The numbers game hasn't changed for the Africentric Early College program.
"Last year, we finished the season with 30 kids, and right now, we have 28 on paper," third-year coach Clarence Daniels said. "Our depth has been our problem for the years that I've been here."
In addition to a lack of depth, the Nubians, who compete in Division VI, play against Division II and III opponents in the City League-South Division.
Last season, Africentric finished 0-10 overall and 0-7 in the City-South, eighth behind champion Eastmoor Academy (7-0). The Nubians, who have lost 49 consecutive league games, lost by an average of 35 points against their league opponents a year ago.
"The difference between our starters and backups at every position is night and day," said Daniels, whose team opens Aug. 31 at Steubenville Catholic Central. "We have seniors at a lot of starting positions, but the next guy is a freshman or sophomore. With our low numbers, we're unable to have a junior varsity team. I've been blessed to be around some professional coaches who aren't out here trying to demolish my team."
While the Nubians are low in numbers, they do have experience, with seven returning starters on offense and seven on defense.
Senior Kquaon Hansard returns at quarterback after being named second-team all-league last season. Other returning skill position players include junior running back Justin Fudge (first-team all-league, special mention all-district) and senior receiver Joeson Russell (honorable mention all-league).
Junior lineman Landymn Steele (second-team all-league), senior lineman Malachi Rash (honorable mention all-league) also are among the leaders for the Nubians, who finished 1-9 in 2017 and 2-8 in 2016.
Victories during those years came against smaller non-league teams. Daniels said he's asked school officials to pursue changing the makeup of the City League so that the Nubians could be more competitive.
"I made the request to get out of the league, but they're holding onto us in the City," Daniels said. "If we would break it down to three five-team (divisions), with the smaller teams in one, I think that would strengthen the whole league in general."
Africentric's focus on offense this season will be on sustaining drives.
"One of the main things we've been trying to work on is ball control on offense," Daniels said. "We want to close the game down to 65-70 snaps. If we can keep it low like that, the game can be in our favor."
The Nubians utilized a ground-heavy offense last season and averaged 6.2 points per game.
Others expected to have starting roles include sophomore fullback Leon Briggs, senior receiver Milton Christie, junior tight end Earnest Johnson and senior Carl Hampton, junior Shayonne Porter and sophomore Kaden James along the line.
Eight of Africentric's starters on its 4-3 defense also play offense, with sophomore linebacker Tarrent Morrison, freshman linebacker Deangelo Fuller and sophomore end William Smith being one-way starters.
"Our guys are running on straight, raw emotions, and that's really good," Daniels said. "We're not the biggest and most athletic at all positions, but these guys have a lot of fire and hustle. All 11 get to the ball."
Porter, Rash and Steele have starting roles on the line, Briggs will start at linebacker and Christie, Fudge, Hansard and Russell will be starters in the secondary.
Quarterback: *Kquaon Hansard (sr., 5-10, 185)
Running back: *Justin Fudge (jr., 5-10, 170)
Fullback: *Leon Briggs (so., 6-0, 250)
Receivers: *Milton Christie (sr., 6-2, 170), *Joeson Russell (sr., 5-9, 175)
Tight end: *Earnest Johnson (jr., 6-6, 175)
Linemen: *Carl Hampton (sr., 6-0, 235), *Kaden James (so., 5-10, 260), *Shayonne Porter (jr., 6-0, 245), *Malachi Rash (sr., 6-5, 305), *Landymn Steele (jr., 6-2, 210)
Linemen: *Porter, *Rash, *William Smith (so., 5-10, 185), *Steele
Linebackers: *Briggs, *Deangelo Fuller (fr., 5-9, 175), *Tarrent Morrison (so., 5-7, 170)
Secondary: *Christie, *Fudge, *Hansard, *Russell
(*Denotes projected starter)