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Sherwood Christian anxious to begin as member of GICAA

Sherwood Christian's Ben Williams runs past teammate Ahmad Mosley during a recent practice. The Eagles are less than a week away from their season opener as a new member of the GICAA. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)

Sherwood Christian's Ben Williams runs past teammate Ahmad Mosley during a recent practice. The Eagles are less than a week away from their season opener as a new member of the GICAA. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)

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Sherwood Christian Academy

CLASS/REGION: GICAA Division 1-AA

2013 RECORD: 2-9; missed playoffs

COACH: Otis Covington (4th season)

RETURNING STARTERS: QB/DB Chris Thomas (Sr., 5-10, 175); WR/DB Ben Williams (Sr., 6-0, 180); RB/LB Dequan Robinson (So., 5-8, 190); RB/DB Ahmad Mosley (So., 5-8, 165); WR/DB Chaz Griffin (Jr., 6-0, 180); TE/DB Kenney Brown (Sr., 6-1, 198); OL/LB Chris Hudson (Sr., 5-9, 220); OL/LB Steven Tosky (Sr., 5-10, 200); OL/DL Jaron Thomas (Jr., 6-3, 320)

TOP NEWCOMERS: RB/DB Demetrius Reed (Sr., 5-8, 185); OL/DL Holton Hendricks (So., 6-2, 305)

2014 SCHEDULE:

Sept. 22 — Abbeville Christian Academy

Sept. 29 — Glenwood

Sept. 5 — at Fullington Academy

Sept. 19 — at Ward Military Academy

Sept. 26 — at Calvary Christian

Oct. 3 — Jefferson Academy

Oct. 10 — Covenant Academy

Oct. 24 — at Creekside Christian Academy

Oct. 31 — Central Fellowship Christian Academy

Nov. 7 — Community Christian

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Sherwood Christian senior leader Steven Tosky hits a practice dummy during a blocking drill. Tosky is one of seven seniors on the Eagles’ roster. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)

The Sherwood Christian School T-shirt the players have been wearing during practices tells it all.

“IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE, YOU DON’T BELONG.”

Coach Otis Covington and his team have chips on their shoulders coming into the 2014 season. The Eagles, one of the area’s younger teams in 2013, lacked depth and often had to scheme around their limitations due to personnel deficiencies in 2013.

And the majority of the Eagles’ best skill position players had to play both sides of the ball.

“We’re a multiple spread offense,” Covington said. “We run the 3-3-5 formation on defense. We’re staying with that, but we’re going to do a few different things to maximize our personnel and make adjustments week-to-week depending on matchups.

“We want to improve our deep passing game this year, and we think we’ll have the chance to put more vertical threats on the field than last year.”

Covington is excited about the Eagles’ returning experience.

“We had 18, 19 players, but only one senior,” he said. “That senior (Parker Hatcher) played both sides of the ball for us. This year, we have eight returning seniors, and we lost a student or two that moved, but the majority of our players have a lot of experience.

“We’re talking about coming together as a family, having that unity amongst the team, so when we hit adverse situations, the guys can feel good about the person they have next to them.”

Sherwood’s offense struggled for most of the season, but there is confidence as a strong group of talented players return. Covington has also shown high praise for the group.

“We’re conditioned enough for it,” said junior receiver Chaz Griffin. “It’s humbling. It lets me know the work is paying off.”

The Eagles move to the GICAA Division 1-2A for the 2014 season, a move that entails just as much reason for hope as it does for concern.

“All of our opponents aside from one are new to us,” Covington said. “We have to keep an open mind in terms of our preseason preparation. We’re trying to get looks at as many defensive fronts and offensive schemes as we can.”

Gone are some of the old rivalries the school built as a member of the Georgia Independent Schools Association. But there is a chance to make new ones in the GICAA.

“I’m excited about the new challenges,” quarterback Dylan Evans said. “I’m gonna miss some of the old teams that we’ve played since we were kids, but we’re looking for a new start.”

Senior quarterback and projected starter Chris Thomas is equally excited, however, there are challenges that comes with a new season.

“We’re just looking forward to building a team and becoming a family, hopefully a state championship comes along with that,” he said. “We started getting closer in the offseason. We got into the playbook a little more and we started buying in. As long as I got my 10 teammates around me, anything is possible.”

Senior safety Kenny Brown had 111 tackles last year. But Brown made it clear that the only statistic that matters in the upcoming campaign is wins.

“I’m just ready to play,” he said. “My offseason’s been all about perfecting myself. I’m excited because we have more talent, and we’re more overall prepared to win games. I think we’re clicking more as a team than we were last year. I think we’re ready for the pressure, so whatever I have to do for the team, that’s what I’m going to do.”