By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
For the eighth time in the last nine seasons, Skyline will enter the fall coming off of a winning season. It has been a norm throughout the Brandon Shelby Era and on paper that’s unlikely to change in 2020.
The Tigers will have plenty of inexperience on the field, returning just 10 full-time starters from last year’s 7-5 edition that saw their season ended by rival and eventual Class 1 runner-up Lincoln.
But, Skyline will return several key cogs from one of the most explosive offenses in program history.
It all starts under center with junior quarterback Lawson Beem. He’s coming off of a sophomore season that saw him pass for 3,078 yards and 36 touchdowns. Both were the fifth-highest marks in the Ozarks last season.
“Lawson is very talented,” said Shelby. “He had a tremendous season at quarterback for us as a sophomore. Looking for him to be even better this year. He has tremendous ability to make plays in the pocket and outside of the pocket.”
Beem also returns several of his top weapons from last year in classmates Jaytin Defreece and Zach Williams. Defreece totaled 659 yards and Williams added 656. Both were All-Mid-Lakes selections as sophomores. Senior tight end Antonio Irizarry also returns as another weapon for Beem.
All three are also defensive standouts.
“Jaytin was having a really good season last year until an injury sidelined him; when he is healthy, he is a great target for us at receiver,” said Shelby. “He should have a very good year at linebacker this year.
“Zach is a talented, silky smooth athlete. He had a good sophomore season, and he should be improved. Antonio gives us a great weapon at tight end. On defense he is quick off of the ball and should be a nightmare for opposing linemen.”
Senior Trey Swearingen will again be at the center of Skyline’s identity, especially on the defensive side of the ball in the secondary. He will also be a multi-faceted weapon on offense from his running back position.
“Trey is a very good free safety for us,” said Shelby. “We are looking for him to have a great season for us. His ability to run and catch the football will be huge for us this season.”
Senior Seth Cox will anchor the offensive and defensive lines. He’ll be joined in the trenches by classmates Joey Harris, as well as juniors Will Blankenship and Briley Turner. Seniors Wesley Fugate and Ty Pinon, as well as sophomores Azlen Metzger and Blake Darby are competing for offensive line reps.
Senior Cameron Adams can lineup anywhere in the back end of the defense. Junior Mason Beck will see time at linebacker and tight end and classmate Kourt Cheek will also return to the secondary.
Sophomore Ricky Woodhouse receives the athlete tag because of his ability to play almost anywhere on either side of the ball. As a freshman he rushed for nearly 500 yards.
Seniors Nick Williams and Brayden Porter will see reps in the secondary and receiver. Classmate Sam Fillipi will slide in at linebacker. Sophomore Mason Butler could see a role at several different positions.
It’s never been a secret that Shelby’s teams are going to be offensively potent year after year. But, for this group to deliver the program’s first district championship since 2015, the defensive side of the ball will have to match the offensive output.
“We have to be better defensively,” said Shelby. “If we can fly around and play physical defense, we have the potential to have a very good year. Our schedule, as always, is very tough. But I think it makes us very solid come playoff time.”
Skyline will open the 2020 season on the road against defending Class 1 state champ Valle Catholic on Aug. 28. The Tigers will play their home opener the following Friday against Stockton.