It’s not too often that school in just its second year of existence would be talking playoffs, but for Head Coach Marc Deas, that’s exactly the goal he has for Tohopekaliga High School, which opened in 2017.
Deas was named head coach earlier this month after first-year head coach Anthony Davis resigned after Toho’s inaugural 2-7 season to become the director of parks and recreation in his hometown of Marathon, Fla.
“It may sound crazy, but we have some really good athletes who understand the vision we have for this program and they are working their tails off to get us there,” Deas said. “We had a great spring and won our spring game and our shown a lot of focus during their summer conditioning.”
At quarterback, the Tigers return senior Blake McCullough—who started both ways for Toho last season. Although he is a capable quarterback, Deas hopes to transition transfer Tyler Wesley into the starter’s role – which will allow the explosive McCullough to play slot receiver.
“Blake is a terrific player and we feel we best use his skills as a runner-receiver than at quarterback,” Deas said.
At running back /slot, the Tigers already have a gifted trio in Tahquis Armstrong, Carl Lovett and Shakur Alexander. Armstrong can play several positions; while Lovett is a one-cut, straight ahead runner and Alexander possesses both speed and deception.
On the outside, Tre Johnson is described as a beasty by Deas.
“I love this kid’s work ethic and ability,” Deas said. “He can catch the ball in traffic, has great hands and is very physical at 6-2, 185. He will definitely present matchup problems to smaller defensive backs and is someone who will draw the attention of college recruiters.”
Transfer Sir Giles is an extremely athletic receiver who could play a major role in the Tigers offense this season.
Led by Macchia Lohrer, Deas returns all five starters and some key reserves on the offensive line – something that he says will be a huge asset for the Tigers this season. “Last year our school didn’t even have a blocking sled and yet the guys kept working hard and somehow kept together as a unit. I have never been around more cohesive group than our offensive line. They are extremely close and hold each other accountable and are always encouraging each other to be better. Lohrer is definitely the leader of that group. He has great feet and is extremely strong.”
Defensively, Deas said Toho flirted with a 4-2-5 last year but will most likely stick to a 4-3 in 2019.
“We are looking at putting our most athletic defenders at linebacker and that will allow us to avoid worrying about going into the nickle against passing teams.”
Nate Isaac (6-2, 230) is the leader of the defensive line, having led the team sacks last season. He can play inside or outside and has shown excellent speed off the edge. Alexander is the unquestioned team leader, as he starts at OLB as well as on offense. He can float between linebacker, rover and safety and has only one speed according to Deas.
“He definitely has a motor,” Deas noted. “You tell a kid to go half speed and sometimes they just go through the motions. You tell Shakur to go half speed and he’s going 100 percent all the time.”
Demario Tolan started on defense as a freshman and is someone Deas believes will become a star.
“He came to us as a 6-1, 160-lb. freshman and is now pressing 6-3 and 195. We will move him from safety to linebacker this year and if he keeps growing, who knows where he will end up playing as a senior. He has great ball skills and is an outstanding cover guy and real good on making open field tackles. You can’t help but be excited knowing he is just a sophomore and continues to not only grow but keep getting better every practice and game.”
As far as the goal of making the playoffs, Deas says it is not that far-fetched.
“You win two games in your first year and you might think four or five wins would be realistic in year two,” he says. “But that’s not the belief or the attitude we want to have around here. One thing I noticed from last year is our players absolutely hate to lose, so anything short of making the playoffs would be a disappointment to this group.”