MACON — Dalton Outz spoke from the heart in the preseason when he described the mentality he wanted the Central Academy football team to have this season.
As a junior in 2013, Outz believed some of his teammates didn’t care and were concerned with individual accomplishments rather than team goals. He vowed things would be different when he was a senior. That’s why Outz and classmates Leshon Hill, Colby Robbins, and Tecumseh Shanklin echoed each other when they highlighted the importance of heart and a team approach and how those things were going to help the team reverse its fortunes from a two-win season in 2013.
Through four games, Central Academy is living up to its words. Thanks to a 48-8 victory against Rebul Academy on Friday, Central Academy is off to its first 4-0 start since the 2001 season, when the Vikings won their first seven games. The program has struggled since then, though, but it appears to have found solid footing and the right mind-set as it prepares to play host to Calvary Christian at 7 p.m. Friday.
“Everybody had that idea to play harder and to play together,” Outz said. “We have been doing a real good job of playing together, much better than last year. I really don’t know why. I think it all just hit us and that is what we realized we needed to do.”
Outz admitted he has been surprised at the team’s fast start. He knows Central Academy is going to face tougher opponents as the season moves on, but he feels the team is capable of maintaining its high level of play to come out of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Eight-Man District 1 with teams like Hebron Christian, Calhoun Academy, Kemper Academy, and Strider Academy.
“I think we are (surprising other people),” Outz said. “Everybody was thinking we weren’t going to be any good and we weren’t going to win. … It really has been motivation. It makes me kind of think teams are maybe taking us seriously because before now I wouldn’t have taken us seriously. We’re doing a lot better this year.”
Outz also knows each victory puts a little more responsibility on his shoulders and those of his classmates. He said the team will have to work harder if it wants to stay at the level it has reached through four games. Aside from one 10-point victory, Central Academy has won its other three games comfortably. After having its scheduled season opener against Mt. Salus canceled due to a scheduling conflict, Outz is eager to help the Vikings stay on the right path.
“It is getting us to where we think we can win these last few games,” Outz said. “That is going to be good for our team
Hill rushed for 169 yards and three touchdowns last week. Earlier in the season, he earned Prep Player of the Week honors from The Dispatch. Now that he is closing in on his goal of 1,000 yards for the season, Hill knows he is going to have re-set his goals. That’s fine with him as long as the Vikings continue to win. He said the team has gained a lot of confidence from the beginning of the season and knows it can continue to do well if it plays together, stays supportive, and keeps picking everyone up.
“Now that we have started to play together, we are winning a lot of ballgames,” Hill said. “We are a lot closer to each other this year. I call my teammates brothers, and I tell them I am going to stick behind them and they are going to stick behind me. We are like family.”
Central Academy coach Will Walker, who is the school’s headmaster, has been pleased with how the players have backed up their preseason words. He has seen the Vikings pick each other up and develop and even stronger team chemistry.
“They have great attitudes and uplift each other,” Walker said. “They do a great job helping each other and pointing things out to each other during games. They are eager to learn and listen and figure out how to get better. Everything has clicked and has kept going, and, hopefully, it will keep going.”
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.