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Patriots looking to improve despite loss of key players



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The Mount Pisgah Patriots will field a number of returning starters this year. JONATHAN COPSEY/Staff. (click for larger version)
August 16, 2012
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. The Mount Pisgah Christian Patriots graduated their standout quarterback and top lineman, but with a sizeable number of returning starters on both sides of the ball are looking to improve on last year's 4-6 record.

Kyle Sloter, a Southern Mississippi signee, passed for 2,000 yards and 12 touchdowns, but the Patriots scored 14 points or fewer in each of their six losses.

Sloter and offensive lineman Alex Dixon, who will play at Princeton University, are gone, but most of last year's starters are back on offense.

"It will be a challenge losing players with their skill sets," Mount Pisgah coach Doug Dixon says. "But I'm excited about the offense."

With a new offensive coordinator installing a wide-open attack patterned after that of highly regarded college coach Gus Malzahn, Dixon expects the Patriots to be "explosive" on offense and throw even more than they did with Sloter at quarterback.

Sophomore Aaron Winchester and junior Jacob Delk are competing for the starting QB job, and Dixon says the two are "very similar. They can both throw pretty well."

The Patriots return running back Nicky Piccapietra, wide receivers Ryan Felice and Oz Dixon and tight end Tommy Pease, along with four offensive linemen, led by four-year starter Dylan Dixon, the head coach's son.

Also returning in the line are Shingi Chigwere and Flint Geier, with Geier, a possible college recruit, supplying most of the team's size up front, along with Felice. Chigwere, Piccapietra and Oz Dixon all started as freshmen.

With the added experience, the Patriots should be improved on offense, despite the loss of Sloter.

Most of last season's defense also returns, although several of the starters will be going both ways.

Chigwere and Dylan Dixon will see extensive action on both sides of the ball, with Foster Gailey and Blake Smith also playing key roles in the defensive line. Austin Harper and John O'Connor, another of last year's freshman starters, are back at linebacker, with Patrick Messinger at one corner and Felice and Delk at safety.

The Patriots are not very big on defense and lack an individual standout, with Dixon saying it will "take a team effort. And we have to be quick."

Dixon says the team's goal is to make the state playoffs, with the new Class A playoff format placing more of a premium on non-region games than in previous years.

"Every game counts," said Dixon, with the team playing four games outside the sub-region and five sub-region contests that will determine seeding for the region crossover games that will wrap up the season in 6-A.

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