the Maples were and this should be a great early season test for both teams. I also give the Maples an edge in this game, being that it is at home. The defense will be called on to step up, if they can do that I see the Maples improving to 2-0 despite the difficulty of their schedule.
The other big test will be against the Chelsea Bulldogs during week 5. These two teams played twice last year, both times in Chelsea. The first time the Bulldogs dominated the Maples 37-13, but during the playoffs the Maples got their revenge by a similar score of 34-14. Their defense is going to be really tested as the Maples try to shut down the Bulldogs all-star running back Berkley Edwards. He is being recruited nationally and the Maples’ defense doesn’t shut him down, they could be in for a long night. The Maples also get this one at home. This one is a toss up, but I am going to give the nod to the Bulldogs.
Much of the rest of their schedule is very favorable. If the Maples stay healthy I see a 6-3 record at the least. They have two games that could go either way, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Maples run the table and host a few playoff games. Their season all hinges on their defense and if their running game can get started. If they do both of these things, who knows how far the Maples can end up this year.