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KICKOFF 2011: Albany: It's time to respect us

Third year Albany High coach Felton Williams records the Indians' practice sessions on his iPad.

Third year Albany High coach Felton Williams records the Indians' practice sessions on his iPad.

ALBANY -- Jontavious Morris may have said it better than anyone.

"I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired," said Albany High's co-captain, whose cliche fits Albany's High's dilemma so well it might as well be written in green and orange.

The kids who play football at AHS are just tired of hearing it.

"We're tired of hearing how we can't win, how we don't have talent, or how we don't have discipline," Albany quarterback Emmanul Byrd said. "People look at Albany High on the schedule and laugh and say, 'That's a win.' We have to change that.

"I now embrace it when people say those things. I love it. Go ahead and say it. We're going to change it. This is the year to change it. We're working hard to prove people wrong."

It's been a long climb back over the past two seasons at Albany High, where the program had to bounce back from a mass exodus two years ago when then-head coach Reggie Mitchell left the program to take the head coaching job at Sherwood Christian and took several players with him.

The Indians saw their seniors and most talented players leave, and were forced to start freshmen and sophomores.

Now those kids are juniors and seniors.

"We've got seniors starting this year," said Jeconiah Jackson, who leads a list of talented receivers. "This is our senior class, and most of the team (is made up of) seniors."

The Indians bring back seven starters on offense and nine on defense, but that includes Morris and Roscoe Byrd, co-captains who start on both lines. They are the heart of Albany's team, and both are Herald Dynamite Dozen selections.

"Those two have been co-captains for two years," Albany coach Felton Williams said. "They're great players and great leaders, and both of them are honor students."

Not a bad foundation.

There's plenty to build on at Albany, where the Indians made huge strides a year ago. The team was much better than its 2-8 record, and everyone at Albany High knows it.

"We lost four games where a couple of plays here or there change things and we win," Williams said. "Those losses have made this team hungry. You could see it in the way they prepared in the offseason and the summer -- the way they worked and the way they hit the weight room.

"I think this is our year. Everything is falling into place as far as the kids being committed. All the intangibles are in place. Most of them are three-year starters. They think it's the year. They went into the spring and summer with that mentality that this is it."

It shows.

"This has got to be the year," Emmanul Byrd said. "We know what went wrong last year. We lost close games and we looked at those mistakes, and we know we can't make mistakes like that this year."

Emmanul Byrd grew at least two inches and put on a wave of muscle in the weight room. He's taller, stronger and looks more poised in the pocket.

"I embraced the weight room," he said. "I worked hard to get ready for this season, and I feel I'm a much better player than I was a year ago. I put everything on my shoulders."

He looked poised in a 42-0 win in a scrimmage against Kendrick, throwing four touchdown passes to four different receivers and running for a TD in a little more than a half of action.

"Yes, we are going to throw the ball," Williams said. "We went to a lot of camps this summer, and when we went to the Georgia camp Emmanul was the only junior invited to that camp out of the 15 quarterbacks there, and he held his own against them.

"He has made a tremendous leap from last year. He grew two inches and got a lot stronger in the weight room. He's throwing the ball very well, and his accuracy is much better."

Williams said he is deep and loaded with receivers, starting with Jackson, who is expected to be the top target this season. He also has Rantiez Williams, Larry Sanford and tight end Gerald Jenkins, who all caught TD passes in the scrimmage game against Kendrick. Andrico Carter is another experienced receiver who, like Rantiez Williams, has been starting since he was a freshman.

Tyius Smith, who emerged as the team's top running back during the second half of the season last year, returns, and Williams said he expects Smith to rush for more than 1,000 yards this season.

He showed his quickness the first time he touched the ball in the scrimmage against Kendrick, ripping off a 47-yard run. He lost his right shoe about 10 yards into the run, but just kept flying downfield.

"I think this year's team will be better. We want it more, and we are more disciplined," Smith said.


Albany High's 2011 season outlook

MASCOT: Indians.

HEAD COACH: Felton Williams (3rd season at Albany High School, 3rd overall as head coach, one as interim).

2010 RECORD: 2-8.

ASSISTANT COACHES: Mitchell Jenkins (defensive coordinator/linebackers); Kenneth Taylor (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks); Archie Chatmon (defensive backs); Ryan Tomblin (running backs); Chadwick Pope (offensive line); Jessie Jackson (defensive line); Charles Chatmon (receivers); Grady Vance (receivers).

RETURNING STARTERS: Emmanul Byrd (Jr., QB); Roscoe Byrd (Sr., OL); Jontavious Morris (Sr., OL); Jeconiah Jackson (Sr., WR); Larry Sanford (Sr., WR); Rantiez Williams (Jr., WR); Tim Lewis (Sr., OL); Tyquis Smith (Sr., RB); Calvin Jackson (Sr., RB).

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Andrico Carter (Jr., DB); Jauron Brown (Jr., DB).

2011 ALBANY HIGH INDIANS schedule

Saturday vs. Dougherty, at Hugh Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 3 vs. Westover, at Hugh Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 10 vs. Monroe, at Hugh Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 15 vs. Randolph-Clay, at Hugh Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 23 vs. Fitzgerald, at Hugh Mills, 7 p.m.

Sept. 29 vs. Berrien, at Hugh Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 6 at Thomasville, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 21 at Brooks County, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 28 vs. Early County, at Hugh Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 4 at Cook, 7:30 p.m.