SMYRNA – The 1974 Smyrna High football team, which sailed through a 10-0 regular season, plans to hold a 40th anniversary reunion and be recognized at halftime of the Eagles’ Sept. 12 home game against Indian River.
It might be a stretch for this group of Eagles to duplicate that feat, but a new coach and new schemes hope to have Smyrna pointed in the right direction after a few lean years.
“It’s going to be a process,” new coach Mike Judy said Tuesday. “It’s not going to be something that’s going to turn itself around in a matter of weeks. It’s going to be a complete change in the way we buy in to the program in the offseason, the way we approach things offensively and defensively, and how we practice.
“Our biggest emphasis this year is practicing with great enthusiasm and intensity. The guys so far, in the first three days, have really stepped up and met our challenge.”
Judy replaced Clay Lloyd, who stepped down after seven years to spend more time with his two young children. Judy, a Dover High graduate who was a four-year starter on the offensive line at Wesley College from 1997-2000, served as offensive line coach and offensive coordinator under Lloyd.
“It has been a dream come true,” Judy said. “I’ve been a part of this program for the past eight years. It was never my intention to be the head coach, but I feel like the time was right to take the next step. The guys have been buying in to what we’re doing and working extremely hard, so I’m very excited.”
The Eagles had increased attendance during offseason workouts, and Judy said about 100 players have turned out for the start of practice. It won’t be easy to turn around a team that went 2-8 last season and reached .500 only twice in the last six years. But Judy already likes the position battles he has seen forming.
“When you know you can’t relax, there’s a guy pushing you every day, if you have a bad day he closes that gap,” the coach said. “That really helps. Our intensity has been better because of that competition.”
Junior Brandon Bishop, who passed for 433 yards and two touchdowns last season, is being pushed by sophomore Nolan Henderson for the quarterback job. The winner should be handing off to junior Donte Ritchie (439 yards, three TDs) and senior Alajuwon Hunter (303 yards, two TDs), and Judy said some freshmen may also see time at running back.
The offensive line hopes to be a strength, led by junior Jeff Campbell (6-3, 280) and brothers Jerren Carter, a sophomore, and Terren Carter, a junior. They should anchor the defensive front, as well.
“I think the line is the place we’re going to see the most two-way impact players,” Judy said. “We’ve got some guys who can be successful on both sides.”
Senior linebacker Cody Biddle (6-1, 220) returns after leading the Eagles with 65 tackles. Hunter (43 tackles) will man another linebacker spot in the 4-3 defense.
But the biggest change will come on offense, where Smyrna will scrap the pro-I in favor of a spread attack.
“As far as the blocking schemes go, it will be very similar, have some crossover to what we’ve done in the past,” Judy said. “The emphasis is how we attack defenses, and that’s a full overhaul. It’s a great way to get your athletes in space, and that’s something we’ve had problems with.”
Contact Brad Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradMyersTNJ.