Coming off a district championship season, the Raiders are out to prove themselves again, with a talented defense returning for the new year.
While the defensive line graduated seniors Anthony James, who is on scholarship at the University of Washington, and defensive tackle Robert Ngasoh, the team returns plenty of talent for the 2023 season.
The strength for Wylie East’s defensive line this season is on the interior, with rising senior James Cano returning from last season. With Ngasoh going down with an injury during the year, Cano got more playing time than expected last season, setting himself up nicely for returning as a starter his senior season.
“He really helped us last season in a big spot,” head coach Marcus Gold said. “He played both on the end and at tackle, and he’s been the biggest surprise for us in spring football workouts. Not that we didn’t have high expectations for him, but he’s taken a big step forward and provides us a player we can lean on.”
Cano partners up front with junior Jayden Janshego, who had 45 tackles as a sophomore on the varsity roster last season. He was named second-team all-district in 2022 and has put on more weight heading into his second year as a starter.
“I’ve been watching Jayden since he was in eighth grade and he never stops working hard,” Gold said. “He’s a real difference maker for us and one of the most likable players on the team. The guys take to him and he’s going to be a big player for us.”
Those players are supporting the defensive ends on the line of scrimmage, with Zach Loftus returning after a first-team all-district season. Loftus was third on the team with 73 tackles to go along with four and a half sacks in 2022, cementing himself as one of the go-to players on the Raiders’ defense.
“He’s one of the strongest guys we have and quickest we have on the defensive line,” Gold said. “You’ll see him in a two-point stance for us and he’s one of the more versatile players for our team.”
Loftus had a terrific junior year helping the Raiders to the second-best defense in District 9-6A. Now without James on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage, an even bigger burden falls on him to be the guy on defense.
“He was that guy at the top of scouting reports for teams last season,” Gold said. “When I went to the coaches meeting, I had guys asking me who number 19 is. So they’re aware of what he’s capable of and he’s ready to be a game-changer.”
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