Mayflower Eagles coach Jed Davis has a scenario in mind for his team this year: He envisions going head to head with Harding Academy for the 3A-2 Conference championship.
He’s made it clear by a slogan that he put on the schedule: 15 objectives — one mission.
“To make state champion, it’s going to take 15 games,” he said. “We want them to know that’s the expectation.”
Harding Academy’s Wildcats won the state championship last year. Mayflower defeated the Wildcats in 2008 for the conference title.
“We know if we can beat them we can compete with anybody in the state, and we have a chance to win a state championship,” Davis said.
Coming off a record of 6-6 last season, Davis is relying on his experienced team to bring a winning record this year.
“We’re expecting to have a really good squad. The last few years we’ve been really young; this year, we have 18 seniors and 19 juniors,” Davis said.
The roster includes about five more players than last year, too — 43 compared with 38.
Returning quarterback Adam Dycus, a junior, and senior receiver Madison Chambliss will lead the team.
Dycus threw for more than 4,000 yards last year. “He’s one of those guys who really understands the game and likes to put in the extra time,” Davis said.
The coach mentioned receivers Drew Duncan and Josh Woodham, juniors, who line up with an offensive line almost filled with three-year starters. They include seniors Jordan Graves, Trey Bradley, Tristin Speed and Triston Clements.
Additional returning starters are lineman Justin Case and running back Justin Bailey, both juniors.
“There’s two things we’ve got to improve, definitely, this fall,” Davis said. “We’ve got to do a much better job of tackling and, offensively, we know that we’ve got the weapons to score points, but any coach will tell you, you’ve got to have offensive linemen that are doing their job. We’re expecting good things from them, but it all starts up front.
“If we get sacked six times, everybody in the stands knows we didn’t do our job,” he said.
When the offensive linemen do their job, it’s not as obvious, Davis said. “Nobody ever notices who the center is until he snaps it over our quarterback’s head. They’re never going to get the glory, but they’re going to get the blame when things go wrong.”
Key players on defense include Ryan Koonce, Shannon Forrester and Jordan Graves, senior linebackers; Trey Lasker, junior safety; Garrett Taylor, senior safety; Michael Post, senior cornerback; Sean Kocher, senior lineman; and Tyler Roberts, junior linebacker.
Injuries can make or break a team.
“We’ve already suffered a big injury,” Davis said.
“Bradley Chambliss, Madison’s twin brother, he was our leading tackler and three-year starter at safety, and he suffered a nasty broken leg at a 7-on-7 tournament at Fountain Lake,” Davis said. “It was a rough deal. We hope that’s the only time the injury bug affects us this year.”
Davis believes the team will have an unbreakable bond by the time the season starts.
“We actually go on a five-day Band of Brothers camp, kind of like Remember the Titans,” Davis said.
“We wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning and do conditioning and practice away from moms and girlfriends.”
This is the fourth year for the camp in Malvern, Davis said.
“The kids have a love-hate relationship with it — they know we’re going to get up early, and they know they’re going to work out,” Davis said.
That’s not their favorite part, he said.
“They love going down the zip line; they love playing the competition— the games against each other.”
Davis said the players go through a graduation ceremony at the end and receive a set of dog tags and a T-shirt.
“We try to make it a special event,” he said.
The dog tags have the year’s theme, which this season is a question: Rock or Sand?
“Are you building your life on the rock, or are you building your life on the sand?” Davis asked.
“We’re going to talk to them all year about that. Are you working toward things that are going to build you up, or are you working toward things that are going to cause you to sink later in life?
“We tell our kids every year, ‘We’re never going to hide from our expectations — we’re going to confront those expectations on a daily basis,’” he said.
“This is a great group of kids to be around; they make it fun to coach,” Davis said. “We expect big things from this group; they’ve got the talent; they’ve got the ability; it’s going to be a matter of going out there and taking care of business every day.”