Photo by Brian Paglia
Dutchtown coach Jason Galt will led his team in a rematch against Griffin this season that will broadcast live on a Thursday night.
Dutchtown won a best-in-school-history 11 games last year, with all the subtlety of a wrecking ball. Their straightforward approach won’t change anytime soon.
“It’s smashmouth, old-school — the other teams know what we’re going to do and they’ve got to stop it,” Dutchtown coach Jason Galt said. “Everybody knows what we’re doing, but more times than not, they’re not able to stop it.”
The Bulldogs proved they could play with the big boys last season. Now, the question is: Can they maintain it or take it to the next level?
They lost a ton of experience last season. Nine starters on both sides of the ball graduated. Galt is convinced that those taking their place have the athletic ability to get the job done. But experience in high school football is often worth its weight in gold, and therein the Bulldogs lack a little something.
“It’s the first time a lot of these guys have played under the lights,” Galt said. “There’s a big difference between JV and varsity.”
Galt hopes to minimize that difference, and that doubt-shrinking battle will be won or lost in the players’ minds. That's one of the things his program emphasizes more than many — the mental approach. It’s why he’s put such an emphasis on the weight room — even to the point where his team lifts on game days — and not so much because he hopes his team can simply overpower everybody they play.
“It develops mental toughness, and mental toughness is where football games are won,” Galt said. “You condition the body and mind to push through things.”
Don't be fooled: The Bulldogs push through things with more than their minds. Check out a few YouTube highlights, and Darian Small will convince you of as much. He pushes through with a 6-foot-2, 280-pound body that usually overpowers his offensive line counterpart.
“He’s a Division I-caliber player,” Galt said.
The Bulldogs beat you with speed, too — which is where Jamal Watkins comes in. He's the team's all-time leading scorer, and finds myriad ways into the end zone.
“He’s scored touchdowns as a receiver, he’s scored touchdowns as a running back, he’s scored touchdowns as a punt returner and kickoff returner,” Galt said. “He’s one of those 4.4 guys.’
Both Small and Watkins are three-year starters, proven commodities. What will make the difference for Dutchtown this season is how the graduates of last year's 6-1 junior varsity handle the big time.
Junior Donovahn Jones will be one of the few Dutchtown players playing both ways — at quarterback and safety — but that's because “he may be the best athlete on the team,’ the coach said.
“He’s just a pure athlete, with God-given ability, speed and size,” Galt said. “God blessed him with athletic ability and put on that a pretty good head on his shoulders.”
The Bulldogs lost Kevin Leaphart and Mycheal Brown out of their backfield after last season, but hope that William Smith, who scored 20 touchdowns for the JV last season, will prove an able replacement.
Dutchtown certainly will feel the loss of Ryan Kay, who kicked five 50-yard-or-better field goals and averaged over 40 yards on his punts last season. There is no replacing him.
“We may not punt all year," said Galt, who will turn kicking duties over to a pair of linebackers. "We may go for it every time. There's a school in Arkansas where the coach never punts. Even if they’re on their own 5-yard line. But he's won two state championships that way. I’m not going to try to pound a square peg in a round hole. If we don't have that [kicking game], I’m not going to force it. It's going to be a challenge.”
Whatever happens, Galt certainly believes in his players.
“I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy, a total optimist,” he said. “Even though we're playing a bunch of underclassmen and starting a bunch of young guys, I think we can be successful. And the kids feed off that. They want to know that Coach Galt believes in them. They know what it takes to win.”