Russell County embracing challenge, seeking improvement in season-opener against Central

dmitchell@ledger-enquirerAugust 28, 2013 

Effort, leadership and heart.

Those are three characteristics needed in every good football team, all of which second-year Russell County coach Demond McCoy said he saw in his players last week.

In a scrimmage, the Warriors topped Spencer 23-7, slowing down an offense that features a number of talented athletes.

In the game, McCoy said he saw more effort and “a lot of young men who didn’t give up.”

“Adversity didn’t get them down,” he said. “There are some real good leaders this year. A lot of guys playing for the team, trying to take it to the next level.”

Thursday night’s opener against Central, which kicks off at 7 p.m. at Garrett-Harrison Stadium, won’t be a test run, however, and McCoy knows the challenges his team is up against.

First, there is the obvious: Central has proven itself among the best programs in the state and, despite a four-loss 2012 campaign, it appears to be in great shape for 2013.

It features a nasty running game led by the speedy Ryan Humphrey, who showed his burst on a 75-yard touchdown run in a scrimmage against Carver, and the athletic Traveon Samuel, who can wear a defense out in one play. He’ll jump, juke and spin until the defense is dizzy and unable to keep up with him.

And McCoy knows how good the Red Devils’ defense can be. It shut his Warriors out in his head coaching debut last season, and this edition may be better than the last.

“That secondary is great,” said McCoy of the unit, which features Dandy Dozen selection Christian Campbell. “We watched them on film, and we know we’re going to have to do some things in the passing game to mix it up.”

Which leads to the personal challenges for Russell County.

The team will dress less than 40 players, each of whom will be asked to do thing they haven’t had to do in the past. They’ll have to play both sides of the ball, they’ll have to step into situations they aren’t necessarily used to, and they’ll have to do it against a very talented team with a much deeper roster.

The offensive line will be tested and worn down by the end of the game, and it will be leaned upon heavily to open up the running game for tailback Josh Johnson.

“We feel like if we can get (Johnson) a crease, he can do some things,” McCoy said.

Despite the notable challenges in the game, however, McCoy said his team is ready to strap it up and meet them head on. No matter the opponent, his expectation is always a win.

That won’t change for the season-opener, despite the face Central has won all 12 of its home contests against Russell County.

McCoy will rely on the leadership of captains Chavel Smith, Caleb Smith, Byron Johnson and Dontavius Hill. Three of the four, with the exception of Johnson, are keys on defense, which McCoy said will hold the key to the Warriors’ game.

“Central is such an explosive offensive team,” he said. “We have to keep them in front of us.”

If they can, the Warriors can improve upon last year’s 48-0 loss to Central. Winning is the most obvious goal in the game for Russell County, but constant improvement may be even more important.

“Everyday, I preach to our kids that we want to win today, whether it’s a meeting, a practice or a game,” McCoy said. “If we win in practice or in a game and we improve, we won the week. Our goal is to try to win the game, but we want to improve every aspect of our game.”

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