Stephen Decatur High School football coach Bob Knox said his football team doesn’t have anyone who can consistently make an 80-yard play for a score.
But he’s just fine with that.
“I think we have a blue collar work ethic this year,” Knox said. “Last year, we had a couple kids who were very talented athletically and I think we got a way from our roots, which is blue-collar, disciplined, physical football.”
Last season was a disappointment, but toward the end of the year, Knox said he began to see the potential of this year’s group. That’s all it was at the time. They hadn’t shown the coaches anything yet. They were merely “hopeful.”
That changed over the offseason as their work ethic emerged. Knox said they rose to the occasion, and that endeared them to the coaching staff.
“I can’t wait to strap up the pads and helmet,” Ernest Shockley said. “We are big. We are experienced. I’m just ready to get it this year.”
Shockley, who will be one of the team’s keys this season, will start at middle linebacker and at left tackle, and he said that since the team will have almost the same starting 11 on both sides of the ball, they have come together with the same mentality — “anything necessary.”
“Ernest gets to the point of attack on offense or defense,” Knox said. “He is a bruiser. He’s a mauler, which is what I love in an offensive lineman and inside linebacker.”
Knox said he won’t claim that Shockley will be able to cover a wideout 40 yards downfield, but he knows he is athletic and can get deep enough to cover the hole in the middle or get back to the backs out of the backfield.
But he also shines on the line.
“He wont let up,” running back Dryden Brous said. “He’s always physical. I love it.”
Brous will be running some out of the backfield, but also plays fullback and linebacker on defense. He has the size to break tackles and Knox said yards after contact are his strength.
In one game last season, the Seahawks’ opponent was playing a defense that assumed Decatur didn’t have anyone capable of making a big play.
When Brous broke off an 80-yard run at the start of the third quarter, they adjusted.
“He may not do that a lot,” Knox said. “If he could do it every game I’d be really excited, but he is the type of kid who can if you don’t wrap him up and tackle him.”
On defense, Brous is a student of the game, watching film and learning as much as he can so that he has a better chance of diagnosing a play and having a big affect.
He is part of a defense that played a lot of young guys last season. So the returning group includes a good nucleus in the front seven as well as some returners in the secondary.
Knox see that as a strength that will give his less explosive offense an opportunity to score enough to win games.
“I think it is going to be a fun, exciting season in the Bayside conference,” Knox said. “I think you have your couple teams that always seem to be at the top and a big mixture of teams that are in the pack somewhere below them.”
Knox knows that there are teams that will rise out of that pack and surprise some people and make it interesting. And you get the sense from talking to him that the Seahawks may just be one of those teams.
“I think this year we don’t have a bonafide all-star player,” Knox said. “We have a bunch of kids willing to get dirty, put their noses in the dirt and do what it takes to win — fight and claw, whatever it takes to get to the top.
“That’s what I love about this team.”
On Twitter: @ShawnYonker