Knights senior quarterback Jayce Parsons hands the ball off to senior running back Landon Waldrop in the Red Gold scrimmage last week. #8 Easton Frederick is coming in on defense.
By BLAKE FAITH
The Arthur Lovington Atwood Hammond football team looks to get to the playoffs for the third straight year. Head coach Ryan Jefferson said that his team felt really good to get back in the swing of practice.
“Obviously yesterday was day one, and it didn’t feel like day one because of the weather,” Coach Jefferson said. “It was kind of nice to feel at the end of the day that they weren’t exhausted, because you never want to just completely ruin their fatigue that first day. But, I felt like we retained a lot from the summer stuff. We lost a big senior class, but we also brought back a lot of experience. So, this is the same stuff they’ve been going through the past two, three seasons. Right now it’s just about cleaning it up a little bit. It’s not really about remembering stuff, just cleaning it up and getting ready for week one.”
Part of that big senior loss was Quarterback and Running Back Kaden Feagin who will play for the University of Illinois this fall. Despite the losses, Coach Jefferson believes Jayce Parsons and Landon Waldrop will step into those shoes
“Obviously that’s going to be the big question is what we are going to do after losing Kaden,” Coach Jefferson said. “We have kids that are stepping up in those roles and obviously Kaden has been a huge part of that the past few years, but Jayce Parsons and Landon Waldrop have not been slouches either the last two years. I’m really excited for them this year to be able to, to get even more touches and more exposure and really I think their numbers are just gonna take off.”
Coach Jefferson continued, “Defensively, I feel like that’s honestly where we are kind of changing the most, I would say as far as turnover from our senior class. So we’ve got a brand new line backing core, but I think they’re fast, they’re athletic and they just get along really well. They’re a team and that’s what we need, especially on the defensive side so that there’s no blame, it’s a team unit. So, Maddix Stirrett and Colin Smith are going to step in at linebacker where we lost two very good inside players for us last year. And Easton Frederick and Nick Refferty are gonna step up outside. Having a four senior position turnover there, a linebacker, it’s tough, because that’s one that’s a position you need to be pretty solid at. But we’re gonna have some guys step up and I’m excited.”
Parsons is stepping into the starting quarterback position and one of the captains as a senior and has dreamed of this moment.
“This means everything to me, because I’ve been going to high school football games my whole life and looking up to these guys,” Parsons said. “I’ve really been putting in this work since a little bit after last year ended, because I got hurt at the end of last year, so I was out for a little bit, but as soon as I was cleared to come back, I was making sure I was at everything, every time we were in the weight room, I was there coaching the guys up. I’ve been getting guys out running routes and doing drills since the spring when it got warm enough we could do it.”
Parsons’ team goal is to win the conference and individually wants to make it from All-Conference to All-State selection this year. Parsons wants his lasting mark to be that team moves in from the loss of Feagin and show that they’re a good football program even without a player of his caliber.
Waldrop will play running back and be another co-captain and has taken in his senior role as continuing to work hard and that it is a lot to have on his back, “but if you’re ready for the challenge it doesn’t matter.” Waldrop’s team goal is to win the conference and individually pick up a lot of rushing yards for his team. Waldrop wants his lasting mark to be a player that never stopped working hard.
Nathan Tighe is the last co-captain who will play defensive tackle and offensive lineman.
“It’s both an honor and a responsibility because I’ve been here for four years and I’ve seen how the team’s developed and I feel like I’ve been trying to lead by example more for all of the younger kids and improve upon faults that I’ve seen throughout the past few years,” Tighe said.
Tighe’s team goal is to work together as a team and have more cohesion as a team. Individually he wants to do his job as effectively as he can and help his team succeed since this will be the last year he ever plays football. Tighe wants his lasting mark not to be how to play well, but how to be a good player and teammate that focuses on not the how to do things, but the why to do things.
Coach Jefferson and his team’s expectations this season are not only to make it back to the playoffs as well as win a conference title for the first time in 20 years.
“Obviously our number one goal every year is to try and win that first conference title because it’s been about 20 years for this building to win that,” Coach Jefferson said. “Last year we really were striving for that. And then when we didn’t get that goal, we lost by two points to Cumberland, that kind of turned around our season, made us focus a little bit more, and that’s when we went on that six game winning streak and the first playoff game in a while. So really obviously that’s our number one goal.
But, really our motto this year is just kind of to take our program to the top. And that doesn’t necessarily mean winning a conference champion state just means to the top of this season, to the top of this team, what, what can we achieve as a team.
Coach Jefferson continued, “Obviously we want to get well into the playoffs. We don’t want to just squeak in at five and four. We want to try and get comfortable seeding since we’re on the bubble of 1A or 2A , so I have no idea which way we’re gonna fall, but unfortunately, either way we’ll be in the south I’m sure. And U feel like if we can get that good seeding and maybe a first round home playoff game, I think this is a team that could pave its own way.”
Coach Jefferson’s overall message to readers and the community is that the work ethic won’t change and continuing the success of the program is the goal.
“I just want to send the message that we’re striving to carry on the success,” Coach Jefferson said. Obviously Kaden is going, but it’s just not Kaden we had a big senior class and a lot of starters. I feel like our coaching staff has worked together my whole career and I just feel like we have a really good staff and we care about the kids and we’re gonna put them in positions to win. And I just think we’re gonna carry on that success and hopefully, be a program that people are now constantly seeing in the playoffs and stuff.”
The Knights start their season this week against Argenta Oreana on the road at 7 p.m.