Introducing the Class of 2017

When it comes to freshmen playing high school football, some get to see the playing field, but not many are able to make an immediate impact.

But when they do, well that’s a Blue Moon on Feb. 29 when it’s 85 degrees outside.

Coaches many times know when they see certain freshmen come in they have the potential to be special players. Normally, the game plan is to put them on special teams to get them game experience, start working them into the plays during their sophomore year, then by their junior year they are ready to take the football world by storm.

However, this year must be one of those Leap Year/Blue Moon occasions, because some freshmen are standing above the crowd – and giving Trumbull County football fans a glimpse of what is to come in the future.

When De’Veon Smith was a freshman at Howland, every one in the football community knew that this was the next big running back to come out of the area. He was a man amongst boys even in middle school and probably could have passed for 18-years old during his first Homecoming dance. Also, many had a feeling he would break records and likely hold the county record for career yardage. He currently does, as he accumulated 6,750 yards over his career.

That record could be broke by 2016 if Liberty’s Lynn Bowden has anything to do with it. The freshman sensation has been lighting up the scoreboard for Liberty. After Friday night’s game against Newton Falls, Bowden has accumulated 1,255 yards -an average of 156.9 per game.

At this pace, Bowden would fall just shy of Smith’s record – accumulating around 6,300 yards – but he already has more yards as a freshman than Smith put up during his freshman year at Howland. Could it happen? Maybe. Is he a back to watch for the future? Without a doubt.

While Smith was the last Howland freshman to make headlines, another one is emerging in Victor Williams. He might not have the numbers like Bowden does, but his potential is just as clear.

At the beginning of the season, Howland coach Dominic Menendez wasn’t shy to talk Williams up, saying that he “could be the next big thing coming out for us.” Friday night against Niles was just a glimpse of what Williams has to offer.

The speedy running back had 12 carries for 87 yards. Though that only brings his season total to 112, Williams has been given a learning curve, as junior Jaquore Marrs has been taking a bulk of the carries for the Tigers. However, Williams is too good to not be used in some facet, so the Tigers have been using him in the return game and he has even caught some passes. This year he has 298 all purpose yards – pretty much all coming from a backup role. He also has scored five touchdowns.

As Menendez wasn’t shy to talk up Williams, neither was Brian Shaner about freshman defensive back Tyler Srbinovich.

“He’s going to be a really, really good one,” Shaner said in August. “He just really likes to wreck everything. We knew as an eighth grader that he was going to be a special one.”

Already this year, Srbinovich is proving his worth to the Red Dragons.

On a team that is not lacking in senior players, Srbinovich has started since the opening week for Niles, and going into the Howland game, he led the team in tackles with 78. Watching film on Srbinovich, he has vision that many seasoned players lack and has a “get to the ball” instinct that is crucial for a defensive player.

Also, he’s listed as a quarterback on the offensive side, and with starting quarterback Kyle Paden in his senior year, the job is likely Srbinovich’s next season, as not another quarterback is listed on the roster. Whether or not he becomes a two-way guy, or simply stays on defense, it’s safe to say that many people will know his name sooner rather than later – and not just because it’s four syllables and tough to pronounce (Sir-bin-o-vich).

Class of 2017, welcome to the world of high school football. It’s going to be a fun four years.