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It's A New Day For The Eagles

FARMVILLE – New Prince Edward County High School head coach James Ford and the Eagles varsity football team feel they have something to prove.

A 2-18 record over the last two seasons pretty much has the Eagles as an afterthought in any discussion of the Southside District or Group AA's Region I, Division 3 picture.

While the Eagles (1-9, 1-6 SSD in 2010) understand their placement, and it doesn't bother them, it does motivate them.

“Nobody is giving us a shot,” said Ford, whose team will kick off the regular season against Fluvanna at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night. “We know we're going to have to earn respect, and that can only come through improving.

“We return a lot of guys who have lost some close games, and they've got a chip on their shoulders. For some it's more like a tree.”

For the team to begin to climb back up the Southside District standings, it must shake the monkey off its back. So far, Ford feels his team is doing the right things.

“We've had a really good summer, and the guys have been going to camps and working hard in the weight room and in camps. They're picking up the system, and are enjoying being on the field.

“Football is becoming fun.”

Ford had coached the junior varsity for two seasons before taking over for Terrence Edmonds in the offseason. Participation is up across the board. The Eagles will dress out 45 players on varsity, and the numbers on the JV have risen to around 30.

“We're going to be a lot deeper as a team. It helps us do things at a faster pace, and we'll be able to remain fresher for longer.

“Last year, our run defense was good early in games, but teams were able to run on us in the second half.”

One big change for Prince Edward is at quarterback. Junior Davon Adams moves up from the JV, and will assume the varsity starting role. While he's just a shade over five-and-a-half feet, Ford says that he already has the respect of the players.

“He's the undisputed leader, and he can get control of the huddle. He knows the playbook. If I get something wrong in practice, he's not afraid to speak up and say 'no coach, someone's supposed to go left on this play', and usually he's right.”

Prince Edward will be a run-first team according to Ford. That makes sense as the Eagles return All-Southside District second team rusher Ralick Lockett in the backfield.

“He only had 600 yards last year, but people were keying on him. For him to get recognition on the second team – and first team at linebacker – on a 1-9 team, says what the other coaches think of him. We're going to have to find multiple ways to get him the ball.”

Ford admitted that the Eagles are young in their skill positions, especially at receiver, but most have a year of varsity experience, and he believes the team has a group of receivers that's strong enough to take some of the pressure off the run game.

The line will be a question mark, but it does possess good size and Ford is pleased with the amount of work it put in over the summer.

“We're going to be big up front. Big, but young in experience. Some are first-year seniors who don't have a lot of varsity experience.”

Defensively, Ford said that the team will be athletic, but inexperienced.

“Size-wise, we're fine, but we don't have a bunch of experience. When we get into game situations, I hope it's not too fast for them. We should be okay with running teams, like we were for the first half of games last year, but we'll have to shore up our passing defense.”

One area of focus Ford has placed on the team early-on is on special teams. Oftentimes, teams will give up kickoff or punt returns early in the season because they don't spend much time on them in practice.

“There's a reason they're called special teams,” said Ford. “So much of the game is about field position, it's got to be a focus. We're going to put our best athletes out there and hope that will help keep momentum swings to a minimum, and make it to where our opponents start their offense as deep in their own territory as possible.”

With the departure of Powhatan to the Jefferson District and Nottoway and Bluestone to the James River, five teams are left in the hunt for the Southside District title. With Powhatan and Nottoway being the league's two historic powers on the gridiron, it leaves a void bigger than just having more non-district games to fill on the schedule.

“It's going to be interesting this season. I think it's going to be a wide-open race.”

At this point, Ford isn't looking to place a number for how many wins would make for a successful season.

“We were in several close games last year. If we come out to be competitive and play as well as we're capable of playing, and the guys start to believe in each other, we'll start to pull those close games out.”

As for that shot?

“We don't deserve respect right now. We haven't earned it. It's up to us to prove to everyone that we're a good football team. You know, we're not going to just roll over because people told us that we are bad.”

PRINCE EDWARD EAGLES

Date Team Time

8/26 Fluvanna 7:30

9/2 @ Cumberland 7

9/9 @ Buckingham 7

9/16 Rustburg 7:30

9/30 Powhatan 7:30

9/23 Open

10/7 Park View* 7:30

10/14 @ Brunswick* 7:30

10/21 Greensville* 7:30

10/28 @ Liberty Christian 7:30

11/4 @ Southampton* 7:30

* Southside District Game