The Jay Bulldogs enter the 2008 season with a goal of returning the program to post season play.
“For this season we want to be in the playoffs,” said third-year head coach Shane Holland. “We haven’t been there in a while. I felt like we had a chance last year but we didn’t quite get it done.”
The Bulldogs have some circumstances working in their favor for this season that will help lead them to their aims.
“Up front, defensively, I think we have a chance to be pretty good,” Holland said. “We’ve got six out of our front seven guys back.
“Dakota Hogshooter was an inside tackle last year and he’s back,” continued the coach. “Jerald Tate, who also plays on the o-line, is back, and he’s a two-year starter. Darrant Buffington, at defensive end, is back and he’s another two year starter. Delmo Crouch, at linebacker, is a kid that started about half of the season last year and he’s back. Tyler Baker started all last year and he’s back.”
The Bulldogs have some returning strengths on the offensive side of the ball as well.
“Chris Toppah was our starting tight end last year but we’ve moved him to center,” Holland said. “Micah Gibe, our offensive guard, is a guy coming back. Chance Tudor, an offensive tackle, is another returning starter.
“John Davenport played wide receiver last year and he’s coming back. Trevor January played running back for us and he’s coming back, too,” Holland added.
“Josh McElwee played fullback for us last year but we don’t have that position this year so he’s going to play on the other side of the ball,” said Holland.
Despite some of the personnel movement offensively, the Bulldogs plan to run a similar formation to last season.
“We plan to do a lot of the things we did last year,” Holland said. “I don’t anticipate us being in the I formation any. We were in the gun quite a bit last year and I intend for us to be doing that again this season.”
Despite the depth of the returning talent the Bulldogs still have some positions to fill.
“We graduated a lot of (defensive) secondary kids,” Holland said. “I think they combined for 19 interceptions last year.”
Another spot that will be all change for Jay in ’08 is the quarterback. The Bulldogs have been evaluating three sophomores for the position.
“They’re different kinds of kids,” the coach said of the trio. “Brandon Edge has been the guy throughout the summer that’s been with us. We went to Team Camp without a quarterback so Brandon stepped in. He’d been a tailback on our freshman team, which is a good class. He’s a big kid. He’s not necessarily a fast kid, but he’s a big, strong kid.
“Then we’ve got Chucky Larrabee,” said the coach, “And Chucky is obviously not a very big kid. But he is quick; he’s got some speed. And he’s smart, he’s a gamer and he likes to compete.
“The other kid we’ll try at quarterback is Kyle Shambaugh,” said Holland. “He’s a good baseball pitcher; a good, young athlete. He’ll probably play wide receiver more than he does quarterback and he’ll have a chance to play in the defensive secondary.”
“Our skill players will be pretty young,” Holland said, “but there are some kids there that are pretty athletic.”
Another new wrinkle for the Bulldogs in ’08 is the expansion of the coaching staff.
“We coached last year with four coaches for varsity football,” said Holland. “In 4A football there wasn’t anyone else doing that. I thank the administration for making it possible that we could bring a couple of guys on staff to help teach the kids. It was the kids that suffered before.”
The preseason practices for the Bulldogs have featured certain themes.
“Offensively we’ve got to really concentrate on our fundamentals,” said Holland. “We felt like last year that penalties hurt us and turnovers hurt us and some of those were because of fundamental breakdowns. There were disciplinary breakdowns. So we feel like we’ve got to work on those things: fundamentals and discipline.”
The coming season will feature many tests for the ’08 Bulldogs.
“Game two should be an awfully, awfully tough test; we’ve got Miami coming in here,” Holland said. “Then game three we’ve got Pryor, which is kind of a rivalry for us.”
The Grove Ridgerunners, the final regular season game for Jay, is still the big rivalry game for the squad.
“More here than there, probably,” said the coach, “for a couple of reasons. Number one, the people that live here, you can go back generations and those names are still here. They grew up in the rivalry and it’s a big deal for them.”
“(Number two) we haven’t won (against Grove)in a while and that intensifies things,” Holland said.