GENERAL: Mayflower coach Jed Davis doesn’t mince words about the bad of the past and the good of the present and future.
He will tell you that last year’s 3-8 team (in which the Eagles staggered into the Class 3A playoffs almost by default) was one of the least-talented in Mayflower in several years.
"Any coach will tell you it’s not X’s and O’s; it’s having guys who can execute," Davis said. "Last year, we weren’t as talented as we have been. There’s no other way to say it. The kids battled all year and never gave up, but we knew it was gonna be tough."
This season, he will look you in the eye and tell you he expects the Eagles to seriously contend for the 2-3A Conference title and make a deeper run in the playoffs.
"We have 22 seniors and a very talented sophomore class," he said. "I feel as good about this group as I did the group three years ago that won 10 games. We have a good chance to get to the playoffs and if we do, I think we have as good a chance (for a state title) as anyone else."
The Eagles have switched from the Spread to an I attack to take advantage of a potentially strong running game.
"We have four great backs and we’re gonna run at people," Davis said. "We’re still gonna be wide open at times, but we won’t throw as much as in past years."
Chris Croson, a receiver last year, takes over at quarterback.
"He’s learning, but I’m gaining more and more confidence in him," Davis said.
Taylor Mathis, who rushed for 1,500 yards and scored 17 touchdowns last year, is expected to lead the running attack, supported by junior Cory Funderburg.
Senior Deric Parks (6-foot-3, 290) is expected to be one of the top linemen in the state at any level. Seniors Dillon Green, Tyler Plezia, junior Chad Hollis and senior Tyler Keszeg give the Eagles a veteran front. Daniel Gieber, Cody Elmore and Madison Chambliss all give the Eagles big-play ability at receiver.
The Eagles have also switched defensive philosophy and will have multiple sets out of a 3-3.
"We want to have purple jerseys flying to the football, coming from all angles all over the field, an all-out attack," Davis said. "But with that, we still plan to play good, fundamental football."
Parks, an end on defense, has great pass-rushing ability. Plezia was also an all-conference end last season. Mathis is a strong linebacker as well as Funderburg and O’Neal with help from Gieber and Brandon Forrester.
Sophomore safety Bradley Chambliss, who intercepted three passes and returned one for a touchdown in a preseason scrimmage, should make an immediate impact on the backside of the defense. Tanner Brown is three-year star starter at linebacker.
The Eagles could have a dangerous return game. Will Francis, a backup quarterback, will punt. Placekicking is uncertain.
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
Everything usually starts at quarterback, and that’s one of the least-experience area for the Eagles. Mayflower will also have to rely on sophomores at some key positions.