Blogs > Burney's Bytes

Burney's Bytes will focus primarily on the local preps sports scene, but will also touch on some college and pro athletics, mostly in regards to athletes who hail and have played high school sports in Oakland County. My goal for the blog is to be conversational and anecdotal, a more relaxed and free formal take on high school athletics than you see in regular game day coverage.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Training Camp Report - Enter The Dragons

Coming off winning their school's first ever state championship on the gridiron last November, the Lake Orion Dragons are back and hungry for more success.
"Just like always, we have a lot of high hopes for the upcoming season," said Dragons' head coach Chris Bell, ready to open his 14th year wearing the headphones at Lake Orion. "Getting a state title has done nothing to diminish this team's desire and determination. The standard was set in this program long before last fall and will hopefully continue long after I'm gone. No matter what, as a Lake Orion Dragon, you expect to be in the thick of things come November. This year is no different."
Bell's team in 2011 has the task of replacing 17 starters off of its 2010 state title squad.
The magnetic sideline general is undaunted by the prospect of breaking in so many new front liners.
"We've got to replace some real quality players, but there's no doubt in my mind that the guys behind them last season are ready to step up big this year," Bell said. "All these guys on this team know and respect the tradition that Lake Orion football has established and are committed to preserving it. The expectations remain lofty and always will."
The good news for Bell is that despite the Dragons' short list of returners, Lake Orion has one of the best quarterbacks in the area leading its repeat effort, in senior and four-year starter Sean Charette. That by itself makes Lake Orion prime candidates to take home a second consecutive OAA Red crown.
"Sean has been a starter all of his high school career for a reason and that reason is he's darn good," Bell said. "He's a natural at the position."
There's extra motivation for Charette this year to want to lead Lake Orion back to the promise land (aka another state title) and that lies in the fact that a late-season leg injury last fall forced him to watch from the sidelines on crutches when his teammates raised a state championship trophy. The Dragons field general doesn't lack for big-game experience though, since Charette was under center for the Lake Orion as a freshman in 2008 when they made a trip to the Division 1 state finals.
Sure to make Charette's return to the huddle a bit smoother will be a pair of tall and physical receivers on the ends in seniors Robert Aiello (6-3) and Chazz Miller (6-6) and all-conference offensive lineman Kevin Cronin. Aiello started last season as a junior and Miller is standout basketball player with big hands and some serious leaping ability. Cronin is one of the team's emotional leaders and will anchor Lake Orion in the trenches. Catching the ball in the slot for the Dragons will be a trio of speedsters in Brandon Clements, Jeremy King and Zach Arnold.  
Replacing all-state running back Marcus Stevenson (Air Force) won't be easy, but the tandem of Jacob Miller and Michael Upshaw, his backups last year, have performed well in the preseason and have the Dragons' coaching staff believing there will be minimal drop-off in production.
On defense, Lake Orion is ignited by a ferocious duo of senior linebackers in Jon Gall and Andrew Shafkalis. Both Gall and Shafkalis were all-conference selections in 2010 and their collective play was integral in the Dragons' run to the title. Nick Booker, Nick Voglemeyer and Alex Woods are all potential playmakers in team's secondary. Booker is the baby brother of former Lake Orion two-sport star Vinnie Booker and word out of camp is he's just as big of a hitter in the defensive backfield than his elder sibling was in the late 2000s.  
Under the Bell regime, the Dragons have never finished below the .500 mark and entering the 2011 campaign have qualified for the postseason the last 10 years straight.
"There will be no letdown this year coming off the state title," said Bell assuredly. "We have players that never stop wanting to get after it."
He notes the intense competition for open starting spots in recent practice sessions.
"Things are wide open with a lot of spots and guys are slugging it out with all they got," Bell said. "The way things are right now they might still fighting it out for spots until the day before our first game, that's how heated things are getting. This team's not lacking fire, that's for sure."
To kick-off the season, Lake Orion travels to rival Oxford for its opener on August 26. The game will act as the first contest played on Oxford's newly-installed blue turf.


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