For a Division I team team that’s had as many as eight or nine two-way starters in recent years, it’s almost hard to fathom that only one player appears to be penciled in for double duty this season.
Right now, senior Demetrius Walton is the one guy Kevin Fell can’t do without on either side of the ball, although even Walton will get his share of rest from time to time. Fell is bound and determined to play two-platoon football at Elyria this year.
“That’ll keep our legs fresh,” Walton said. “I feel great about this year. Our team has a lot of talent.”
That talent doesn’t start and end with Walton, but he certainly will get the attention of opposing defenses.
Take Elyria’s scrimmage against formidable Toledo St. John’s last week. Walton admittedly didn’t have a good night – he dropped a couple of balls thrown right at him early – but the play he made near the end of the night sent a message to anyone watching.
While well-defended on the play, Walton caught a Dustin Stolarski pass about 15 yards from the line of scrimmage, broke the initial tackle and then sailed right by the rest of the defense for a long TD.
That made Walton feel pretty good in spite of what took place prior to that.
“It did,” he said. “I had a bad game. No doubt.”
“We were trying to get him the ball,” Fell said. “Granted, it wasn’t his best performance but I can tell you this: He’s not a pass-dropper. He’s probably the most talented kid on the team and we’ve got a lot of talented kids. (Walton) has more tools than anyone I’ve coached. He’s been working hard.”
Walton “must have caught 5,000 balls” over the summer, Fell said. If that leads you to believe the Pioneers plan to throw the ball a little bit this fall, you catch on quickly.
That’s from a program that built its foundation on running the ball and playing defense “back in the day” under legendary Bill Barton, who won 152 games over 23 years from 1955-77. In fact, in Barton’s three best seasons – all 10-0 years – Elyria threw for a grand total of 1,635 yards.
“We’ll have more than that fairly quickly,” Fell predicted.
“Coach Fell will use the speed we have,” said Walton, who caught 40 passes for 688 yards and six touchdowns last year. “Everybody can catch the ball, including the backs. I’ve worked hard on my route-running and Dustin (Stolarski) and I have been playing together since we were freshmen. I can’t believe the time has gone by so fast. It seems like yesterday I was a freshman.”
It was feared Stolarski wouldn’t be at Elyria this year. He transferred to a school out west last spring but returned during the summer just in time to start in the weight room in anticipation for the football season.
“I kept in touch with him,” Walton said. “Once he got back, we tossed the ball a couple times a week on Mondays and Thursdays. We spent a lot of time together in the weight room.”
Elyria should have a potent offense with Stolarski at quarterback – he threw for more than 1,200 yards and had seven TD passes last year – and sophomore Jumaar Lewis, who burst on the scene with 766 rushing yards a year ago. He’ll team with junior Keon Neely, who rushed for 400 yards. Dan Ratliff, who had 29 receptions, is also back.
“I have never had a team that couldn’t score and this one will score points,” Fell said. “The key is making the defense better and, in that respect, they’re getting better every day. Walton is a real good football player and a good student-athlete.”
Walton has a 3.3 grade-point average and, although he hasn’t had any firm collegiate offers, Fell feels he’ll get his share as the year wears on.
“He has the skills to play at the next level,” Fell said. “He comes to practice every day and wants to be good. He wants his team to be good. We want him to be a leader. He’s been good about getting some of the others to follow suit.”
As a cornerback, Walton will be assigned to defend the opposition’s best receiver. He had four interceptions and 33 tackles (27 solo) last season.
“My brother (senior) Malik Merriweather leads the defense,” Walton said. “We’re not afraid of anybody (on the schedule).”
Steve Hamilton, Elyria’s head coach last year, returned to the staff to work with the offensive linemen. Walton couldn’t be happier having his former coach on the staff.
“Coach Hammy’s my mentor,” he said. “He’s always been there for me.”
“Steve completed the picture,” Fell said of Hamilton’s return. “We have veteran coaches in every spot. They had to learn some new things but it’s still football.”
With Walton and the others, Fell is confident Elyria is about to go on a good run.
“We’ll have kids next year who’ll step out on the field and play who didn’t do a thing this year,” he said. “It’s just that they started to learn. There are guys out there now that are stepping up that didn’t do much last year. We could see that just being in the weight room all winter.
“Talent-wise, we’re at a pretty good level these next couple years. You never know about how your freshmen are going to be.
“We’ve got kids in the right spots. Now we just have to play.”
Walton is anxious to get started.
“I can’t wait until (Friday),” Walton said of the opener at Amherst.
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“He’s probably the most talented kid on the team and we’ve got a lot of talented kids. He has more tools than anyone I’ve coached. He’s been working hard.”
- Elyria coach Kevin Fell on wide receiver/defensive back Demetrius Walton
GO LONG, YOUNG MAN
Elyria wide receiver Demetrius Walton had a number of long plays last season. A few of them:
60-yard TD reception vs. Amherst in Week 1
40-yard TD reception vs. Elyria Catholic in Week 3
37-yard TD reception vs. Parma in Week 5
33-yard reception vs. Cuyahoga Falls in Week 6
21-yard reception vs. Stow in Week 8