Trojans target Cleveland County, state title in preseason practices
Football teams are often guarded about publicly stating their goals for the upcoming season, especially during early practices. Anyone who steps inside Allen Field House, however, knows this is not the case for coach Daniel Bailey and his Chase Trojans.
The words “2013 State Champs” cover most of a whiteboard hung on the locker room wall and it greets players when they prepare for and finish practice.
“You can’t help but notice it,” said projected starting quarterback, Tyrell Boykins. “A lot of times it gives us extra motivation. When we get tired, we know what our goal is and we can push through.”
With such lofty goals for a team coming off of a 5-7 season, players admit that early season practices have been a grind.
“It’s been a challenge so far,” said senior defensive end Brandon Hill. “It’s definitely tougher than last season, but this is my last year and I want a state championship. All the work we are putting in now will pay off at the end of the season.”
Plenty of prospective Trojans share the vision of a state title. According to Bailey, over 70 players have regularly attended the optional workouts. They will be divided into varsity and JV squads once the season starts.
“The response has been overwhelming,” said Bailey. “Everybody knows that something special is going on here at Chase and they want to be a part of it. What impresses me more though is that these young people have made a commitment during their summer to represent this community, to be a part of something bigger than themselves. You don’t see that very often today. I’m very proud of each and every one of these players and they inspire me as a coach.”
Since mandatory practices cannot be held until August 1, these optional workouts emphasize conditioning.
“Our focus right now is just to be in the best shape possible,” said senior wingback Jordan O’Rourke. “Conditioning may not seem important, but it is. We lost three games last year by a field goal. You can’t help but think back and wonder if we could have closed out those games if we had run more steps or given just a little more effort in this part of the season. We aren’t going to hold anything back this year.”
Chase will have to turn in peak performances each Friday in order to compete in a tough, new look,SMAC conference that features powerhouse teams from Cleveland County. But these Trojans remain confident and have one game already highlighted on their schedule.
“We have our whole offense coming back this year,” said Boykins. “We know we can play with and beat everybody we play and that includes Shelby.”
“We almost had them in the playoffs last year (a 10-7 loss),” added O’Rourke. “We are going to get them this year. That’s why we are here right now, to get quicker and stronger so when we step on the field with them we won’t be intimidated by anybody.”
The players aren’t the only ones looking forward to the new conference. Bailey is also itching for more Rutherford versus Cleveland County showdowns and has already begun to fan the flames of the border rivalry.
“We talked about it from day one of practice,” he said. “When we step on the field this year, we aren’t only representing Chase. We are representing Rutherford County. I’m sure coach [Clint] Bland (East Rutherford) and coach [Mike] Cheek (R-S Central) will say the same thing. I think the rivalries have changed up. There will be less focus on county games this year because we are tired of just beating up on each other. We want to beat up on Cleveland County because they look down their noses at us. They don’t respect Rutherford County football and we plan on changing that. No ifs, ands or buts about it.”
Bailey admits that there is a long way to go before those midseason match-ups and a possible state title run.
“The kids have really worked hard, but there is still a lot of hard work ahead,” he said. “The biggest thing is to work on conditioning and lower body strength. That’s what wins football games.”
The Trojans believe 2013 will produce plenty of those wins.
“We have been on the doorstep of a great season for a couple years now,” said Bailey. “With continued hard work in the offseason, we are going to break through.”