Trinity Christian Academy is a different football team.
The Lions are different from the offense-heavy teams of recent years who’ve scored a lot of points to either pull away or outscore opponents to win games.
They’re even different than the team they were at the beginning of the season.
“I think now we take a lot of pride in playing defense and making stops and keeping the other team from scoring a lot of points,” said senior receiver/defensive back Eli Parker.
Fellow senior Sergio Pagoaga, who plays on the defensive line and tight end on offense, agrees.
“Early on, making those stops wasn’t something a lot of guys on the team were really concentrating on for whatever reason,” Pagoaga said. “But things have changed as the season has passed.”
So what happened that caused the Lions to try to become more defense-minded?
“Going 0-4,” was the blunt response from Tyler Thomas, another senior who’s in the defensive secondary and plays receiver.
Most outside the program credit the coaching move of moving fellow senior Andrew Goldsmith to quarterback as the reason for the turnaround as the Lions have gone 8-1 since their fourth loss to South Gibson on Sept. 11. But there have been other positional moves as well.
Pagoaga has moved from linebacker back to his more familiar position – defensive line. Chris Tucker moved back from the offensive line to fullback to help block for Goldsmith and carry the ball himself in short-yardage situations. Zach Yarbrough has played his way into the starting lineup at linebacker and has been a bright spot as a sophomore moving his way up the team’s tackling leaders list.
But Parker said among all of those moves came a commitment from the players to doing what they had to do to make sure the 0-4 start was nothing more than an early-season slump.
“I think one thing that helped was we had a speaker – Mike Overby – come in and talk to us about being all in for the team and not for ourselves and buying in to the common goal and objectives of the team,” Parker said. “What he said made a big impact on a lot of us, and I give him a lot of credit for maybe opening some eyes on our team to things we hadn’t seen or thought of.”
Mike Overbey is the father of former University School of Jackson athletes Preston and Jake Overbey. Jake won a couple of Mr. Football awards, and both went on to play college baseball. Mike said his speech was adapted from that of Gian Paul Gonzalez, a former professional athlete who’s a motivational speaker now.
But since then, the team – particularly the defense – has improved.
It was the Riverside game in Week 6 when some of the players really began to see a difference.
“I think some of us began to see how good we could potentially be on defense when we all do our jobs,” Pagoaga said.
Thomas said he is one of them.
“I got my first interception that night, and since then I’ve played with more and more confidence and motivation,” Thomas said.
That confidence and motivation have helped as he’s had important interceptions in each of the last two games at Adamsville and McKenzie.
So now that defensive attention turns to Trezevant, an athletic team from Memphis with a good running back.
“We’ve played good athletic teams from Memphis before, and I found out each time if we do our jobs and everybody just does their best at their position, we give ourselves the best chance to win,” Parker said. “So hopefully everybody’s focus this week is on continuing to do that.”
Brandon Shields, 425-9751