As the saying goes “The rich get richer”, that seems to be the hashtag of the Inland Empire Ducks of Southern California. Based in the city of Corona the I.E Ducks led by 2014 AYF Coach of the Year, Coach Keefe Matheny , who just led a 14U (8th grade) team to a National Championship last year, seems to only be reloading a new 13U (7th grade) team for the upcoming season. As the Ducks prepare for off season 7v7 competition Football Hotbed was there for their first practice. On a warm sunny day at Corona High the team met to train and learn from each other. Although it was their first official practice the kids seem to be playing with each other for years. The scary part was it was only their first practice, so they are only going to get better! Coach Keefe and his Defensive Coordinator Coach Darryl Johnson along with other staff went through a smooth practice covering defense, offense, and position skills training. I did not feel like I was watching kids that are in the 6th grade now that will be in the 7th in the fall. I felt like I was watching the skill level of talented 10th graders in high school.
Exciting times are ahead for this squad. On the sideline and even in social media there is a buzz of chatter going back and forth of how good this team will be and how it will measure up to Duck squads in recent History. Some of the kids that will jump out at you on the talent scale, are all discipline and eager to work to ensure them the best opportunity at developing their skills to becoming a Division 1 prospect one day.
Anthony Beavers: 5’10 145lbs WR/FS
Anthony Beavers will be one of the highlight players this season. This kids already has a great frame that looks to gain another couple of inches over the next few years. He has soft hands and a physical playing style. There are not too many kids that will challenge his height in press coverage giving him free releases off the ball and a nightmare for anyone’s secondary. On defense he is a natural center fielder waiting on anything in the sky ready to come down with it for the defense.
DJ Harvey: 5’5 115lbs RB/CB
DJ Harvey is a natural athlete. He is aggressive with great ball skills. Showed ability to play man with press coverage technique with good field awareness. DJ was impressive during 1 on 1 drills and technique drills. I look for him to develop into physical shutdown corner that can challenge any receiver on the line of scrimmage even his own team member Anthony Beavers.
Jason Boyle: 5’7 145lbs LB
Energy, energy, effort, energy, and more effort! This kid has focus and drive unlike most kids. I have seen his film in addition to the real thing and he is going to be a coaches dream. Simply on the things we want out of all kids is full effort. Jason Boyle is that and will serve on the Linebacker core for the Ducks. He is another natural athlete with ball skills and a drive to prove himself to his new teammates. This will be his first year playing with the ducks and he looks not to disappoint.
Damon Williams 5’8 145lbs RB/LB
Damon Williams is all business, I only saw him focused on coach instruction and his job on the field. Damon is a physical LB, that I’m sure will be used a hybrid to do multiple things for the Ducks this season. He has a high motor and a nose for the football. When the pads come on I know this guy is bringing some heat! Williams will also play in the backfield at RB should be a tough runner to bring down!
So who wants to be a Duck? There were other kids out there that I did not mention that are stars in the making as well. Soon you will hear about all these kids. All of them have All American potential and we hope to host them at this years Football Hotbed All American Combine in April. Nonetheless Coach Keefe has them focused on getting better as the team begins to gel. This is only the beginning, shorts and shirts we all know the true season starts in August for California kids so as we move along in the calendar there is sure to be talk about this team. I for one will be at a game or two putting these kids and their team on the spot light. People love the show “Friday Night Tykes”, well I think Coach Keefe and his staff are building a “Duck Dynasty”, so tune in and watch.