Eisenhower ready to move behind strength up front

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Despite returning just five starters from last season, there is guarded optimism at Eisenhower for the 20014 campaign.

“We have the pieces; we just have to make sure they all fit together,” Cardinals coach Travis Moore said. “I think we have to continue to build cohesion. Through a bonding experience, I believe we can compete and produce an exciting season.”

Much of Moore’s excitement stems from returning three offensive linemen and introducing a skilled junior class to varsity competition.

Senior offensive linemen Alonzo Lomax, Jacob Cephus and Ramiro Lagunas boast the experience and muscle that should allow a talented but untested group of skill-position players to flourish.

“If you’re going to only have three starters back, it’s good to have them on the line,” Moore said. “All three of those guys are around 240, 245 pounds. We have some beef up front.”

The Cardinals are handing over the reins of the offense to senior quarterback Jaylen Culpepper, a prototype drop-back passer with a strong, accurate arm. Moore hinted that sophomore Cortez Jackson, whose asset is running the ball, may get some time under center as well.

“When we need to pass the ball, we have a kid in Culpepper who can complete the pass,” Moore said. “Jaylen is the starter, but Cortez is talented.”

One of Culpepper’s top targets will be tight end Kenny Scott, a junior who’ll double as linebacker. Moore plans on rotating as many as three different players at tailback to establish a powerful, unpredictable ground attack. Junior Rayshawn Graham will be one of the young men getting a chance to sparkle running the ball.

“We don’t have a No. 1 tailback, but we have guys who will share reps and will bring a little something different to the table,” Moore said.

Defensively, seniors Mike Morrison and Shawn Eskew return at cornerback and end, respectively, and will provide leadership. Much of the remaining starting spots likely will be filled by a junior class that finished 8-1 on the sophomore level in 2013.

In fact, for Eisenhower to achieve its goals of competing for the South Suburban Red title and qualifying for the playoffs, the junior class is going to have to make a smooth transition to varsity competition.

Moore is hoping juniors Darius Huntley, Rodshawn Graham and Raul Sandoval are household names by the time the season is completed.

“We’re going to be young,” Moore said, “but we really like the young kids we have.”

Moore is stressing a strong start from his team, which kicks off its season with three consecutive home games, beginning Aug. 29 vs. Rich East. Eisenhower started strong last season, winning four of its first five games before dropping four straight.

The optimism for a successful campaign isn’t limited to Moore.

Scott, too, is confident the Cardinals have what it takes to qualify for the postseason.

“The chemistry is there on this team,” Scott said. “We’re actually closer now than we were last year at this time. We’re going to take it one game at a time, but we’re looking to make the playoffs.”

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