“Thank goodness it’s football season.”
Those were the words of York head coach Bobby Carroll on Wednesday as he talked about his 2014 Cougars and their upcoming schedule. And you could tell he meant it. There was an extra bounce in the step of both the coach and his players that coincided with the extra heat on what was the first day high school teams were allowed to practice in pads this season.
There is added excitement about this year’s team as well as they try to build on the success of the past three years and take that next step to a state championship. Since Carroll has come back to his hometown and alma mater in 2011, the Cougars are 30-10. York was 33-47 in the seven years before Carroll and his coaching staff took over. This group of seniors has a chance to finish as one of, if not the most, successful senior classes in school history.
One of their major hurdles in Region 3-4A will be the defending 4A Division II state champion Northwestern Trojans. They meet the Cougars on Oct. 3.
“Eight of those 10 (losses over three years) were to Northwestern and South Pointe,” Carroll said. “And the thing about that is that’s where we’re from, that’s where our coaches are from. They either played at Northwestern, they coached at Northwestern, they coached at South Pointe. Ten wins is fine but until you win the big one, it’s almost disappointing.”
South Pointe won’t be an obstacle region-wise because they have been reclassified to 3A this season with realignment. However, they are still on the schedule as the Stallions travel to York in week 3 for a non-region matchup.
“When I coached at South Pointe all we needed was a bus driver,” Carroll said. “We just had a smorgasbord of athletes. We had three NFL guys get drafted off that ’08 state championship team. We’ve only beaten them once in the three years we’ve been over here.”
One of the things the Cougars will look to do this season is improve on defense. Carroll is a defensive-minded coach who is accustomed to his teams shutting down opponents. Those three NFL players he spoke of were all on that side of the ball and included this year’s overall No. 1 draft pick in Jadeveon Clowney. Last year’s Cougar defense was involved in some shootouts and to a coach like Carroll that’s like rubbing a cat’s fur backwards.
“Last year we weren’t really very good on defense at all,” he said. “We had a bunch of new kids. We’re not into shootouts. 46-45 to a defensive coach is really like getting your butt beat. Heck we won a state championship 2-0 (at Northwestern).”
Senior defensive lineman Ethan Whitesides feels like he and his teammates will be up for the challenge and he was glad to get to hit somebody finally on Wednesday.
“It felt good to get back at it and get loose,” Whitesides said. “Just working on fundamentals, that’s what it’s all about is tackling. We’ve got most everybody coming back so we know it now (the defense). Last year we were young.”
Even senior quarterback Deshaw Andrews was glad to be back in pads, although his red jersey kept him off limits from his defensive teammates.
“It’s a whole lot more competitive,” said Andrews, a hulking 6-foot-4, 245-pounder. “That’s why I like it. I like being in full gear and coming out here and throwing the ball.”
Andrews is returning for his second season as the triggerman and his head coach likes the way he values the ball.
“We’re not into stats whatsoever because wins is the big stat, but he’s thrown for 2,800-plus yards and 30-something touchdowns and we only turned the ball over five times. Got that number down from the previous year.”
So while the pads were cracking for the first time Wednesday, it wasn’t just about hitting on defense, but proper tackling. The Cougars’ first drill was about wrapping up and taking the ball-carrier to the ground without involving their head. Carroll pointed out that you could find a video on the York HUDL website of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks led by Pete Carroll (no relation) doing the exact same drill.
Seattle and the NFL’s top defense started this calendar year by suffocating Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos to win a championship. The head coach in York with the same last name hopes that his Cougars, led by a standout senior class, can win a championship of their own to end the year.