Jeffersonville’s football program would like to go out in a blaze of gridiron glory.
The Red Devils, destined for the new Class 6-A in 2013, have a 5-A sectional title on their minds as they prepare for their final fling in Sectional 8. That’s quite a leap forward from a year ago, a season spent erasing the stigma of a one-win campaign.
The credit for the quick recovery goes to head coach Lonnie Oldham, who has worked to restore discipline and dedication. His simple message of “I love football” has resonated with a team determined to change its perception.
“Most football teams talk about family, but this is the actual definition of a family,” running back Austin Hines said. “We’re with each other 24-7, and you can ask any player about any other player. We’ve bonded together.”
Jeffersonville has won four sectional titles, the last in 2007. Oldham believes the Red Devils have assembled the necessary talent to contend for another.
“I think we’ll be in the mix to make a run for the title,” he said. “I think we have the team to do that. We’re more experienced. Last year we had some players change positions, but now they’ve had a year there. We’ll be young but experienced, and that’s a different combination than most teams.”
The talent pool centers on junior tight end Dionte Allen, a preseason Max Prep All-American who caught 44 passes for 789 yards and seven TDs last season. Hines (648 rushing yards) will add balance in the backfield, provided he stays healthy after suffering ankle injuries the past two years.
The key question is who will get them the ball.
Graduated quarterback Dalton Conway set 13 school records, including 2,405 passing yards and 20 TDs, last season. His replacement will be Tyler Fridley, who is not the pure pocket passer like his predecessor.
“Fridley is a different quarterback in that he likes to run the ball more,” Oldham said. “We’ll change our style a little bit. But even though it might be different in how we attack people, it’ll still be potent with the skill people and athletes we have.”
Allen, a recruiting target of UCLA, USC, Ohio State and others, will be the main weapon. He’s a huge passing threat at 6-3 and 250 pounds — so big that people asked why the Devils had brought a lineman to 7-on-7 passing scrimmages over the summer — and he will line up in multiple positions.
“I prefer tight end, but I just want the ball in my hands,” Allen said. “Wherever Coach puts me, I’m fine. I just go out and play my game.”
“Anytime you have an athlete like Dionte, it’s nice to have,” Oldham said.
Jeffersonville needs 10 wins to reach 400 in school history.
If the Devils can make another four-win jump like they did in 2011 while going 5-5, they must solidify the defense that allowed 30.2 points per game. That will fall on senior linebackers Derek Hughes and Tyler Kahl.
“We learned the system, learning what Coach Oldham likes and doesn’t like,” Hughes said.
The senior class is still motivated by the memories of 2010.
“You never want to be down that low again,” Hughes said. “It was hard to come to practice. I never want to experience that again. We became more of a family. That 1-9, we weren’t a family. But last year everyone was close. That’s what did it. We just want to go out on top.”
If the Devils get off to a fast start, and the schedule is set up for that with five home games (including a date with defending sectional winner Bedford North Lawrence on Aug. 31) the first seven weeks, they could challenge Columbus East for the Hoosier Hills Conference crown before turning toward the sectional goal.
“We can play with any team we chose to,” Allen said. “It’s just the fact that some people take plays off. We have to keep the intensity going the whole game. We have to keep everything crisp.”