SMYRNA – Shaun Bell has big shoes to fill at Lancaster Christian, which has won three consecutive National Association of Christian Athletes football championships.
Bell, who was an assistant coach at the Smyrna private school last year, is the fifth different head coach in as many years at LCA. But this year’s squad has enough returning off of last season’s 6-5 squad to contend for a fourth championship.
Here are five questions for Lancaster Christian entering the 2015 football season.
What will the Knights run on offense?
LCA has ran an uptempo spread offense in recent years. But Bell plans on sticking to an I-formation with a little bit of spread this season.
Quarterback Jackson Sullivan, who started as a freshman, returns under center. He battled injuries a year ago, missing a good portion of the season due to a concussion. He must stay healthy for the Knights’ offense to be successful.
He’ll be helped out in the backfield by running back Sherrod Joy, a move-in late last school year. Joy can be a game changer for LCA this season.
Joy will team up with Malachi Williams in the backfield. Williams will play fullback and some tight end for LCA.
Bell said a benefit to the Knights’ offense is that it has been simplified from last year.
Can the Knights get some coaching stability?
New football coaches have become a trend at LCA since former Oakland coach Rick Butler resigned his position in 2011. Chad Watson took over in 2012. Rocky Peeler was the coach in 2013, and Ryan Simmons coached the team in 2014.
Bell says he is there to stay. As a former Riverdale player under Gary Rankin, Bell has local roots. That may bode well for adding coaching stability to the program.
Will LCA’s offensive line open holes?
The Knights’ offensive line has performed much better than a year ago. The problem is that several on the offensive line are playing on defense too.
Hunter Ritter and Chase Simpson are at tackle. Sam Michael and La Vergne transfer C.J. Odom are at guard and Devin Watson and Michael Spate will share time at center.
“Last year our offensive line was not a a really great upcoming offensive line,” Bell said. “But we’ve gotten better.”
Can LCA survive life on the road?
Lancaster Christian is scheduled to make two trips to Alabama and play a game in East Tennessee against King’s Academy. That can be taxing on a team with a roster of 30 trying to grow a program.
However, LCA is used to it. As a non-TSSAA member, the Knights are forced to broaden their area to find games in order to fill a 10-game schedule.
What is LCA’s biggest weakness?
Depth at outside linebacker and the secondary. There are quality players at both. But the depth for a long season isn’t quite there.
Taylor McCrary is a standout receiver and corner for the Knights. He’ll handle his side of the field on defense. Filling in around him may be an issue.
Reach Tom Kreager at 615-278-5168 and on Twitter @Kreager.
at Monroe Acad., Ala.
Northpoint Chr., Miss.
Escambia Acad., Ala.
at TN Christian Prep
at Kings Acad.
at Coosa Valley, Ala.
at Friendship Chr.
Monroe Acad., Ala.
at Escambia Acad., Ala.
at Anderson, S.C.
Coosa Valley, Ala.
Tennessee Chr. Prep
Middletown Chr., Ohio
Head coach: Shaun Bell, first season (0-0 overall, 0-0 at LCA)
2014 record: 6-5
Stadium name: All home games played at Smyrna Middle.
Team Twitter: @LCA_Football_TN
Last time in playoffs: N/A (Not a TSSAA school). Won NACA title in 2014.
Region opponents: N/A