Expectations are high for the Dillard and Fort Lauderdale football teams entering the 2019 season.
Both finished last year with 8-2 regular-season records and qualified for the playoffs. While the Flying L’s won their first playoff game since 1966, both teams fell short of their goal of a state title.
New coach Eddie Frasier seeks to bring the Panthers back to their glory days when they won state titles in 1986 and 1989 under coach Otis Gray.
There’s no doubt Dillard has skill, but it’s up to Frasier to harness that into a deep playoff run.
The Panthers looked sharp on Friday as they routed Fort Lauderdale 44-0 in a preseason kickoff classic.
“I know I’m the first-year coach, but this isn’t my first year coaching this group of young men,” Frasier said. “I’ve been grooming these kids since middle school.
“It’s the mentality of the guys in believing and becoming great.”
Frasier pointed to several players he expects to be leaders.
That includes junior wide receiver Lamont Scott, senior running back Patrick Bowen, senior defensive back Dakarai Cabell and sophomore defensive end Nyjalik Kelly.
Bowen finished the night with 115 yards on 10 carries, while scoring on runs of 32 and 3 yards in the first quarter. He added a 70-yard scamper down the home sideline of the second play of the second half for his third touchdown, resulting in a 37-0 lead and a running clock.
Kelly opened the game with a pair of tackles for losses, including recording a safety on the second play from scrimmage.
Panthers senior starting quarterback Zamir Jones passed for 125 yards and touchdown, while adding a 14-yard run for another score.
Said Frasier, “I always tell the players I want them to be in tune of what Dillard was like when Otis Gray and Ken Scott coached. I want them to take that piece of history, but also create their own.”
Navar Maine added a rushing touchdown on the final play of the third quarter for Dillard.
Dillard opens the 2019 season next Friday at Piper, and Fort Lauderdale is at Flanagan on Thursday.
Fort Lauderdale coach Richard Dunbar will have work to do before the Flying L’s opener.
“Every year there are expectations of getting better,” Dunbar said. “I’ve told the kids last year’s team was last year. We haven’t done anything yet.”