Corey Joyner graciously tried to deflect the question. Then he relented, understanding the circumstances begged for more than a nonchalant response.
With the Carver Tigers undefeated at 3-0 overall and 1-0 in Region 1-AAAA, their new head coach can’t avoid this fact: Although this week’s opponent is winless at 0-3 overall and 0-2 in the region, Joyner coached the Dougherty Trojans the past six seasons, adding significant interest to this otherwise ho-hum matchup.
Dougherty also is Joyner’s alma mater.
“It is special,” Joyner admitted in a phone interview with the Ledger-Enquirer. “A lot of kids on the team, I went to school with their parents. But I still have to be focused on what we have to do here. All that other stuff will come after the game.”
The kickoff at A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium is set for Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Joyner acknowledged knowing many Dougherty players and coaches gives him a “slight advantage” in preparation, “but we still have to go out there and execute.”
Despite compiling a 10-48 record at Dougherty, Joyner guided the Trojans to the Georgia High School Association Class AAA playoffs the past two seasons — the first consecutive appearances in the program’s history. So when he resigned from Dougherty to take the Carver job, he left with respect from Dougherty athletics director Fredrick Thomas after doubling the program’s players from 30 to 60.
“He just built theculture for the kids, giving them the knowledge to get them to the next level,” Thomas told the Albany Herald in February. “He knew the families, as a Trojan alum. He didn’t have the wins he wanted to have, but he did win with the character he developed and showing them the future they could have with football.”
Carver already has equaled the number of victories it notched last year, when it went 3-7 overall and 3-4 in the region with Calvin Arnold as the head coach.
The difference, Joyner figures, is the Tigers are in “good condition” and “playing hard in spurts, at the right time. We’re a bend-but-don’t break defense, and our offense has been efficient. I think we’re still jelling, … but we’ve got enough talent to get things done.”
Joyner’s most worrisome concerns about the Tigers have been lining up wrong on the defensive line, not sustaining blocks on the offensive line and “crazy penalties at the wrong time. … We could have been 0-3 or we could have blown out teams.”
Instead, the Tigers have prevailed in all three games this season by seven points or less: 20-16 at Harris County, 17-10against Spencer and 27-21 against Hardaway.
“We’re way ahead of schedule compared to where I thought we’d be,” Joyner said. “I’m just thankful where we are.”
Senior quarterback Jaylen Joyner — the coach’s son — has completed 27 of 44 passes for 434 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. Junior running back Khiari McCoy has 47 carries for 259 yards and two touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Ja’cyais Credle has 12 catches for 259 yards and two touchdowns.
Leading the Tigers in tackles are senior defensive back A.J. Watts and junior defensive back Corey Harper with 20 each. Watts also has three interceptions, five pass breakups and one forced fumble. Harper also has three pass breakups.
The Trojans under new head coach Damien Gary, a former University of Georgia wide receiver and punt returner, were dominated by Lee County 47-6 and Americus-Sumter 43-7 in their first two games. They hung within a touchdown of Shaw after three quarters last week but gave up 20 points in the final period and lost 32-12. Gary was an assistant coach the previous five seasons at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.
Friday’s local games
Carver vs. Dougherty, at A.J. McClung MemorialStadium, 7:30 p.m.
Jordan vs. Greenville, at Kinnett Stadium, 7:30 p.m.
Shaw at Americus-Sumter, 7:30 p.m.
Hardaway at Cairo, 7:30 p.m.
Northside at Westover, 7:30 p.m.
Calvary Christian at Georgia Force Christian, 7:30p.m.
First Presbyterian Day at Brookstone, 7:30 p.m.
Calhoun County at Chattahoochee County, 7:30 p.m.
Marion County at Bleckley County, 7:30 p.m.
Pacelli at Pataula Charter, 7:30 p.m.
Central at Prattville, 8 p.m.
Glenwood at Morgan Academy, 8 p.m.
Russell County at Dothan, 8 p.m.
Smiths Station at Enterprise, 8 p.m.
Mark Rice, 706-576-6272, @MarkRiceLE.