Q. How would you characterize this year’s team?
A. We’ve got a great team, as far as high-quality character young men. It’s a great group of upperclassmen who have been together for many years. Leadership and character are tremendous attributes of the young men. Great team camaraderie.
Q. What will be the keys to your success?
A. We have to stay healthy. We are thin in certain positions. We will have to be better in all three aspects of the game: offense, defense, and special teams. We lost three games last year in the fourth quarter, so we have to learn how to finish.
Q. Who will be your key leaders on the team?
A. Three-year starter and two-time All-Region player Jonah Hobbs (Sr., OL/LB), Tyler Beard (Sr., WR/DB), Dakota Cathey (Sr., WR/DB), Jack Martin (Jr., OL/LB), Isaac Kirkland (Sr., OL/DL), Cody Deal (Sr., OL/DL), Colton Lane (Jr., RB/LB), and Jonathan Keown (Sr., TE/DE).
Q. What are your biggest reasons for optimism?
A. We lost three games last year in the fourth quarter, and we could have won those games. We have starters on both sides coming back. We can win those close games with 18 starters coming back.
Q. Any lessons learned from last year?
A. You can’t take teams for granted, including your own team. We must prepare kids for all aspects of the game. We need to look at every detail, inspect everything with a microscope as we get ready for each game. We have to put a little more trust in the players. They know what’s happening in the moment on the field. Trust what they see and what they say more.
Q. Will we see anything different this year?
A. On defense, we’ll operate out of a four-man front. Offensively, we’ll run a spread Wing-T. You will definitely see bigger kids and faster kids. We’re starting year five, and we finally have a team that looks like football players.
Our goal is to have a winning season. We want to go into game 11 to compete in the playoffs. We have a tough non-region schedule with rival teams back-to-back in Trion and Gordon Lee. It’s tough for any team, from high school to the SEC, to play two rival games back-to-back. In our region, Ridgeland will be the top dog, then Northwest Whitfield. We will be in the middle of the pack in our region, but we want to put ourselves in a position to be playing in game 11 and be playoff contenders.
Photos by Tony Smith