ALPHARETTA, Ga. – After a 9-1 season and a Region 6-AAAAA championship, Alpharetta suffered an early playoff knockout, losing to Lassiter in the first round last year.
Coach Jason Dukes hopes “that disappointment will serve as fuel” for his Raiders, who are looking to “get back to where they were and go farther this year.”
With several of the state’s top players, the Raiders enter the season as the team to beat in 6-AAAAAA, but there are four other teams in the region that went 8-2 or better in the regular season last year, with two winning state playoff games.
“After last year, we have some pretty high expectations for ourselves,” Dukes said. “I know that applies more pressure, but it’s a necessary part of that.”
The Raiders, who made their first playoff appearance the previous year, showed plenty of character in several last-minute wins in 2011.
Dukes said the combination of the team’s talent and “a will to win that’s fantastic,” will produce an even better season in 2012. That would translate into another region title and a deeper playoff run.
The talent is definitely there.
The Raiders return quarterback Joshua Dobbs and his favorite target – two-sport standout Carlos Burse, who will head up a very dangerous and deep group of receivers.
Dobbs passed for more than 3,100 yards and tossed 28 touchdown passes last season, and his coach says it’s “hard to overstate” his role on the team. Dobbs has been listed among the country’s top high school quarterbacks and has committed to Arizona State.
After coming up through the Alpharetta recreation program, Dobbs enrolled at Wesleyan prior to his freshman year, but returned to Alpharetta before the start of his junior season.
“We threw the whole offense at him, and as the season went along, he got better and better,” Dukes said. “He’s an even-keeled kid with an extreme amount of drive and commitment. He’s never missed a day of school and the kids have rallied around him, even though he isn’t vocal.
“He’s also got a cannon for an arm and a phenomenal football IQ,” Dukes said.
Dobbs will have a wealth of talented receivers, beginning with Burse who has started since his freshman season. Burse, who helped lead the Alpharetta basketball team to the state semifinals last season, had 52 catches for 857 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior.
“He’s an incredible athlete and wants the football in his hands,” Dukes said of Burse.
Burse was recruited by many of the top college football programs in the country and has committed to Vanderbilt.
Also returning at receiver for the Raiders are Blake Rowlinson, who has committed to Troy University, speedster Andre Harton, sure-handed Adam Schildhammer and surprise 2011 contributor Daniel Clemens.
They will be joined by Wesleyan transfer Rodney Morris, who has attracted interest from SEC and ACC schools, and will add to the size and speed the Raiders will sport at receiver.
Stefhon Perry, a promising move-in from Tennessee, will share the tailback duties with Julian Macon, who Dukes calls “one of the most improved players on the team.” Sophomore Jared Clark adds some speed to a ground game that was only modestly productive last season.
Center DeAndre Wise (6-2, 270), who is being recruited at the D-1 level, is back and anchors an offensive line that also returns tackles George Adeoson (6-5, 300) and Alex Barron (6-3, 220).
The defense features Georgia commit Naim Mustafaa (6-4, 240), who Dukes said “is one of the best defensive ends in the country” and who plays with tremendous discipline and effort.
“He is just a fantastic football player,” said Dukes.
D’Von Isaac, a transfer from Henry County, will add some size, speed and agility to the defensive line, making up for the loss of Corey Waithe-Alexander, who transferred to Stephenson.
Isaac, who will also help on offense, has also attracted D-1 attention.
Tyler Keely, a backup last year, moves into a starting role at middle linebacker, with Bryce Grauss back at an outside linebacker position after some big games as a sophomore.
Devontre Whitaker, an undersized but excellent cover corner, keys the secondary, which will have some depth but is not especially experienced.
The Raiders have some tough early non-region games beginning with next-door rival Milton at home Aug. 31.