Say what you will about Kendrick’s three consecutive 1-9 seasons, but the athletes and coaches there believe things are looking up for 2011.
Thee team returns several key components - four-year starter LB/FB Jakey Harris, for example - and six returning starters. And the 30-plus freshman on the squad should be an indication of how much interest there is in a team that its coaches admit has been plagued by bad attitudes and worse work ethics in recent seasons.
“There’s a big improvement, especially with people sticking to the team,” senior lineman Nathan Faumuina said. “In my previous years here, they would drop off the team before school starts in the summer. but this year we had a pretty good bunch stick together.”
But the real impressive feat has started at the top of the chain with the eight seniors, six of which were starters last season.
“There is a lot of leadership this year,” Kendrick coach Jerry Dukes said. “A lot more than we had before, and I’m impressed with it. It’s not like what we have had before.”
What to expect
Certainly no one is getting too far ahead of themselves at Kendrick. The athletes I spoke with tempered their expectations and made judgements based on how hard they know they and their teammates will work.
“Right now, we’re looking all right, but we need to work more on offense and defense,” senior QB Diyon Copeland, previously a DB and WR, said. “I feel like we’re going to be good, we’re going to win some games, but we still have to work harder.”
“We tried to get all the goofiness and all the playing out out and get serious about football because that’s the only way we’re going to win,” Copeland said.
Running game, O-line improving
Faumuina said the running game was the team’s strongest asset in the preseason but that the offensive line needs to buckle down a bit more before it can expect to improve on last year’s 1-9 season.
“Strength-wise, I think it’s our running the ball,” Faumuina said. “We are trying to get the linemen together, trying to get a better line. Without the line, there are no blocks and you can’t get anywhere with the running game.”
Dukes said he will look to Harris, who had about 300 yards rushing last season, to take a bigger role in the offense, which means more carries and more catches.
Like the rest of the improvements Kendrick is making, Dukes is taking a tempered approach to competing in Region 5-AA, which is home to returning top-10 teams in Carver and Callaway.
"There are always going to be teams at the top of the region, like Carver and like Callaway, and there are always going to be teams at the bottom, and there are always going to be teams in the middle," Dukes said. "Our goal isn't to go out there and say we're going to win the region overnight. We want to win some games and be right in the middle of that pack competing for a playoff spot, and hopefully we can get one this year."
Aug 12 Fri 7 p.m. at Albany
Aug 25 Thu 7:30 PM Randolph-Clay (Memorial Stadium)
Sep 02 Fri 7:30 PM at Northside, Warner Robins
Sep 09 Fri 7:30 PM Columbus (Memorial Stadium)
Sep 23 Fri 7:30 PM Temple (Memorial Stadium) *
Sep 29 Thu 7:00 PM at Callaway *
Oct 07 Fri 7:30 PM Jordan (Kinnett Stadium) *
Oct 14 Fri 7:30 PM Heard County (Memorial Stadium) *
Oct 20 Thu 7:30 PM Carver (Memorial Stadium) *
Oct 28 Fri 7:30 PM at Manchester *
Nov 04 Fri 5:00 PM Spencer (Kinnett Stadium) *
* Region 5-AA game
Coming up in the Ledger-Enquirer
If you're wondering how your favorite team is doing leading up to kickoff, keep checking back. I'll be going to one or two practices just about every weekday through next week or so until I have hit all 17 Bi-City schools. I'll be posting blogs, photos and videos as I visit each one, but the featured stories about the teams will begin running one a day in the Ledger-Enquirer's print edition and running them in reverse alphabetical order. Here's the schedule of which days you can find which team's story in print:
Aug. 12: Kendrick
Aug. 13: Jordan
Aug. 14: Harris County
Aug. 15: Hardaway
Aug. 16: Glenwood
Aug. 17: Columbus
Aug. 18: Chattahoochee County
Aug. 19: Central-Phenix City
Aug. 20: Carver
Aug. 21: Calvary Christian
Aug. 22: Brookstone
Aug. 23: 2011 Ledger-Enquirer Dandy Dozen team announced
Have any particularly interesting questions you want me to a coach or player? Have something you'd like to read about on the blog? Have a story suggestion? Paste it in the comments or send it in an email to email@example.com and I'll do my best to get to your request when I visit that team's practice.