This is the second in a series of high school previews. Coming Monday: Columbus
By DAVID MITCHELL
School: Carver High
Never miss a local story.
2013 record: 11-2
Key players: Jawon Pass, Khane Pass, Mekhi Brown, Nate Barley
Key game: vs. Harris County, Oct. 24, at Memorial Stadium
Outlook: Ever since former coach Dell McGee turned around a three-win team in 2005 to a 12-win team in 2006 to a 15-win state champion in 2007, expectations have been high.
While most teams discuss a state championship as if it's some unexplored frontier, the Tigers look at it like it's the only thing worth striving for. They made state semifinal games in 2010 and 2011, but haven't escaped the quarterfinals in the years since.
In 2014, however, a star-studded roster may hold the key to returning to that plateau.
At quarterback, the Tigers are led by Jawon Pass, one of the most highly-sought-after recruits in the country for the Class of 2016. At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, Pass has scholarship offers from most major football programs coming off a sophomore season in which he was named the Ledger-Enquirer's All-Bi-City Offensive Player of the Year.
The scary thing is he's undoubtedly better than he was a year ago.
"Jawon had a great summer," coach Joe Kegler said. "And the great thing about him is he's a great leader because he wants to work hard himself. He works hard and the kids follow him."
That was a point of emphasis going into this season, Pass said, taking his superior physical skills and matching them with a presence that players were willing to follow.
Like Pass on offense, Mekhi Brown, a senior, is the presence on defense. He, too, has prodigious athletic abilities,
standing 6-6 and weighing 220 pounds. He has been committed to play college ball at Alabama for more than a year and has been adept at rallying followers whether on the field or in the recruiting game.
Brown has been named All-Bi-City first team each of the past two seasons and is a leading contender for the top defensive award in the area.
He's joined by Khane Pass, Jawon's brother, on defense. Khane only recently made his commitment to play at the University of Louisville.
The team's talent level clearly can't be questioned. Only one team on its schedule, Creekside, has the potential to match Carver in that area.
"That'll be a great test to see where we are early in the season," Kegler said of the game against Creekside, the defending Class AAAAA state champion. "They can give us a good barometer, possibly, of how things may end up by the end of the year."
Carver will enter the season as the favorite in the new Region 1-AAAAA. It will likely be favored in every region game it plays up to a Week 8 clash with Harris County. The team that escapes that game will likely have the inside track at a region championship and a more manageable path in the playoffs.
The non-region schedule, though, speaks volumes about the expectations the Tigers have for themselves. It opens against Carver-Atlanta, a playoff team a year ago, and plays the defending Class AAAAA champs two weeks later.
This is a team hoping early competition can prepare it for the rigors of a deep playoff run.
The pieces are in place. Now, Carver just needs to take advantage.