ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF)–The East E-Rabs have put together some solid seasons in recent years. This year they have some very interesting pieces returning and some that are new to the program.

Gary Griffin is in his ninth year as the E-Rabs head coach. That alone is enough to tell you what type of team they’ll be, a run-first, second and third team and a physical team.
Those two dynamic running backs Deterrace Dotson and Javius Catlin are juniors now.

“Me and him in the backfield again, that’s unstoppable like always,” said Dotson.

Except Catlin won’t be ready to go when the season opens. He’s still recovering from a nasty ankle injury he suffered at a camp this summer at NIU. He’s been wearing a walking boot watching practices.

“I tore some ligaments and my bone, my actual bone has two cracks in it,” said Catlin.

So how long before we see him back on the field?

“I’m hoping a couple weeks. I’ve still got to go back, and they’re going to let me know.”

The E-Rabs are young this year, but they have some intriguing young men on the lines. Start with wrestling sensation Lee Smith, one of the top heavyweights in the state. Griffin doesn’t like to play guys on both sides of the ball, but Smith will.

“He’s going to be a tough guy to block,” said Griffin. “He’s going to be a tough guy to tackle. He’s just tough, and he’s only a junior.

Also on the lines will be Victor Nealon, Eduardo Esgerra and Omar Ellis, all with good size.

“We have a young line,” said Doston, “But they know what they’re doing, and they’re also big.”

Then there’s Jabari Woods-Ellis, a big tackle who moved in from Kentucky. He’s a strong, 270-plus pound sophomore with great upside. He’ll play on both sides of the line.

“Whoever he played for (in Kentucky) did a phenomenal job with him,” said Griffin. He’s already ready to play.”

Woods-Ellis’ freshman brother Malik Woods-Ellis also moved in from Kentucky. He’s lean and long, and he’ll give the E-Rabs another threat at running back.

The big question mark for the E-Rabs is quarterback. Two sophomores, Demarius Creden and Twaine Phillips are rotating there for now. Creden is perhaps the better runner, Phillips has a stronger arm.

“We’re going to take our lumps with them,” said Griffin. Until one of them is clearly better than the other, we’re going to play both of them.”

They’ll have all-conference tight end Jaymere Williams to throw to. He dropped weight from 230 pounds to 205 making him faster and more versatile.

“He’s still a tight end, but we’ll do multiple things with him. We’ll spread him out. We’ll do a lot of different things with him.”

On defense the E-Rabs will be counting on their captain and middle linebacker Mahki Mathews to lead the way.

“I think after losing our seniors, we’re still pretty good. I think we’re still a good team,” said Mathews.