Bassett football

Bassett's football team heads into 2019 with a renewed confidence after a strong finish last season.

It’s year three for Bengals head coach Brandon Johnson at his alma mater. Bassett took strides in the right direction last season, picking up three wins in the Piedmont District, but now the Bengals have playoff aspirations in joining VHSL Class 3.We spoke with Johnson over the phone and talked to him about what fans should expect from his team come the regular season.

Bulletin: What can we expect from the offense this season?

Johnson: We’ve changed a lot offensively, and we’ve got a lot of guys fighting for spots to be in our backfield in our two-back system. And we’ve got two quarterbacks really battling it out… both of them have got different skill sets and they bring a lot of leadership… It’s really been a fun summer. It’s been good. They’ve been really battling and getting a lot of reps right now and trying to keep up with the offense.

And on defense, I’m sure there are guys ready to go out and make some plays?

BJ: I’m very excited about the defensive side. We’re about two deep at every position, we have a lot of speed and it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be fun coaching this group. I love fast defenses. That’s what I’ve been grown accustomed to in my career coaching, so it’s really going to be fun. We’ve got Kevon Smith coming back to play middle linebacker. We’ve got another senior, Shy Preston, who started there as a sophomore and saw some time there last year, and then we’ve got Ardonit Mehmeti is coming back after his sophomore season starting at middle backer. Then the back end is really good with Jaylen Turner at safety, Dylan Hairfield, we’ve got Armahn Walker-Muse. We’ve got a lot of guys. It’s been pretty fun… I feel like we can be very good. It’s just going to be a matter of staying healthy. We’ll be pretty fast and pretty deep up front. We’ve got Dominic Gil coming back from injury last year. Austin McDaniel is back. Sterling Jamison, who got a lot of time last year. we’ve got a lot of guys returning… I’m very excited.

What kind of impact can special teams have for you this season?

BJ: I’ve got high expectations for them this year. We’ve dedicated a lot of practice time to special teams now. It’s a third of the football game, so we’re dedicating a third of our time to that… Kicking game we’ve got Freddi Lopez back for his sophomore year. He’s going to be kicking for us. And then in the return game, Dylan Hairfield, Jaylen Turner, Demetrius Gil, Armhan Walker-Muse… It’s just going to be a matter of who can catch the ball and who can get us yards.

How important are the guys who have been with you since taking over at Bassett and what do you expect from that group of players?

BJ: I expect them to be leaders, because they know what we expect out of them. I feel like at times when you are older you can get a little bit complacent and get comfortable, but we have a sophomore class that has not allowed our seniors to be comfortable, because our seniors, when they were sophomores, they were hungry and battled our seniors and I even started some of them as sophomores… They’re trying to battle those seniors so the seniors can’t get complacent… They’re being pushed everyday by guys that may play on JV and dress on varsity. They’re really buying in now. They’re all in to what we’re doing. That’s been our go-to for three years and they’re really starting to buy into it.

How different is this summer?{

BJ: It’s been different… we lost a lot of leaders who we relied a lot upon. My rising seniors, they’re learning how to lead. They’ve been able to just lead and not really have to be the leader. Right now I think they’re trying to feel that out. They’re great players, but trying to be a leader, that’s different, and that’s what my seniors are trying to figure out right now… They’re wanting to build off of last year, but they’re trying to figure out how to guide the younger guys to follow them right now… I talk to them all the time about, ‘Yes, we won three games last year… but our goal is to host a playoff game.’ Hosting a playoff game would mean a lot. We haven’t don’t that here since 2008, haven’t been in a playoff game since 2012, so it would mean a lot for us to get to that and it would mean a lot for our players.

What’s the one position group that if they meet/exceed expectations, they could make a major impact?

BJ: Our offensive line, hands down. We’re returning four starters off of the offensive line and right now I don’t think they know their potential. We haven’t seen them peak, and if they peak or reach those expectations it could be a great year for us.

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