Newman football coach Nelson Stewart said he isn’t concerned with looking for replacements to fill the giant shoes of departed running back Kendall Bussey and wide receiver/quarterback Jay Tyler.
He knows he won’t find any.
Instead, Stewart is more concerned with finding ways to mold his team so they can still be productive without two of its stars and senior leaders from last season.
“First and foremost, all the things those guys did for us last year are irreplaceable,” said Stewart, who is entering his 10th season as the head coach at Newman. “We have to figure out all the things we do well and build on our own strengths.”
That process continued Saturday morning as the Greenies held an intrasquad scrimmage that Stewart said he was “very happy” with, considering the team is still trying to establish a new identity on offense. Newman was supposed to hold a scrimmage against Lakeshore on Friday, but it was canceled because of weather concerns.
One of the primary players that showed he may be able to make that transition easier for Newman was quarterback Myles Lapeyre. The 5-foot-11, 150-pound junior took over as the starter last year after Tyler suffered an injury and went 7-1 at the helm.
Lapeyre started the scrimmage off slow, but eventually completed 10 of his 18 passes, including two long touchdown passes to wide receiver Elbert Thomas.
“I think we’re very fortunate to have Myles coming back after getting that experience under his belt last year,” Stewart said. “Early on, it was slow for him. I think we had some issues up front, but he didn’t panic and start launching balls out there. He stayed with it and started making some plays with his arm and his legs. We expect him and Elbert to make a lot of plays for us this year.”
Without a running back the caliber of Bussey to carry the load of the running game single-handedly, Stewart said he plans on using a running back-by-committee approach that will feature running backs James Poche and Isaac Andry in two-back formations.
Both running backs split carries in Saturday’s scrimmage with Poche getting the bulk of the work as well as two receptions out of the backfield.
“You can’t replace a back like (Bussey) that can take it 99 yards in a second,” Stewart said. “I think our running game started to pick up toward the end of the scrimmage, and I think those two guys will do a good job of complementing each other this year.”
Stewart said he was also happy with the way the defense played in Saturday’s scrimmage, specifically pointing to the play of Alex Abramson and Jack Miller, two players returning to the team after completing Newman’s baseball season.
Newman lost in the second round of Class 2A baseball playoffs last week and Stewart said the eight players that were on the baseball team are still getting used to being back on the football field, but it was big for the defense to regain some of its major contributors in Abramson and Miller.
Miller, in particular, made his impact felt early in Saturday’s scrimmage, batting down two Lapeyre passes on one drive and sacking him on another.
“I thought the defense was really physical today,” Stewart said. “Our baseball guys came out here after ending their season with a tough loss, but Jack and all those guys have led this group as soon as they walked back through the door.”