|Lloyd Playing, Winning as a Team
|10/3/2012 - by Andy Foltz|
Lloyd senior quarterback Dexter Smith plans to study engineering in college next year, but at the moment he is excelling in chemistry. That's the reason second-year head football coach Josh Stratton gives for his team's 6-1 start to the season.
"Chemistry, chemistry, chemistry," said Stratton. "Every week, we're smaller than the team we're playing, it doesn't matter who we're playing. But the kids believe in each other and what we're doing."
What the Juggernauts are doing most is winning. They are coming off consecutive district wins, a 36-35 thriller over Holy Cross two weeks ago and a 28-0 victory over Bishop Brossart last week. That puts the Juggs in the driver's seat of their district heading into Saturday's game against Newport Central Catholic.
Stratton has had chemistry since he arrived at Lloyd two years ago. He inherited a team coming off a 2-9 season, and after a 1-3 start last season managed to turn things around enough to get the Juggs to the second round of the playoffs.
Smith was a big part of that turnaround, and a big part of the success this season. It's easy to see his progression when looking at his statistics. Last season, Smith rushed for 561 yards and 7 touchdowns. This season, he has already topped those numbers, with 576 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns. His arm has improved too, as his completion percentage has risen from 49.2% to 51.2%, and his touchdown to interception ratio has improved from 12:8 last season to 11:3 this season.
"We made huge strides last year, especially toward the end of the year, in terms of him throwing," said Stratton. "He really understands his concepts, where people are going to be, and he really goes through his reads."
In the off-season, Smith would show up at school at 7 a.m. to watch film with his coach before school. It makes sense that Smith, a Governor's Scholar ranked #1 in his class academically, is putting his studying into practice.
"His intelligence helps as well," said Stratton. "He can process a lot of information quickly."
The Juggernaut offense, which is averaging 32.6 points per game, is multifaceted. Coach Stratton said three backs have 35 or more carries, and each is averaging over 5 yards per carry. Senior Tomi Mejolagbe, who has 31 catches and 6 touchdowns, leads the receiving corps. "He can stretch the field better than any receiver in Northern Kentucky," said Stratton. "Our other guys step up when other teams take him away. We have six receivers with touchdown catches, so we're able to spread it out."
The defense for the Juggernauts is built around speed, and led by Dexter's twin brother, Dillon Smith. "He's a leader on defense, he makes all our checks and leads us in tackles," Stratton said. "He's a great player, an extremely physical player."
Sophomore Hayden Molitor leads Lloyd with four of the team's 11 interceptions.
"We're doing a nice job of getting turnovers when we need them," coach Stratton said. "The team speed is a factor. When we can get five, six, seven guys to the ball quickly, somebody's going to get a hand in there and rip it out." He pointed to the Holy Cross game, in which the Indians turned the ball over six times, as an example of how opportunistic his defense can be.
NCC comes into the game 2-4, but coach Stratton and his team aren't taking the Breds lightly.
"They've played some great games. They played Simon Kenton tough and that's a ranked 6A team," Stratton said. "They're NCC. They're still big, they're physical, they're well coached and they're not going to shoot themselves in the foot. We expect a tough game."
The Juggernauts follow this week's game with a bye week, and then host the Newport Wildcats in their final district game October 19.