With a current 50-game losing streak, no organized football workouts in the summer and a late coaching hire, it would appear the outlook for the 2019 season might be gloomy for Barbour County football.
But new Jaguar head coach Chad Martin isn’t focused on all that.
“Eyes forward,” Martin said. “That has kind of been our call, our motto. It’s all about eyes forward and not looking back, not looking at the past, but looking to the future, keeping our eyes forward.”
Martin, a 14-year coaching veteran hired less than two weeks ago from Glenwood, has been pleased with the players work ethic in the limited time frame since he became coach and believes that work ethic is the first building block to getting the Jaguar program back on good footing.
He replaces Rodney Lewis, who resigned in early July to become a JROTC instructor, a girls varsity basketball assistant coach and a junior varsity girls basketball coach at Eufaula High School.
“It has been a process so far, but it has been an enjoyable process – a pleasant surprise at how a lot of them have embraced what we are trying to do,” Martin said.
During this week’s first practice, he noted “the excitement” of the players.
“They were excited to have someone come in, someone that actually cared about them and cared what was going on,” Martin said. “I have tried to make it clear that I am investing in them and that my door is always open. I am there for them. I am not just another coach going there and going through the motions. I want them to succeed.”
The new coach has been busy trying to get things going at the rural Barbour County school. While it has been slow and tedious, he feels progress is being made.
“We got a late start with me being hired late and we have been trying to figure some things out because a lot of stuff had been lying around because of a new AD (hire) too,” Martin said. “We had to find physicals and who had them and who didn’t have them.
“Of course, there wasn’t any off-season program because nobody was around, so we had to track down a lot of the athletes (throughout the county) and we finally got them all together this week when school started.
“We got a bunch of them before school started, but once school started (on Monday) we were able to catch the rest of them, roaming around the halls.”
As a result of the late organization and paperwork issues, Martin didn’t have the Jaguars on the football field until Wednesday, two days after the first official start of practice as allowed by the Alabama High School Athletic Association.
Instead, he had the Jaguars in the weight room, working out, while some of the organization, like getting helmets distributed and some paper work, were done.
He said 24 players were out this past week for the Class 2A program, though a handful were still on the sidelines, pending physicals. Martin was also hopeful to get a few more players out this week.
“On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, we were able to go out there with those that had physicals and do some running around and do some football,” Martin said. “We actually started getting some plays in. The last few days went really, really well, better than I expected they would.”
Martin said during the transition without a coach that one of the assistant coaches would come to the Clayton school three times a week during the summer and work with any athlete that could come, but it was not organized.
As a result, the Jaguars are behind on strength and conditioning.
“That is probably our biggest issue right now – conditioning. We have to get in shape,” Martin said.
In relation to his motto of “eyes forward,” Martin said he is not putting stock into what positions players played last year.
“I have left a lot open on purpose,” Martin said. “It’s a whole clean slate moving forward. Everybody has a chance for everything.”
Martin said more clarity in regards to players at positions would come this week when the Jaguars put on pads for the first time.
Only a handful of starters return from last year’s team, which had 14 seniors.
Junior Gabe Harrison, who started the second half of last season at quarterback, returns as does senior offensive and defensive lineman Zykeon Patterson, senior wide receiver and defensive back Tyrecus Womack, junior center Carl Wilson and senior defensive back/right tackle Zavier Walker.
Joe Nathan Jernigan is back after missing last year. He played some quarterback two seasons ago and “could fill several roles” this year, said Martin.
Senior Ralph Williams, a member of the Jaguar basketball team, returns after playing a substantial role at wide receiver as well as defensive end and safety a year ago down the stretch.
Martin said another player that has stood out early is Ariton transfer Darius McCall.
“He wasn’t here last year, but I have also been impressed by Darius McCall,” Martin said. “He is a running back type. He is pretty impressive. He has good football knowledge and he has kind of stepped out as a leader.”
Martin said McCall could also play linebacker or safety on defense.
Because of the circumstances from the summer of no workouts and his late hire, Martin said the Jaguars have to build from step one.
“We will keep things simple to begin with,” Martin said. “It is a process (to build up). We are starting with basics and moving from there.”
The Jaguars have a jamboree on Aug. 23 against Notasulga. They start the season at home against Central of Hayneville the following week on Aug. 30.
JAGUARS AT A GLANCE
>> Head coach: Brad Martin (1st year at Barbour County and as a head coach)
>> 2018 record: 0-9 overall, 0-6 in Class 2A, Region 2
>> 2018 results: at Notasulga (L, 7-46); at G.W. Long # (L, 0-50); Cottonwood # (L, 20-35); Geneva County # (L, 0-42); at Houston County # (L, 0-49); at Ariton # (L, 0-53); Abbeville # (L, 0-40); at Daleville # (L, 0-52); Bullock County (L, 0-50
>> Points scored/per game: 27/2.7
>> Points allowed/per game: 417/41.7
>> Returning offensive starters (5): QB Gabe Harrison (Jr.); OL Zykeon Patterson (Jr., 5-10, 190); OL Carl Wilson (Jr.); OL Zavier Walker (Sr.). WR Tyrecus Womack (Sr.);
>> Returning defensive starters (5): DE Zavier Walker (Sr.); DB Tyrecus Womack (Sr.);
Aug. 30 Central Hayneville
Sept. 6 G.W. Long #
Sept. 13 at Cottonwood #
Sept. 20 at Geneva County #
Sept. 27 at Russell County
Oct. 4 Houston County #
Oct. 11 Ariton #
Oct. 18 at Abbeville #
Oct. 25 Daleville #
Nov. 1 at Bullock County
# Denotes region games