One of the City League's most stable programs for more than 30 years after the school opened in 1976, Beechcroft has gone through a series of coaching changes since longtime coach Tom Dunlap retired after the 2008 season.

The Cougars have their fourth coach in as many seasons, but to those involved with the program, it has seemed more like the continuation of a reshaping that began last fall in Beechcroft's only season under Charles Gibson.

Lee Snyder, an Akron native who served as an assistant in 2015 and '16 when Harvest Prep made consecutive playoff appearances and then became an assistant last season for the Cougars, was promoted to replace Gibson and has kept much of the coaching staff intact.

With Snyder serving as co-defensive coordinator with Karl Sharpe and assistant head coach last year, the Cougars gave up 12 or fewer points in seven games and finished 6-4 overall. They also tied Centennial for second (4-2) in the City-North Division.

Sharpe remains the defensive coordinator, with former standout Cougars quarterback Maurice Hale staying on as offensive coordinator.

Snyder has 10 assistant coaches to guide a roster of about 35 players. In addition to returning 14 players who started at least part time last season, a strong freshman class could make an immediate impact.

"Everyone (on the coaching staff) came back, and we added (offensive line coach) DeShannon Butler, who was under (former Beechcroft coach) Trevor (White)," Snyder said. "We've got about 11 to 12 seniors. That senior class is really stepping up."

Beechcroft opens Aug. 30 at Dayton Ponitz, which it beat 27-10 to begin last season.

The Cougars weren't able to build from that win in the short term, as they lost their next three games to fall out of Division III, Region 11 playoff contention.

They still had a chance to share the league title heading into Week 10 but lost 7-0 to Northland.

That loss -- along with a 12-7 setback in Week 4 against Mifflin -- still rankles players such as senior three-year starter Alhaji Sidibe.

"We've got a new head coach, but he was here last year," Sidibe said.

"It's our senior year and we're the leaders. We've got a lot of newcomers. Last year we lost to Mifflin and were a touchdown and a field goal away from beating Northland. A lot of other games didn't go our way. It wasn't that we weren't talented, it was just little stuff."

OFFENSE

Senior DeShannon Butler Jr. returns at quarterback after taking over that role last fall when he made second-team all-league.

Sophomore Diante Latham is expected to be the No. 1 running back after earning honorable mention all-league honors, with senior Davon Wooden serving in multiple roles. Wooden rushed for 207 yards and four touchdowns on 27 carries and added nine receptions for 249 yards and three scores a year ago.

Junior Demetrius Haynes also moved into a starting role at wide receiver last season and was honorable mention all-league.

Senior Travaughn McConnell, who is 6-foot-4 , should boost the receiving corps.

Sidibe is a returning starter on the offensive line and will line up at left tackle. Senior De'Marj'eon Harris (LG) and junior David Adjei (C) also were key linemen last season. Sophomore Gary Freeman should be at right tackle, with junior Kevin Damoah at right guard.

Harris was second-team all-league last season.

Junior James Austin, an Africentric transfer who will be eligible the entire season according to Snyder, also should help out on the line and possibly at running back.

DEFENSE

Sidibe and Wooden will lead the defense after each made first-team all-district and all-league a season ago. Sidibe had 48 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and three sacks and is at middle linebacker, and Wooden had 46 tackles and five interceptions and will be at free safety.

Beechcroft's top player last season might have been 2019 graduate Elijah Hairston, a first-team all-district linebacker who had 11 tackles for loss in addition to being the team's top wide receiver and blocking four punts.

Expected to help fill the void left by Hairston are senior Ibrahim Camara and junior Demetrius Haynes.

Senior Aloysious Kamara and junior Arrion Yarbrough are at cornerback, with Butler at strong safety.

Harris is a returning starter who will line up at tackle, with junior returning starter Muhammed-Ali Kobo likely to be one of the ends.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Camara returns at punter after averaging 39.3 yards on 26 attempts with 16 landing inside the 20, which earned him first-team all-league and special mention all-district honors.

Despite being a freshman, DeShawn Henderson Jr. is someone who Stevens believes has a strong enough leg to consistently get kickoffs into the end zone.

Sidibe returns at long snapper.

Latham and Wooden again will handle kickoff and punt returns.

THE LINEUP

Offense

Quarterbacks: *DeShannon Butler Jr. (sr., 6-0, 175), Omari Layne (fr., 6-0, 171)

Running backs: *Diante Latham (so., 5-9, 162), Ibrahim Camara (sr., 5-10, 170), Davon Wooden (sr., 6-0, 186)

Receivers: *Demetrius Haynes (jr., 5-11, 182), *Wooden, Travaughn McConnell (sr., 6-4, 198), Micah Newell (sr., 6-1, 182)

Tight ends: *Muhammad-Ali Kobo (jr., 6-3, 220), Jameer Jackson (fr., 6-1, 185)

Linemen: *David Adjei (jr., 6-1, 200), *Kevin Damoah (jr., 6-1, 290), *Gary Freeman (so., 6-1, 292), *De'Marj'eon Harris (6-2, 306), *Alhaji Sidibe (sr., 6-1, 232), James Austin (jr., 6-0, 210)

Defense

Linemen: *Freeman, *Harris, *Kobo, *Henry Sesay (sr., 6-0, 182), Abraham Bangura (fr., 6-0, 310), Jameer Jackson (fr., 6-1, 185), Lamar Jackson (fr., 5-10, 190)

Linebackers: *Camara, *Haynes, *Sidibe, Austin, Joshua Ruffin (jr., 5-11, 168), Lawaune Strickland Jr., (fr. 5-10, 167)

Secondary: *Butler, *Aloysious Kamara (sr., 6-0, 162), *Wooden, *Arrion Yarbrough (jr., 5-11, 163), DeShawn Henderson Jr. (fr., 5-9, 155), Taurean Pender (so., 6-1, 165)

Special teams

Kicker: *Henderson

Punter: *Camara

Returners: *Latham, *Wooden, *Yarbrough

Long snapper: *Sidibe

(*Denotes projected starter)

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek