In Year 1, the Calvary Christian football team won its first game ever. In Year 2, it secured its first playoff win and ICSGA semifinals appearance. In Year 3, the Knights want to take the next step.
“Last year, we mad the final four,” coach Brian Osborne said. “The guys are hungry to make it to that next game this year. We want to win our region, and we want to have a shot at the championship game.”
It’s not much of a leap in logic to consider that a possibility. The team had a shot at the game last year during a season which still featured a lot of basic teaching of fundamentals.
This year, most players have a solid foundation on which to stand, and the team has been able to implement more advanced schemes at a quicker rate. And perhaps the biggest advantage of all:
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“We’ve got 33 guys on our roster this year,” Osborne said. “The team is growing. We’ve actually got a depth chart this year, which is something we’ve never had to have in the past.”
The team did lose a couple of key players to graduation, including quarterback Jacob Ammons, running back Duncan Newton and linebacker/fullback Xavieus Duncan, but Osborne expressed confidence in his team’s ability to adjust.
Calvary’s season starts at 7:30 Friday night when it hosts Unity Christian at Britt David Park.
Losing Ammons hurts, but the loss is minimized by the presence of Adam Gray, his replacement, who is in his third year with the system and has three starts under his belt.
Losing Newton and Duncan, however, poses a bigger problem, because it leaves a couple of gigantic holes to fill in the running game on a team that runs the Wing-T.
“We’re returning exactly 0 yards rushing this year,” Osborne joked. “For a Wing-T team, you’ve got to control the game on the ground. So that’s a major area of emphasis.”
The hope is that the offensive line, which is left nearly completely intact, will be able to open enough holes early to let the new backs get their footing in the offense.
Those linemen will be: tackles Mason Kent and Jacob Bland, guards Mathew Murphy and Steven Fowler, and center Clayton Barefield. Seniors Andrew Walsh and Joshua Mixon will return at tight end.
“It’s probably the best line we’ve had,” Gray said. “I’m loving it.”
Taylor Faulk, Jackson Sellers and Anthony Santiago will be the three players stepping forward in the running game. All three will get their first action in Friday’s game.
Defensively, the Knights return a handful of solid players.
On the line, Stephen Galloway, Kent and Barefield will top the depth chart, with Kent manning the middle. Walsh, Faulk, Santiago and Dalton Drew will be relied upon to round out the front seven. Walsh recorded 73 tackles and Santiago 41 a year ago. Faulk and Drew will fill the hole left by Duncan, who led the team in tackles with 141 in 2012.
“They’ll have to really step up,” Osborne said of the linebackers.
Joshua Mixon is back at strong safety, joined by new starter Luke Giegerich. Cole Parker, who recorded one tackle last year, will play free safety, while Sellers (three interceptions in 2012) and Jacquez Green will play cornerback.
Osborne said the team was able to add a few new wrinkles on this side of the ball as it is more experienced and understands the scheme better than last year.
“Last year, we switched to a different defense, and they got more comfortable with it as the season went along,” he said. “This year, they understand it better and we can add a couple new things to confuse offenses.”
“When we were at camp, we got to see film of Year 1,” added Drew, who was not on the team that season. “There’s been a significant change. It’s fun to see how far the team has come.”
Even without some of the key players that made it successful last season, Calvary Christian should be in a good place.
The experience of having played together for two full years now has allowed the team to implement its systems much quicker this offseason.
It’s always too early to tell before the season if that experience will translate to championship caliber football, but that’s the expectation of the Knights players.
“We want to win the championship,” Gray said. “That’s it.”
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.