Michael Bradley doesn”t want past success to go to his players” heads.
The New Hope High School football team has lost to the eventual state champion (Noxubee County in Class 4A in 2008, West Point in Class 5A in ”09) the past two seasons.
The Trojans also have posted a gaudy 19-7 mark, including a program-best 11-2 slate last season.
But New Hope suffered key personnel losses from that squad, and Bradley wants to make sure his players understand it”s time for them to help write another successful chapter.
That process begins at 7 tonight when New Hope plays host to Noxubee County in the spring finale for both programs.
“The main thing we have to avoid or look to avoid is falling in love with ourselves and everything we were able to accomplish last year and the year before and thinking it is going to come naturally without having to work for it,” Bradley said. “The mark of a great program is you don”t fall in love with yourself. If you want to have the opportunity to be that kind of program, it takes the same kind of effort every day to be successful.”
New Hope will suffer key graduation losses on its offensive line (including Ryan Hollivay), its defensive line (Seth Stillman), and in its secondary (including Raymond Walters), but Bradley believes the Trojans have plenty of leaders who have the potential to emerge. He said quarterback Zak Thrasher will lead a talented cast on offense that features Terrance Dentry, Johnny Beamon, and Frank Richardson Jr. at the skill positions.
“It”s a good problem to have in that you have several guys who can tote the mail and several guys who can throw and catch it,” Bradley said. “We have to keep in mind there is only one football and it can only be in one person”s hands at a time. Everyone has to be willing to be a team player and to do his part when the ball is in his hands and, more importantly, to do his part when the ball is not in his hands. They are all good kids and good friends. The only way we”re going to be successful is if they help each other be successful.”
Finding replacements at the other positions is more of a concern, particularly because the Trojans lacked depth on the offensive line last season. Bradley said four of the team”s five starters had to wear a cast at one time or another, which he said limited the effectiveness of that unit. Still, the offense scored 34 and 28 points in playoff victories against Callaway and Ridgeland before falling to West Point 41-21 in the North Half State title game.
Bradley said the Trojans have had plenty to motivate them this spring. He said that enthusiasm has been reflected in the competition for playing time, which he feels will help the team in the fall.
“We have had a lot of spirited competition,” Bradley said. “We have had to call the dogs off, so to speak, a couple of times. We think we have guys who are going to step in and do a good job for us.”
Tonight also will be the head coaching debut of Tyrone Shorter at Noxubee County. Shorter was officially named Monday to take the place of longtime head coach M.C. Miller, who is the new football coach at Louisville High.
Shorter said senior middle linebacker Corey Williams and senior offensive lineman Keyshawn Smith, who has started the past three seasons and is a captain, will lead a young team.
“We”re making a lot of mistakes and playing a lot of sophomores, but we”re coming along as the spring comes to an end,” Shorter said. “We”re starting to see some progress. I think the defense is going to be young. We have the talent but we”re not as physical as I would like, but it”s going to come with time.”
Morgan Mansfield also will be in charge tonight when Caledonia plays Vardaman and Nettleton. Mansfield, the boys soccer coach at Caledonia, assumed leadership of the football program after David Boykin, the coach last season, resigned to accept a job as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Louisville High.
Mansfield said the Confederates will bring 32 players (only four seniors) to tonight”s action. He said the team will be young at quarterback, with a sophomore, and at running back, with sophomore Trey Lancaster leading a committee approach.
“We”re going to throw a lot of new faces in there,” Mansfield said. “Our older guys have been pretty good leaders for us, and we”re going to rely on them going in there.
“I just want us to play hard. I think we have and that we have done well in the spring. The kids have stayed together.”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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