Bruce Mullen knows that before a football team can get to the Friday night thrills of a game, the rest of the week before a game is what is really important. So Mullen requires his team to dress in business attire on the Monday before a weekend game.
Mullen said that is just a reminder that the business of preparing for a football game starts Monday. Mullen’s Northeast Raiders open the season Friday against rival Southwest, and even though the Raiders have won the past five meetings, Mullen knows his young Raiders are in for a fight.
“I expect Southwest in Joe Dupree’s second year will be a much better football team,” Mullen said as he watched his team prepare this week. “While it’s true that we have won the last five, each one of those games could have gone either way. We know it’s a great rivalry game, and they will be ready to play. But hopefully the work that we have put in will pay off.”
Northeast will have to replace Davion Anderson, who is now playing football at Charleston Southern, but Mullen feels confident with his skill players.
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“It really is Tekorian Denson’s time to shine,” Mullen said. “He has started for us for a long time, but it has been at wide receiver. He has continued to improve, and we saw some positive signs in our scrimmage against Westside. He fumbled early and gave them a touchdown, but after that he was solid. We are expecting big things from him.”
Northeast will rely on the experience of senior wideout Audie Farley to ease the transition and has senior Dequarius Johnson and sophomore Jerome Grayer to carry the load in the backfield. But Mullen has only one returning starter on the offensive line, Dedtravius Jones.
“All of our skill players are very small, and the only real kids with any size are very young,” Mullen said. “We will rely on our seniors a lot, and we have to make sure that we are prepared to play hard on every snap. Opening up with Southwest is a great way to see where we are as a football team.”
Meanwhile Southwest is coming off of a winless season in which they scored seven points or fewer in seven of their 10 games.
“It was very frustrating for me because I come from an offensive background,” said Dupree, a former Southwest quarterback. “But with effort and focus and a lot of hard work this summer, I feel like we are a different football team. We have 18 seniors on this team that have never beat Northeast, and this game is a little personal for me because I played in this rivalry. But truthfully, I am off the roof excited about this football team.”
Last season, the quarterback position was undecided, with both Tyree White and Justin Slocum getting snaps. But Dupree says this year is different, with the junior Slocum firmly entrenched as the starter,.
“Justin had a great offseason in the weight room and has become a leader on this football team,” Dupree said. “We knew he had the potential to be a special player, and he has grown into a leader who has all the intangibles. We are just excited to get this team on the field and see how much we have improved.”