By Maurice Patton
Relying on youth in key positions, Bronson Bradley is cautiously optimistic about his 2020 Mt. Pleasant football team.
“Our offensive line has been around; they know (the offense) from last year. But we’ve got a new quarterback, a new tailback, a new wingback,” Bradley said. “Our guys that are new, that haven’t been in action, are going to need to learn those plays and learn ‘em fast.”
Working in the Tigers’ favor is those new starters seem to be quick studies.
Junior quarterback Te’Varius Strayhorn is touted as possibly the smartest guy on the team – if not in the school – while sophomore Xavior Davidson at tailback and senior Ladontay Patton at wingback are set to take on additional responsibilities after playing supporting positions on last year’s 8-3 squad.
“I wish (Strayhorn) had a scrimmage or a jamboree,” Bradley said. “It’d help his confidence a ton, to realize ‘those guys are going to block for me’. But he’s pretty fast, he’s starting to learn his stuff, and he throws a pretty good ball. I’m pretty impressed with what he’s done so far.
“Xavior is our fastest kid, and probably pound-for-pound our strongest kid. He had a lot of playing time last year at wingback, so I’m excited for him because he knows his stuff. Bubba (Patton) is a bowling-ball guy (5-8, 205), a power back who can block, and will probably be in the backfield in short-yardage situations.”
Seniors Ethan Beasley – a two-time all-state selection – and Jerimiah Dobbins will share time at fullback and will anchor the defense from their inside linebacker positions.
Up front offensively, veteran tackles Dontavious Ellison and Jacob Randolph will be joined by senior Ryan Gray, a three-year starter, at one guard. The other guard position and center are both being contested, with senior JoJo Tucker battling freshman Hardin Hughes for the starting nod at center and sophomore Jacob Buchanon, freshman Azarian Robinson and junior Michael Wright vying for the remaining spot.
Tyler Berry and Gavin Alderson will be the top two candidates at tight end.
Patton, Gray, Randolph and Ellison will form the starting defensive front, with sophomores Matthew Holder and Euriah Archibald the likely starters at outside linebackers. The secondary figures to be young – but talented – with Davidson and classmate Jeffrey Williams at the safeties, and sophomore Demarkus Brown set to start at one corner with freshman Keevon Cooper at the other.
Coming off a productive summer, Jackson Collier is set to handle the Tigers’ kicking duties.
“I think we’re going to go as far as our defense takes us, especially early,” Bradley said, looking toward the Aug. 21 opener at neighboring rival Summertown. “With no tackling (live, because of the lack of preseason scrimmages and jamborees), I think that’s something every team is going to struggle with – making tackles, correctly making tackles, with good form. You don’t want to go full speed, especially in 1A, in tackling drills.
“You just hope it doesn’t cost you.”