DARTMOUTH — We’ll see how good Rick White is at putting together puzzles this season.
With the return of just four starters — two on offense and two on defense — from a year ago, the Dartmouth High head coach is trying to figure out which pieces go where to make his team the most successful as it can be in 2022.
“This is what you get paid to do. You have to coach,” said the longtime head coach, who directed Dartmouth to back-to-back state titles in 2014-15. “You don’t have guys playing for two years who know what they’re doing. We really have to work hard to teach them and they’ve been great.
“It’s been really good. We’ve had great practices. They know. They know there’s a lot of new people on the field. That means there are new people on offense, there are new people on defense, there are new people on special teams.”
The most experienced returners are seniors Graham White, Dylan Gomes and Eli Johnson while senior Chase Lackie saw action midway through last season.
“We had some guys get some experience, but it’s just a matter of finding out where they go,” White said.
After the graduation of two-year starting quarterback Will Kelly and backup Ethan Marques, Dartmouth is in search of a new QB.
There are four different guys — senior Sean Martin, juniors Nikko Morris and Derek Baliko and sophomore Jackson Hart — battling it out for the position entering the second full week of the preseason.
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“A couple of the guys probably have a little more experience so they’re leading the pack right now but it’s still early,” White said. “They’ve all looked pretty good. Some are better throwers and some are better runners. We run the ball quite a bit so I think the guys that are runners probably have the advantage, but they’ve all looked good at times.”
Out of the backfield will be a combination of senior Jared Abreu, juniors Jason Martin, Louie Freitas and Chace Feno and sophomores Ray Gramlich and Markus Andrews while the receivers will be Gomes, White, Freitas, Feno, junior Jalen Adams and sophomore Donovan Burgo.
Looking to contribute on the offensive line will be seniors Jacob Lancaster, Yamil Colon and Lackie and juniors Michael Figueiredo and Josh Carreiro. Dartmouth will be without senior lineman Devin Wilson, who suffered a knee injury over the summer.
“Up front we’ve got some good size and some guys who are pretty thick,” White said.
A lot of the same guys playing offense will also play defense.
White said all of his players have been open to learning as much as possible.
“What I find interesting is the other guys with a lot of experience in the past you have to rein in a lot where these guys want to know more and we want to do it,” he said. “They don’t have the experience so their attention has been outstanding.
“I love the young kids. We’ve got a good group of sophomores. We had a very good freshman team last year. They’re very athletic and they’re into it. The junior class is pretty talented. They’ve got some guys. I think with the mix of seniors and juniors and sprinkle in some sophomores, we’ll be OK.”
Gomes said the senior class is up for the challenge ahead.
“I feel like last year the seniors were leading us and now it’s our turn to lead our younger guys,” he said. “We’re ready for it.”
Graham White agreed, “It’s definitely a big change when we played behind the seniors our sophomore and junior years. Now it’s our time to shine on the field. All the seniors out here are ready to go every day. We’re just trying to get better each and every day and that’s what ultimately makes a good football team.”
Martin said he’s looking forward to seeing what the team can do.
“You graduate that many seniors and the team is going to look a lot different, but I’m excited,” he said. “I think we have what it takes to have a great year.”
Gomes added, “We’ve got a lot of guys who can play anywhere and we have a lot of talent. I wouldn’t say we’re rebuilding at all. I’d say we’re reloading and giving people that deserve a chance a chance. I think we can surprise a lot of people and win more games than people think we should and make the playoffs.”
Sept. 9: at Bishop Stang, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15: GNB Voc-Tech, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23: Old Rochester, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30: at Apponequet, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 7: Brockton, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14: at Durfee, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21: at Bridgewater-Raynham, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28: New Bedford, 7 p.m.
Nov. 24: at Fairhaven, 10 a.m.