PECHS Travels To Fluvanna To Open Season And New Stadium
FARMVILLE – At the beginning of last season, the Prince Edward County High School football team was just trying to find its direction. After back-to-back 1-9 seasons, there was really only one direction to go.
Finding it was one thing. Moving in that direction was another. Still, after a rough start, the Eagles managed a 3-7 campaign with an upset victory over Rustburg in a game that seemed to speed up the rebuilding process.
Last year's finish, which included a 2-2 record in the Southside District with close losses to Park View and Southampton, has ramped up expectations by second year head coach James Ford.
“Our expectations have changed,” said Ford. “Unfortunately, the schedule hasn't, but I think we're progressing. We're improved, but not where we would like to be. I guess every coach in America can say that, but we do have some work to do.
“But this time last year, we were just wanting to be competitive. Our goals this year are to have a winning season and return to the playoffs. We were close to that last year, but for a play here or there in our district games. Even though I felt we have improved a lot, I think it was close enough for it to hurt when we didn't get there.”
The strong finish did prove to be a bit of a springboard to summer workouts.
“We had good turnout for the weight room. We had our best year I've seen. We participated in several seven-on-seven camps, so I can see they're putting the work into improving. For the most part, they have the right attitude.”
The Eagles will return a number of seniors to this year's team, but they must replace Ralick Lockett, who scored in almost every way imaginable for PE last season.
“That's a big spot to fill,” said Ford. “It's really three spots to fill, and that's what we're looking to do. Use three different players to fill one spot each.”
The Eagles do return quarterback Davon Adams for his senior season. Listed at 5-8 in his shoes, Adams has proven to be a strong leader for the Eagles, despite having the prototypical quarterback build.
“The guys just listen to him,” said Ford. “He's a leader on the field and in school. He's the one who is keeping everyone's heads in the game, and he carries that over to when we're not on the field.”
Joining Adams in the backfield is fullback Jakeem Eddins, who will do more than blocking duties. At tailback, Devonte Richardson, Milton Monk and Tyvon Robertson will share duties as three replacements for Lockett.
“We're not asking any of them to replace Ralick. We didn't do that with Ralick. You don't ask one player to do everything. Every now and then, you get fortunate enough to get someone that does it. As long as these guys do the job we ask of them, they will be productive.”
Adams will have his leading receivers back in Marquis Fitzgerald and Cleon Watkins. The two were first and second All-Southside District selections, respectively.
“We'll definitely be relying on them to help loosen things up,” said Ford. “We're going to have to take some pressure off our offensive line.”
That will be a concern. Senior starter Isaiah Davis will be a key to the Eagles' fortunes.
“We have a couple of guys on the line that are very capable of playing strong. When they do, we're successful.”
Prince Edward's defense is a mirror of its offense in that the line will be a question, but junior AJ Watkins returns at linebacker to anchor the backfield.
“We're going to be young on the defensive side of the ball. We had a lot of players who were in our two-deep rotation last year who will be asked to step up and take starting roles. Stopping the run will be a bigger concern than stopping the pass for us. Unfortunately, most teams we play are run-first teams.”
One of the Eagles' strengths this year will be the kicking game. Bobby Burke emerged as the team's kicker toward the end of the season last year.
“He really improved,” said Ford. “I would drive by on Sundays, and he'd be down on the field practicing on his own. He's really worked hard at it, and as the season wore on, I could hold up one finger after a touchdown to signal that we were going to kick, instead of always going for two.”
The Eagles open the 2012 season at Fluvanna. It will be the first regular-season game at Fluvanna's new high school.
“I know they're going to be pumped for it,” said Ford. “Everything is brand new. Their weight room is better than what I had when I was in college. They're going to be ready, and more importantly, they're a much improved team.
“We'll be going into a charged atmosphere, but we can feed off of that, too. Hopefully, we will continue to show the improvements we've shown since the beginning of last season.
“If we continue to do that, I think our goal of having a winning season and making the playoffs is an attainable one.”
PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY EAGLES
Date Team Time
8/24 @ Fluvanna 7:30
8/31 Cumberland 7:30
9/7 Buckingham 7:30
9/14 @ Rustburg 7
9/21 Liberty Christian 7:30
9/28 @ Powhatan 7:30
10/5 @ Park View* 7
10/12 Brunswick 7
10/19 @ Greensville 7
11/2 Southampton 7
* Southside District Game