WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – After beginning last season with a 1-2 mark, Harding ran off wins in 6 of their final 7 games to advance to the post-season. This year, the Raiders are expecting more which begins with their standout quarterback –Elijah Taylor. He’ll have four of his five linemen back. “We expect our line to be much improved,” coach Arnold says. “We played with an all-first year line a year ago.”
Since mid-March, it’s been a different off-season thanks to the Coronavirus. “We’ve kept in touch with our players via Zoom meetings,” Arnold states. “As well as personal visits by the coaching staff to their homes.”
2019 Record: 7-4
Head Coach: Steve Arnold, 9th season (51-35)
Scoring Offense: 26.9 (21st in Area)
Scoring Defense: 22.7 (26th in Area)
Total Offense: 283.7
Rushing Offense: 108.4
Passing Offense: 175.3
What you need to know about Harding’s offense
-Elijah Taylor returns at quarterback and Elizah Smith as well as Emari Burgess are back in the backfield. Taylor has thrown for 3091 yards over the last two seasons while connecting on 27 touchdown passes. Smith saw his numbers go up from his sophomore year (286 rushing yards, 5 TDs) to his junior season (529 rushing yards, 7 TDs). A trio of receivers return in Deavion Burgess, Dom Foster – snagged 15 balls for 213 yards – and Curt Dorsey.
“It starts up front with our offensive line,” indicates Arnold. The Raiders welcome back Marrall Brown, Reggie Watson, Noah Murphy and Davelle Trimble. “We have to be able to run the ball much better this year. The continued maturity and improvement of Elijah Taylor; and finally the skill players raising their level of play.”
“The offense has a chance to be very good,” says Arnold. “We do expect some of our younger players to be very productive – Delmar McMillian, Deon Provitt, Aston Bates, John Taylor and we’ll get Antonio Burgess back from a season-ending injury last year.”
What you need to know about Harding’s defense
-A pair of First-Team All-League defenders return for the Raiders in Emarion Perkins and Jabari Felton. Perkins, a senior linebacker, finished last year with 72 tackles (23.5 TFL) and 4 1/2 sacks. “Tank (Perkins) is the quarterback of the defense,” points out Arnold. Felton, senior defensive end, recorded 60 tackles (15 TFL) and 5 1/2 quarterback takedowns. Chester Adams, an Honorable Mention linebacker, compiled 63 tackles as a junior. Also, back in the front seven will be Emari Burgess and Davonte McElroy at linebacker and Marrall Brown up front.
Returning in the secondary will be Marquan Brown, Curt Dorsey and Damari Freeman.
Coach Arnold also pointed out that the staff has high expectations for the following players: Dom Foster, Aston Bates, Jalen Stringer, Brysen Powell, Omarion Dukes, Deon Provitt and Tamairi Jackson.
“They’ll have to adapt to a new scheme,” states Arnold. “We still want them to be aggressive, minimizing the big plays and creating more turnovers.”
Harding’s Key Player(s)
-QB Elijah Taylor connected on 50.8% of 236 passes in 2019. He threw for 1658 yards and connected on 13 touchdowns during the regular season. The Raiders return plenty of weapons and almost their entire line.
Aug. 28 – Canton McKinley
Sept. 4 – Rhodes
Sept. 11 – at Massillon
Sept. 18 – at Fitch
Sept. 25 – Ursuline
Oct. 2 – St. Vincent-St. Mary
Oct. 9 – at Boardman
Oct. 16 – Cardinal Mooney
Oct. 23 – at Medina
The Big game on the schedule
August 28 – vs. Canton McKinley
…Last year’s opener at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium didn’t go as planned for the Raiders as they fell 32-27. They’ll look to hand the Bulldogs’ their first loss in the series since it began again in 2017.
Since 2012, Harding’s 900-yard passers
2019 – Elijah Taylor, 1763
2018 – Elijah Taylor, 1361
2016 – Lynn Bowden, 1367
2012 – Lamar Carmichael, 986