Expectations are high at East as the 2019 football season gets underway.
And for good reason because the Dragons feature a roster of players loaded with athleticism, physicality and versatility.
Five East seniors committed to a college to continue their football careers this summer — linebacker-tight end Bangally Kamara (Pittsburgh), defensive back-wide receivers Deshawn Jones (Cincinnati) and Amarian Robinson (Youngstown State), defensive end Tariq Williamson (Toledo) and wide receiver Travon Walker (Central Michigan).
Kamara, 17, was the most highly recruited player by colleges, and is possibly the most interesting player of the bunch as he grew up in one of New York City’s five boroughs.
The Bronx was home for Kamara and his family for his first 11 years, and then he briefly lived in Trenton, New Jersey, Ann Arbor, Michigan and Indianapolis before coming to Ohio and settling in Akron.
“The recruiting process was fun because I expected it due to how hard I work,” Kamara said. “It was fun knowing that my parents would not have to pay for college. It was fun, but I felt like it also got me a little big-headed and coming into my senior year it also humbled me in a way. It was flattering, but I felt like something needed to push me back to the level that I am still a senior in high school.”
Enter East coach Marques Hayes, assistant coaches and two-a-day practices on hot days in August to humble Kamara and his teammates who are looking to build off a 9-3 season and an appearance in the second round of the Division III playoffs last year.
“Bangally is truly a humble kid and he is also one of the hardest workers that you are going to have,” Hayes said. “He comes with his lunch pail every day. I think the best thing that goes with that is that we have a ton of other players on this team that bring that same mentality.
"When he talks … it’s humbling because you have got some guys that are going to come out here every single day and, in so many words, they are trying to take your lunch money out here on the football field. They are trying to make each other better.”
Among the Dragons' other returnees are senior running back Romeo Felton, junior running back Richtell McCallister, and senior linebackers Marlon Lee and Cardeyaire Trammell.
“We need to do the little things to get further in the playoffs and we need to work harder as a group,” East senior linebacker Marlon Lee said.
When asked to elaborate on what little things he was referring to, Lee said the Dragons need to cut down on penalties and play with more discipline.
Kamara, who is 6-2½ and 205 pounds, agreed.
“I feel like we have more athletic players this year,” said Kamara, who also received scholarship offers from 25 other schools, including Purdue, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Maryland, Syracuse, Akron and Kent State. “What I have learned about myself is I need to push myself more in pressure type games.”
East could find itself in more intense situations in the postseason with a lineup that includes six impact transfers. Walker, who played at Ellet last year, is among the group of new players that also includes senior quarterback-defensive back George Rozier, a transfer from Firestone. Rozier and junior Nakari Virden are both slated to play quarterback for East.
“For this season, our goals are to become a better team than we were last year, to make that push to be a better team and to get past the second round,” Jones said.
Hayes said he likes what he is seeing from his 15 seniors.
“They are leading the pack and I think that is traditionally how it should be with seniors leading the pack,” Hayes said. “I think with the caliber of seniors that we have this year, the sky is the limit. We know we have to take it one day at a time and one game at a time, but what I see from those guys I have high expectations for them. So it is going to be whether or not we take that next step and meet them.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or email@example.com. Read the #ABJVarsity high school blog at www.ohio.com/sports/high-school. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MBeavenABJ.