Last season, the Harris County football team turned an 0-4 start into the best season in team history, winning the region and advancing to the state quarterfinals.
Coach Tommy Parks’ response on Monday: Who cares?
Alright, so that’s not exactly what he said, but his point was clear. Last year was nice, but that eight-game winning streak is the last thing on the team’s mind as it prepares for a new season.
“Last year was last year,” he said. “Nobody cares about last year. We’ve lost our memory of that. We just want to try to get some respect again. I think everybody has to earn (respect) again, whether you’re returning from a state championship or you had a losing season. At the point that you don’t constantly try to gain respect, you probably need to hang it up. Last year is done with.”
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With his attention turned toward the upcoming season, Parks said his team had shown a lot of effort but noted it still had some questions to answer and holes to fill before the regular season starts at the end of this month.
“The summer has been good, but we’ve had a lot of kids to replace in some key positions,” he said. “We were able to identify a lot of that personnel early, and I think we’ve been able to answer some of that.”
One position they didn’t have to answer a lot of questions about was running back, as the Tigers return All-Bi-City first-teamer Esaias Chapman, who rushed for 2,124 yards and 22 touchdowns a season ago. He’ll be running behind an offensive line that returns three of its five guys — Tyler Boutwell, Tyler McGarr and center Brad McCoy. The latter was All-Bi-City first team and all-region first team.
“We lost some, but we’ve got guys with a lot of game experience,” Chapman said. “Brad’s a heck of a player, those other guys are great. It’s huge for a running back to have that support up the middle.”
Tyler Williams and Nakie Grier will round out the offensive line.
Chapman said his personal goal was to average 200 yards each game. He was less than 300 yards off of that pace a season ago.
The Tigers will break in a new quarterback, Taquon Marshall, though Marshall has seen action at the position in the past. He played some as a freshman and, despite playing primarily at wide receiver, he stepped in for some key snaps last season as well.
“He’s really done a good job,” Parks said. “He’s had two years. He understands the positions, and he’s a leader by nature.”
Savion Johnson, Jacob Rovig and Jay McKibben will man the receiver slots, and Tae Crowder, a starter last season, will play tight end.
There were a couple of big losses for Harris County on defense, including Georgia Southern signee Jay Ellison and All-Bi-City co-defensive player of the year Marvin James.
Senior Key Hicks, a starter on the offensive line last season, moved to defensive end to help fill the void left by Ellison, and defensive tackle Quinten Rogers and defensive end Blake Jones return as well. Geordan McGhee will also play defensive tackle.
Parks said the line is in fairly good shape.
At linebacker, however, the team may be completely green. Jaborie Partridge, an all-region honorable mention last season, is slated as a starter, but may not have the job to start the season due to offseason surgery. Nick Terrell and Monterio Wyatt will both be new starters.
A.J. Howard, an All-Bi-City first-teamer, moved to free safety to fill James’ spot. He is accompanied by D.J. Washington, who started 13 games as a sophomore, Luke Lynch at safety and Josh Hutchinson at cornerback.
Parks said Howard, a high-intensity big hitter, is the catalyst of the unit.
“My role is being a leader,” Howard said. “There’s got to be a leader who can help everyone learn their assignments.”
Howard said, despite the losses, the defense is still in a good place.
“Jay Ellison helped us out a ton rushing the quarterback, and Marvin helped me learn a lot, but I think we’re actually better because we’ve got more guys out here who can play their positions,” Howard said.
Even if the team isn’t thinking about last season’s turnaround, the experience is still ingrained in the personality of the team. Howard said something like that helps the intensity and the confidence, and also helps the number of players who come out for the team.
“Guys want to be out here when you can win games,” he said with a laugh.
The losses of guys like Ellison and James aren’t easy to overcome, but Harris County appears to have talented players in the right places to continue to make strides in the right direction.
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.