Photo by Keith McCoy.
Shades Mountain Christian football 2014
Harrison Boozer throws a pass during fall practice. Boozer, a 6-4, 245-pounder, is moving from tight end to take over the quarterbacking duties for Shades Mountain Christian.
Dickey Wright enters his second season as Shades Mountain Christian’s head coach, and that’s a big story in itself for the Eagles.
As running back/linebacker Austin Patterson noted at high school media days in July, his senior class will be the first in several years to play for the same coach in consecutive seasons.
Wright is the sixth head coach since the program started in 2006, and only two other coaches have stayed more than a season.
That kind of inconsistency has held the program back. New philosophies, new systems, new terminology, new coaches and coaching styles sometimes play as big of a factor as talent in any given season. From season to season, with different head and assistant coaches, the bonding and trusting process starts all over again for the players. Sometimes it means no offseason training with the new coach.
The first season at Class 1A Shades Mountain was one of adjustment for the veteran Wright, who last coached at Class 6A Homewood. It was different for the head coach, who had to learn new ways to structure practice time with many athletes playing on both offense and defense, and for the players, who had to learn new schemes and coaches.
“Last year everything was so new and they had to get used to me, what we wanted to do on offense and defense,” Wright said. “It was more of a get-to-know-you session. Unfortunately, we had to play contests during those times.”
Fullback/linebacker Billy Parker is one of the team leaders. He said Wright has brought stability, and that has meant greater expectations for the Eagles this season.
“I’m expecting a lot more,” Parker said. “We were just getting used to the coaches and didn’t know what they expected from us. It took a season to get used to the way he does things, so now we can just play.
“Plus the offseason program was way better than it’s ever been in the past because we’ve been switching coaches and haven’t had an offseason program during the school year. The average number of players showing up to work out in the summer went way up, too.”
Six are back on offense and six on defense on the 31-man squad, and in the world of 1A football, you might expect they’re the same six. They are.
One new starter is a player with a size at his position many 7A schools would crave.
At 6 feet 4 inches tall and 242 pounds, Harrison Boozer played tight end a year ago and was the emergency backup at quarterback. Now he steps behind the center full time. He shouldn’t be just a big body at QB, bringing with him outstanding baseball pitcher skills and intelligence.
“We moved him to quarterback in the spring,” Wright said. “You know, I’m not sure whether he’s completely excited about it or not, but he’s going to get his chance at it. He is a very large young man to play that position. He’s just a junior, going to have to be learning the position. He’s very smart so he’s picked up a lot of that already, but he’s kind of had to split his time this summer between baseball and football but I’m excited to work with him. He’s one of the biggest quarterbacks I’ve ever had, by far.
“Obviously, you need your quarterback to have a good year, but I’m going to be a little lenient on him because he’s a first-year starter.”
Consistent play on the field is the key to improving on the Eagles’ 2-7 record last season. Especially on defense, where a couple of good plays would be offset by bad ones as a new scheme was being taught. Wright said he’s always hung his hat on strong defense, and the Eagles will be better there after a season in the system.