A perennial powerhouse in the AISA ranks, which included state titles in 2014 and 2015, a 2-9 season isn’t something Abbeville Christian Academy is accustomed to.
Head coach Ashley Carlisle doesn’t want his Generals to get used to it, either.
But when things go wrong – and the 2018 season went downhill fast – the veteran coach understands it can be as difficult to overcome mentally as it is physically.
“It gets tough for them, especially for the ones who have done nothing but win (in previous years),” Carlisle said of last year’s downslide. “It gets into the kids’ psyche a little bit. We lost some close games early and then it started snowballing when people got hurt.”
What took the biggest toll on the Generals last year was the amount on injuries on the offensive side of the football.
“We got to a point that in some games I was missing seven starters on offense,” Carlisle said. “I mean, we just got hit with the injury bug hard.”
If the summer workouts are a true indicator, the Generals are ready to put last year’s woes behind and get back to some winning ways.
“My numbers are a little low, but we’ve had probably the best summer workouts as far as getting strong,” Carlisle said. “I mean, my kids look different. Some of that is that I’ve had to play some of these kids since they were younger and they’re losing the baby fat and their body is maturing some. It makes a big difference.”
The dividends of the off-season work might be most evident across the offensive line, an area Carlisle believes may be the strength of the team.
Parker Ludlam, J.J. Jimenez, James Dyson and Jarob McDonald all return across the front. Hayden Nolan, a transfer from Headland, may be the starter at center.
“I’ve got just about my entire offensive line coming back,” Carlisle said. “For a lot of these kids, it’s their third year starting. I think that could really be a strength for us.”
Who will lead the offense at quarterback is still a question mark, though junior Jackson Blalock is among those with experience.
“He’s started on and off for me since he was in the eighth grade and he’s a junior now,” Carlisle said. “Blalock will play quarterback some. Eli Seay will play quarterback some. I’ve got a little ninth grader Justin Murphy who may take some snaps. It depends on what sets we are in.”
Sophomore Brandon Early is expected to be a playmaker at tailback.
“Brandon ended up starting as a ninth grader at tailback toward the end of the year,” Carlisle said. “He had some big plays – big catches. Brandon will help out in the defensive secondary, too.”
It’s on the defensive side, led by Seay at linebacker, that Carlisle may be the most confident.
“I’ve got a lot returning,” Carlisle said. “Eli Seay (linebacker/defensive end) was a force last year. I mean, it got to where just about everybody we played we could call what plays they were going to run because they were running away from him. J.J. Jimenz is another kid who played linebacker.”
Carlisle likes the talent across the defensive front as well as the Generals will utilize many of the same players who start across the offensive line.
“Connor Jones is another young kid,” Carlisle pointed out of the defensive line. “He’s just a ninth grader who played a lot last year and is going to be really tough up front.”
As for a starting kicker, Carlisle said, “We have a couple of kids working.”
It’s another question mark on a team full of them.
“We could surprise some people or we could have a year like last year,” Carlisle said. “When you’re sitting on the numbers you have and the schedule we have, we’ve got to play near perfect to beat a bunch of teams. It’s going to come down to the fact of can we stay injury free and do what we need to do.”
GENERALS AT A GLANCE
>> Head coach: Ashley Carlisle (10th year at Abbeville Christian (8th in second tenure, 53-35) and overall as head coach, 60-49)
>> 2018 record: 5-8 overall, 1-4 in AISA, Class A, Region 1
>> 2018 results: at Southwest Ga. Academy (L, 14-40); at Northside Methodist (W, 7-6); Chambers Academy (L, 14-41); at Crenshaw Christian # (L, 14-28); Wilcox Academy # (L, 6-47); at Lakeside School (L, 6-34); at Pike Liberal Arts (L, 13-65); Sparta Academy # (W, 34-12); at Snook Christian # (L, 42-45); Jackson Academy # (L, 20-26); Macon-East Academy (L, 15-42)
>> Points scored/per game: 185/16.8
>> Points allowed/per game: 386/35.1
>> Returning offensive starters (9): WR/RB Jackson Blalock (Jr., 6-3, 205); RB/WR Brandon Early (So., 5-9, 160); RB/WR Chapman Watt (Sr., 6-0, 230); WR Eli Seay (Jr., 6-3, 225); WR Christian Davis (Sr., 6-2, 215); OT Parker Ludlam (Jr., 6-2, 235); OG J.J. Jimenez (Jr., 6-0, 235); OG Jarob McDonald (Sr., 6-0, 255); OT James Dyson (Jr., 6-0, 265).
>> Returning defensive starters (9): DE Eli Seay (Jr., 6-3, 225); DL Parker Ludlam (Jr., 6-2, 235); DL Jarob McDonald (Sr., 6-0, 255); DE Chapman Watt (Sr., 6-0, 230); LB JJ Jimenez (Jr., 6-0, 235); CB Justin Murphy (Fr., 5-7, 140); CB Brandon Early (So., 5-9, 160); S Jackson Blalock (Jr., 6-3, 205); S Christian Davis (Sr., 6-2, 215)
Aug. 23 Southwest Ga. Academy
Aug. 29 (Thu) Northside Methodist
Sept. 6 at Chambers
Sept. 13 Crenshaw Christian #
Sept. 20 at Wilcox #
Sept. 27 at Lakeside
Oct. 4 Pike Liberal Arts
Oct. 11 at Sparta #
Oct. 18 off
Oct. 25 at Jackson #
Nov. 1 at Macon-East
# Denotes region game