2013 record: 6-5
Key players: Jay Roberts, Sam Ndem, Prather Hudson, Ben Jones, Jensen Price
Key game: at Dooly County, Oct. 31
Outlook: After its worst win total since 2003, Brookstone is hungry. So hungry that it is playing its first scrimmage on Friday against Macon County.
The Cougars play another scrimmage next week against Hardaway, and then they get their season started at the Battleground Classic at Memorial Stadium against Mt. Pisgah Christian, which went 12-1 with a one-point loss in the Class A-private semifinals in 2013.
Ready or not
“We’re going to hit the ground running,” coach Brad Dehem said this week. “Thankfully, we’ve got a lot of guys coming back. We’re excited. We’ve got a long way to go, we know that, but we’ve already got a bunch of guys in place.”
The fast start means few teams will have the game experience Brookstone has when it comes time for region play in its third game of the season. That’s a good thing, because Region 4-A is one of the toughest in Class A, featuring a 2013 state quarterfinalist (Dooly County), state semifinalist (Hawkinsville) and state champion (Marion County). And that doesn’t even include Pacelli, which made the playoffs for the first time six years last season.
“Ours could go up against any region in the state,” Dehem said.
Which makes that early experience that much more important for the Cougars.
Last year, Brookstone was only 4-3 in the region, losing games to Marion County, Pacelli and Dooly County. In fact, in those three games, Brookstone scored just 21 points combined, being shut out by Dooly and held to seven by Pacelli.
With 16 returning starters, eight on offense and defense, Brookstone would like to see that total improve.
Offensively, it starts up front and in the running game. Sophomore quarterback Jay Roberts made a splash in the second half of the season last year, passing for 12 touchdowns and over 1,000 yards in just six games.
Dehem expects great things from Roberts in his first full year as the starter, but his hope is that the running game improves to a point that less pressure is applied to the young signal-caller.
That means high expectations for the offensive line — Ralph Leary, Phillip Hamric, Tripp Valentini, Andrew Hamric and Parker James — as well as for running back tandem Sam Ndem and Prather Hudson.
It’s a more consistent approach, which seems to be the goal for the Cougars.
“As a team, we want to concentrate on the next game,” said tight end Jensen Price. “We just want to win the next game, and every week it’s a new season. If we lose a game, we forget about it and focus on the next one. That eliminates the outside pressures of playoffs and just keeps us focus on winning that one game.”
Linebacker/wide receiver Ben Jones wore a shirt on Monday bearing the Brookstone logo and the words “Do what we do with all our might.”
“Whatever you’re doing, do it the best you can,” Jones explained.
That’s the goal for Brookstone, which is hoping to build from a perennial playoff contender to one that can push the boundaries of the state playoffs.
It’s been five seasons since Brookstone played a second-round playoff game. With experience and more commitment from its players, the script could be changed in 2014.