Freedom head coach Darryl Overton (Photo: Andy Hilton/recruit757)
Football activity still rolls in a prolonged offseason at Freedom
by Jim McGrath, recruitNoVA
Freedom football coach Darryl Overton has been as busy as any other high school head whistle in Virginia during the COVID pandemic. But as he waits for official football practice to begin on February 4th, he has been keeping busy.
In fact, he’s in season, with the Eagle girls basketball team, for which he serves as the head varsity coach. It is a duty borne from coaching his daughter’s youth AAU team for several years, until an opening became available at Freedom two summers ago.
And it makes for an interesting daily schedule during a regular school year.
“Generally, I finish with football around 5, and then we start basketball practice at 6:30,” says Overton, now in his second year with the girls hoops team at Freedom. On one weekend in the fall of 2019, Overton coached the Freedom football team on Friday night, conducted girls basketball conditioning at 8 AM on Saturday morning, and then returned to his office to break down Friday night’s game film.
Of course, this is not a typical year, and with football being pushed to the spring, Overton’s schedule has become more unpredictable some days.
But he rolls along.
So does his Eagle football team. Fresh off of a 2019 season that saw Freedom win its first 11 games before dropping a 45-42 nail biter in the second round of the playoffs to Massaponax, the team is ready to reboot and take aim at a robust postseason run.
Several pieces will be missing, most namely Quest Powell, who quarterbacked the offense last year leading Prince William County in passing yardage and touchdown passes.
Yet, the cupboard isn’t bare in Neabsco Mills. Receiver Umari Hatcher (c/o 2021 6-3 175) has signed with Syracuse, but he’ll stay in high school in order to play his senior season this spring. His 56 catches, 1400 yards, and 17 TD’s would not have been easy to replace. From the looks of recent offers to his teammates, some of the others watching Freedom players will be college coaches.
Darryl Overton III (c/o 2021, 6-1 220) will head up the defense from his middle linebacker or defensive end position. “Aside from Umari, he’s probably the second-best athlete on our team,” says his coach. On offense, the younger Overton will line up at tight end.
To date, Overton has drawn interest from Richmond, UMass, VMI, a Bluefield State program getting ready to begin operations again, Glenville State, and Emory and Henry.
Jalen Hamlin (c/o 2021, 6-4 200) will boost his status this year. Already boasting a solid Larry Fitzgerald type frame at the receiver position, Hamlin has drawn first and second looks from UMass, Towson, and Virginia State.
Maliek Dixon (c/o 2021, 5-9 180) will help to shore up the Eagle secondary from his cornerback or safety positions (he plays strong and free). Dixon recently received an offer from FCS Morehead State (KY) of the Pioneer League.
Overton has one X-Factor on his roster, a behemoth of a lineman named Jayson Tarpeh. Tarpeh (c/o 2021 6-7 295) played for C.D. Hylton in 2019, but fell into some transportation issues.
“His father was heavily involved with importing and exporting goods to Africa. Because of COVID, obviously that slowed down his business to a halt, and they ended up driving just one car, which prevented him from being driven to Hylton,” said Overton. “He’s a basketball kid,” added the coach, and the hope is that he has picked up enough speed and agility to be effective, particularly at left tackle.
In the past week, Tarpeh has received offers from VMI, and D-2 Lane College (TN) and Concord (WV).
Julian Edwards (c/o 2021, 5-11 200) will also be relied on as a key player on both sides of the ball, playing both running back and outside linebacker. To date, his interest has come from Division II schools, such as Seton Hill, Notre Dame College, West Virginia State, and Glenville State, although he will be making his official visit to Emory and Henry in the coming weeks.
Jayden Smith (c/o 2021, 6-1 180) has made a “huge leap” as a player, according to Overton and will compliment Hatcher well from the third receiver position. He will also play cornerback for the Eagles. His offer tally to date includes Glenville State, Bluefield State, West Virginia Wesleyan and a PWO from Wagner College of the FCS.
And on Friday, tackle Devonte Boyd (c/o 2021, 6-4 295) earned an offer from Virginia Union.
During the course of conversation, Overton spoke of the importance of maintaining relationships with college coaches, especially as teams potentially need fewer athletes for 2021.
“With the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility to some players (because of the pandemic), some teams are not losing kids they would normally lose,” said Overton. “That is the biggest obstacle right now. I have aimed to maintain my relationships with college coaches.
One way that this is accomplished comes in the form of daily email updates, which Overton and Assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Dustin Lawless put together.
But on February 4, the Eagles will be together in full force again, and Overton’s schedule will return to chaotic. And he’d have it no other way.
– Jim McGrath