A highly touted Dillard defensive line, which allowed 33 points in a season-opening loss to Plantation, is looking to redeem itself Saturday against a four-star quarterback prospect Texas A&M is recruiting to be the next Johnny Manziel.
Two weeks after giving up three touchdowns to former teammate Clinton Sills Jr., Dillard’s defensive stars Arthur Kennedy, Randy Ramsey, Aaron Thompson and Malik White will lead Dillard (0-1) against Texas reigning Class 3A state champion Stephenville (1-1) and its 6-4 star quarterback Jarrett Stidham at Kincaide Stadium in Dallas.
Kennedy, a rising 6-4, 200-pound defensive end whose 15-yard fumble return for a touchdown provided one of the few Panthers highlights against Plantation, believes a bounce-back effort against Stidham, who holds offers from Tennessee, Texas and Texas A&M, could be the spark Dillard’s defense has been missing.
“Stidham is a very good athlete; he’s a threat running or throwing. He’s a beast,” Kennedy said. “We will have to be on guard against him. We can’t take Stidham or this team lightly.
“After that loss to Plantation, we had to look [at] ourselves in the mirror. We’re striving to be the best D-line in the nation. We’re trying to get big numbers and prove to everybody we are for real.”
Kennedy showed why he shot up the recruiting boards of Western Kentucky, Florida A&M, Cincinnati, Navy, Illinois State and Minnesota with four tackles, one sack and his fumble return for a touchdown.
Dillard’s postseason hopes, however, depend on its entire defensive front joining the turnover party and creating more scoring opportunities for star receiver Dennis Turner, a University of Miami commit.
Dillard second-year coach Lorenzo Davis said the 6-3, 255-pound defensive tackle Thompson, Kennedy, White and Ramsey each provide a unique dimension to a pass rush projected to rank among the best in Florida.
Thompson, the most heralded of the unit, counts Florida State and Florida among his suitors after collecting six sacks as a freshman. Ramsey brings top speed from his outside linebacker and rush end position, and Kennedy has evolved into a disruptive force with his pass rushing skills.
“Our defensive line will be our biggest strength this season,” Davis said. “Aaron is the young, inside guy. Both Randy and Rico [Kennedy] have that speed and athletic ability. Rico is a very smart guy. All of them mix well together. Once they learn their positions, they will put a lot of pressure on teams.”