ROSWELL, Ga. – Like Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter, the 2011 football season is something not readily discussed within the Roswell Hornets’ program, but its presence looms over each player and coach who suffered through it.
The most consistently successful football program in North Fulton going back to the 1970s, the Hornets were winless last year. The combination of a demanding non-region schedule, a lower-than-usual talent level, some unexpected coaching changes and four excruciating last-minute defeats resulted in what could easily have been a 4-6 or 5-5 record ending up 0-10.
“We don’t talk about it,” second-year head coach Justin Sanderson said. “The predominant portion of our starters saw significant action on that team and are well aware of what happened.
“We’ve wiped the slate clean,” he said. “We’re undefeated in 2012.”
Sanderson knows thoughts of last season linger, and hopes it will be a motivating factor for a team used to making the playoffs on an annual basis.
“We have a hard-working group of guys,” Sanderson offered. “They’re self-motivated and self-driven and definitely have a chip on their shoulders. We don’t have to mention it.”
The Hornets, who are moving to their old region with familiar East Cobb and Cherokee opponents, return a sizeable number of starters and enter the season with 33 seniors on the squad.
The key returnee is talented tailback Andrew Kwateng, who missed much of last season due to injury, but is a very dangerous weapon when healthy. Avoiding injury is even more critical this season for Kwateng, as the depth at tailback that kept the Hornets’ offense going in 2011 is gone.
Quarterback Ryan Monte, who also missed time last season with an injury, returns as well. He has an experienced group of receivers led by three-year starter Bennett Barton, who will again handle the kicking duties.
Tight end Bernie Arowoselu is back along with wide receiver John Albert, with the fullback the lone question mark on offense.
Kevin Austin and Zach Adams return in the offensive line, along with part-time starter Justin Auer and Patrick Partain, who is moving over from the defensive line. Auer, the lone non-senior among the group, is a player to watch, according to his coach.
“Our line could be very good,” Sanderson said. “They’re big and strong and are an aggressive group of guys.”
Defense was the bigger problem for the Hornets last season, with this season’s group “very young but extremely athletic,” Sanderson said. “My primary focus is helping the defense improve.”
The Hornets will be aided by the addition of some veteran defensive coaches, with the strength likely the secondary play led by corners Obos Ipkefan and Isaiah Garris and safety Alex Brandeis. However, Sanderson says depth is a concern in the defensive backfield.
Grant Beidel and Richard Delphin are back at linebacker, with Hunter Hill and converted offensive lineman Pat Sheehan up front.
The Hornets have sufficient depth to two-platoon, although a few starters will see limited action on the opposite side.
Sanderson takes the view that last year was an anomaly, and expects the Hornets to again be in the hunt for a playoff spot.
“They know they struggled last year,” he said. “That’s not going to happen again.”
Roswell faces four playoff teams in its four non-region games, beginning with a home game Aug. 31 against local rival Centennial, which administered one of the Hornets’ disheartening last-minute losses last year.