Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Why Southlake Carroll freshman RB A.J. Ezzard was one of the stars in Dragons' spring game
SOUTHLAKE - Southlake Carroll showed its potentially high-octane offense with a 78-yard run by freshman running back A.J. Ezzard on the first play of its final spring scrimmage, but the rest of the highlights at Dragons Stadium primarily came from a defense which had two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
“We know our defense is aggressive, physical, (has) shown good leadership and has made it tough on our offense,” Dragons coach Hal Wasson said. “But it’s no secret we’ve got a long way to go before we are where we want to be. But that’s the way it is in the spring.”
The offense returns sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill, who leads numerous blossoming offensive stars, but was without several key returnees, including receiver Peyton Williams and running back Zach Thomason. Wasson said about a half dozen injured players were held out but that none of the injuries would have been considered serious to prevent them from playing in a real game.
Ezzard showed great vision and a good burst of speed in turning a simple stretch-play around the right side into the key play of the scrimmage’s only touchdown drive. Ezzard showed the traditional Dragons’ running back trademark of making a quick-cut back against the defensive flow once downfield.
“I’ve never had a great running back I’ve had to coach,” Wasson said. “A.J. has been one of the bright spots of the spring. He probably was third or fourth guy coming in, but got a chance to get some reps and did well. Zach is our running back, but A.J. and a couple others showed they can make plays and be in there when we go with a 2-back (set.)”
In last year’s spring game, Hill saw only late playing time as a freshman as the focus was on Daxx Garman taking over as a transfer. But the Dragons had to overcome a disruptive start to the first week of last season as Garman was ruled ineligible.
Hill, the son of former Texas Rangers pitcher Ken Hill, eventually took over as starter and helped Southlake reach the fourth round of the Class 5A playoffs before losing to eventual state runner-up Denton Guyer.
“Kenny’s had a good spring,” Wasson said. “We’re putting more on him. Every rep he gets is important. It’ll be important for the offense to be diligent and do their work in the summer.”
What Southlake accomplished in spring
Carroll has only four starters returning but a lot of experienced players, which should be a season-long strength. Led by Will Davis, who’s played regularly since he was a sophomore, linebacking has a talented nucleus of juniors. Jeff Miller, Dillon Rake, Jackson Mitchell, Brian Bonacci and Jeremy McClellan will be a good foundation. They provide combinations of speed, strength and savvy to be be effective against the run and be able to stay on the field for spread offenses.
Surprises of the spring
Junior Matt Swoyer established himself at safety with a consistently strong spring. “He has shown football is very important for him,” Wasson said. “He’s had a great off-season in the weight room, and he’s improved his speed on the track team.”
Running backs Ezzard and Anthony Custable earned spots as the Nos. 1 and 2 running backs in the spring game with Thomason sitting out. Versatile Sabian Holmes emerged as a big-play receiver in the playoffs last season and will continue to play in the secondary as well. The speedy Williams helped Carroll win the 5A state 4 x 400 relay and is being recruited by several major colleges, including former Carroll coach Todd Dodge, now an assistant at Pittsburgh. The Dragons are typically deep at receiver with Ben Sego (fresh off a standout baseball season), Ray Crockett, Drew Ahmuty , Tyler Barnes, Cameron Feucher and Kyle McKinney. Carroll needs to replace star kicker Mac McGuire but has three talented challengers with Ty Cummings, Sam Downey and Drew Brown, who is the younger brother of former Carroll and NFL kicker Kris Brown. Cummings and Brown hit 43-yard field goals in the spring scrimmage.
Carroll has to rebuild its offensive line and had setbacks with spring injuries. J.J. Prince provides size and experience at right tackle as a returning starter. But four more spots still are being solidified.
Aug.26 Copperas Cove
Sep. 2 Hurst L.D. Bell
Sep. 9 at Richardson Berkner
Sep. 23 Keller Fossil Ridge* Thursday A-Keller High School n/a Summary
Sept. 30 at Keller*
Oct. 7 at Justin Northwest*
Oct. 14 Coppell
Oct. 20 at Keller Central*
Oct. 28 Saginaw*
Nov. 4 at Denton Guyer*