Bastrop Rams Football Preview

Entering the season with a mixture of seasoned veterans and first-year starters, the Bastrop Rams are counting on a group of newcomers to grow up quickly against a challenging schedule.

Offensively, the Rams have some experience at the skill positions, but return only one starter up front.

Quarterback Christian Doaty takes over the reigns of the offense after seeing extensive playing time as a sophomore, particularly late in the season.

Appearing in nine games with one start, Doaty completed 23-of-41 passes for 418 yards, with six touchdowns and two picks. With the Rams trailing Teurlings Catholic 21-7 midway through the third quarter, Doaty came off the bench to hit Jay Wilson for a 39-yard touchdown pass and tied the game on a 16-yard keeper early in the fourth quarter. Although Bastrop eventually lost the second-round playoff game 42-21, Doaty provided a spark.

"We believe in Christian; the kids believe in Christian," said Thomas Bachman, who enters his third season as the Rams' head coach. "He started against West Ouachita when J-Man (Davis) was out and did a great job and he gave us a chance to win against Teurlings Catholic. Now, it's his time."

Sophomore Jerry Powell is Doaty's backup.

Seniors Antwone Green and Kevin Heard will again split time at running back after combining for 1,450 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2012. Averaging 6.2 yards per carry, Heard produced 770 yards and 10 touchdowns on 123 carries. Green, the team's strongest player, carried 103 times for 680 stripes and seven scores for a 6.6 yards per carry average, while adding seven receptions for 109 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Travion Burks made the most of his limited opportunities as a freshman with the varsity last season, picking up 46 yards on three carries, including a 41-yard burst. After impressing the coaching staff with his work ethic in the weight room over the summer, he is likely to get onto the field more often this season.

Also adding depth in the backfield is Jaleel Barber (jr.). Another running back, Malik Johnson (so.), is recovering from a broken collarbone.

"Running back is our most experienced position with K.J. (Heard) and Antwone returning," Bachman said. "After Jamari (Payne) and Rodney (Jackson), there's not a whole lot of experience. We are going to have to grow up in a hurry."

Jamari Payne (sr.) heads the receiving corps after snaring 29 passes for 475 yards and six TDs in eight games. With the departure of All-State wide receiver and three-year starter Jay Wilson, Payne is now the go-to target.

"Jamari is going to get a lot of attention from the defense," Bachman said. "Somebody has a great opportunity to emerge."

Payne is joined in the starting rotation by Devin "Stick Man" Brown (jr.), Lewis Brooks (sr.) and Isaiah Graham (so.). Next to Payne, Brown is the team's top returning receiver after hauling in nine passes for 261 yards as a sophomore. Graham caught five passes for 51 yards as a freshman.

Also in the mix at the receiver slots are Alontae Alford (so.), Dominick Taylor (sr.), Kajuan Madison, Joshua Doaty (so.), Al Dowles Jr. (so.), Quaily Sawyer (so.) and Marquis Lewis (sr.).

Jackson, who started every game at left tackle as a sophomore, is now the ring leader of the offensive line. He moved to center in the spring.

Joining Jackson up front are left tackle Payton Hollis (jr.), left guard Horezonta Foster (sr.), right guard Chris Givens and right tackle David Palmer (sr.).

Neither Bachman or offensive line coach Sedarrin Freeman were overly-alarmed after the group struggled in Friday's scrimmage against Ruston.

"The more the offensive line plays, the better they'll get," Bachman said. "That's why game reps are so important."

"It was expected," said Freeman of the offensive line's play vs. Ruston. "There's going to be an adjustment period, but I really think we have a chance to be pretty good up front. They are working extremely hard to get better and I think you will see a difference this week."

Backups on the offensive line from left to right are Andrew Hollins (so.), Mason Robinson (so.), TyShawn Downs (so.), Devin Barfield (fr.) and BreJon Morgan-Morris (jr.).

Also vying for playing time on the O-line are Winfred Sims (fr.) and Chris Washington (so.).

Seven starters return on defense, including three of the four linemen.

"We had a lot of seniors; guys who have been battle-tested," said defensive coordinator Marcus Yanez, who rejoined the Rams in the spring after spending a season as head coach at Lake Providence. "We also have some young guys looking to step up and challenge for a position."

Johnnie Marsaw moved inside in the spring after logging 48 tackles, seven tackles for loss and two sacks as a junior.

"Right now, Johnnie Marsaw is the vocal leader of the defense," Yanez said. "We're going to rely on him and Lester Lee to lead the defense. They're really taking ownership of it."

Quantavious "Q" Caldwell (sr.), who recorded 12 tackles and a sack in six games last fall, will start at the other tackle.

Seniors Rufus Martin and Juwuan Norris are the ends. Norris totaled 38 tackles, three stops for negative yardage and a sack in 2012, while Martin contributed 36 tackles, eight tackles for loss, a sack and forced a fumble.

"We're small up front," Yanez said. "When you don't have the advantage of having size up front, you have to do some different things. They are long, so we can use that to our advantage."

Travez Moore (so.) and David Davis (jr.) are the reserve ends, with Kintavius Cash (so.), Brandon Matthews (so.) and Anfernee Robinson (so.) providing depth at the tackle spots.

Holdover starter Chad Rawls (sr.) returns at inside linebacker, with Kylan Ricks (sr.) moving into the starting rotation on the other side. Rawls was responsible for 43 tackles, including eight for negative yardage, while Ricks pitched in 12 tackles and two stops in the backfield.

Also striving to crack the inside 'backer rotation are Dollar Ridgell (so.), DeVante Payton (so.), Landon Collinsworth (so.), Orion Murphy (so.) and Richard Lynch (so.).

Kentreylus Hill-Pates (sr.) returns at strong safety after leading the Rams in tackles a year ago. A converted wide receiver, Hill-Pates tallied 122 tackles, eight tackles for loss, four sacks and two forced fumbles as a junior. John Robinson (so.) will spell Hill-Pates.

Lester Lee (sr.) returns at weakside safety after ranking third on the team in tackles (70) and first in interceptions (3). Lee's backups are Joshua Bradbury (so.) and Antwon Watson (jr.).

Also back in the secondary is cornerback Mardarius Thompson (sr.), who tallied 45 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss last season. Jawara Davis (sr.) moves into the starting lineup at the other corner. JiQuez Green (so.) and Xavier Latting (sr.) are the backups.

Niger Madison (so.) is listed as the starting free safety, with James Hill (so.) in reserve.

Clay Winnon (sr.) will handle the place kicking duties, while Christian Doaty takes over as the punter.

Lee and Jackson are the deep snappers, with Dowles and Powell as the holders.

Payne, Burks, Joshua Doaty and Kajuan Madison are the return specialists.

Last season, the explosive Payne returned nine punts for a 27.6-yard average, including a memorable 78-yard touchdown vs. West Monroe. He also averaged 15.2 yards on five kickoff returns.