By Matthew Davis
Among the 13 starters back for Columbia Heights football this fall, the Hylanders have three offensive skill players and three defensive backs returning.
Hylanders coach Tony Townsend said his team “will continue to improve as a football team and be competitive in the Twin Cities District.”
Junior running back Antonio Triplett could make plays again for Hylanders. He had 1,438 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns en route to all-district honors.
Senior wide receiver Deundra Roberson returns after a 24-catch, 371-yard and three-TD season last year. Fellow senior wide receiver Quentin Hardrict also returns.
Columbia Heights also has experience back on the offensive line with seniors Manny Alvarez and Brian Gonazlez. Alvarez, a 6-6 and 290-pound tackle, earned the Red Subdistrict Offensive Lineman of the Year award lasts season. Gonzalez, a 5-7 and 230-poun guard, teamed with Alvarez to help the Hylanders average 253.2 yards of offense per game in the regular season.
Columbia Heights will need a new starting quarterback with Dontae Hayley graduated. The two-year starter threw for 778 yards and six TDs last year but also had four interceptions.
Bobby Hosch also leaves a void after graduating. The two-way starter had 286 yards rushing on 42 carries, including two TDs. He also made plays on defense with a team-best 79 tackles in addition to a sack and interception.
“We will also need to count on young players to fill in on some key positions due to graduation,” Townsend said.
Columbia Heights will have plenty of starters back on defense to help that side of the ball. The Hylanders will look to improve on their allowance of 21.4 points per game last year.
Senior linebacker Dorian Poindexter returns after a 24-tackle season. He also had an interception in 2016.
Fellow senior linebacker Dylan Lentz had 64 tackles and an interception. He also earned all-district honors.
Three members returning members of the secondary will look to shore up a Hylanders defense going strong against the pass. The Hylanders allowed 88.9 yards passing and 10 TDs while picking off 11 passes in the regular season last year.
Junior defensive back Kenny Moore had 29 tackles and one interception. Fellow junior defensive back had 39 tackles and a couple picks. Senior defensive back Joel Kromah had 19 tackles and an interception.
Columbia Heights will look to build on a 5-5 mark and a trip to Class 4A Section 4 semifinals last season. The Hylanders came up short in the semis against St. Paul Highland Park in a 35-23 loss.
Columbia Heights didn’t go anywhere in the district realignment by the MSHSL this year as the program stayed in the Red Sub District. The Hylanders finished second in that sub district at 4-1 behind Mound-Westonka at 5-0. The Winhawks routed the Hylanders 38-0.
It could get tougher than Mound-Westonka this year in the Red Subdistrict. Defending Class A state champion Minneapolis North joined the sub district as the Winhawks moved out.
Columbia Heights opens its season Sept. 1 at home against Breck at 7 p.m. The Hylanders blanked the Mustangs 20-0 last year.
Follow the Sun Focus on Twitter at @MnSunFocus and on Facebook at Facebook.com/SunFocus