By Chris Yow
When Summertown coach Leslie Mote looks at his team, the veteran Eagles leader is excited about its potential, and he certainly feels like his 2020 team will build on the successes of the young program. Going into just its sixth season of varsity play, the Eagles will once again lean on youth for leadership.
“Our juniors are the leaders of our team,” he said. “With Colton (Shaffer) and Javen Edmiston, those two are definitely two of our best players and they are who we look to when we need a leader.”
Shaffer, a 6-3 junior quarterback, returns after posting respectable numbers as a sophomore. Being that team leader is something the signalcaller is prepared for and looking forward to being. Additionally, he knows his team is poised for a breakout season.
“This offseason we have picked up some key players and extended our coaching staff to both mentally and physically prepare to win some big games,” Shaffer said.
Preparation in 2020, however, is much different than past seasons, and Mote knows there could be some bumps in the road.
“I think everybody is in the same boat, but we’re about to go into our first game and not have any scrimmages. Nobody else is either, but we also didn’t get to have spring,” he said. “That combination for our younger players is just not good; just trying to figure out what they can do and what they can’t.
“Being 1A, we’re limited on what we can do at practice simply because of numbers.
Mote will trot some starters onto the field in Week 1 against rival Mt. Pleasant who have never started even a scrimmage before.
“It’s like tossing them into the fire a little bit, but everybody else is going through it,” he said.
Last season, the Eagles finished 6-5 overall, 3-2 in Region 5-2A, with a first-round playoff loss at Waverly, though both region losses were by six and seven points each, respectively. With the added year under Shaffer’s belt, along with both Edmiston and running back Aniken Johnson, Mote expects to challenge for the region title.
“Aniken Johnson is a great little running back. He kind of gets left in the shadows of (Shaffer) and (Edmiston),” Mote said.
The Eagles lost leading rusher Gavin Knight to graduation, but Johnson averaged 6.4 yards per carry last season, with 262 yards on 41 carries.
“We probably should’ve used him a lot more on offense last year. He’s got good vision and balance; I think he will be a major key.”
Shaffer’s main targets in the air will be Edmiston, the team’s leading receiver last season, and Kadyn Roysden who was second on the team in total receiving yards last season.
Defensively, the Eagles must replace Jagger Dotson, who contributed 81 total tackles, including four sacks last season.
“We’re a long way from where we started, but at the same time there are times where I think we should be a lot farther along,” Mote said. “The kids are getting to play, and that’s what is most important.”