MILLEN — For the Jenkins County football team, the offseason has been packed with highs and lows, but sights are now being set on the regular season which is just around the corner.
Many schools are faced with replacing impact players, changing schemes and the addition of new coaches, but members of the Eagles’ squad and the Jenkins County community have had to endure something much more serious than wins and losses.
Shortly after being named the new head coach at Jenkins County, Chris Mason suffered a stroke that prevented him from carrying on with his duties.
Charlie Waters was named interim coach for the 2011 season and has been hard at work with the normal rigors of offseason preparations to go along with the unenviable task of helping several dozen teenagers cope with Mason’s health scare.
“It was a scary thing, but thankfully, coach Mason is doing a lot better,” said Waters. “The kids really responded well to everything that has happened. With everyone on the team and coaching staff pulling together, we have gotten along about as well as you could hope for.”
While no longer the acting head coach, Mason has already rejoined the team and plans are for him to be on the sidelines on Friday nights this fall.
He will have plenty to watch as the Eagles have a number of seniors who will be tasked with trying to get Jenkins County back into the postseason hunt. Jonathan Taylor and James DeLoach will have a chance to make their mark on Saturdays next season, but are currently focused on making their mark in their final year with the Eagles.
Taylor (offensive and defensive line) and DeLoach (tight end, defensive end) will be tasked with controlling the line on both sides of the ball to give Jenkins an edge in the trenches.
“If you can win those battles up front, it goes a long way towards winning on the scoreboard,” said Waters. “We’re installing a new offense this season, so being able to block well up front and knowing that our defense can give us some help is very important.”
Fellow seniors Levonte Evans and Jake Knight will also be asked to step up. Knight figures to be under the spotlight as he takes over as starting quarterback for the first time in the Eagles’ new single-back offense.
No matter which players are stepping up to make a difference, discipline is the biggest goal that Waters has for his team. Jenkins County compiled just a 2-8 record last season, but was within a touchdown of winning in three of its Region 3W-A defeats.
“We need to be focused all the time,” said Waters. “We don’t have a ton of guys with Friday night experience and a lot of guys are going to have to go both ways. We need to be well conditioned and stay focused on the job at hand. This is a tough region to play in, but if we play our best, this is a team that can get back over the .500 mark and back into the postseason.”
After a pair of road games to start last season, the 2010 schedule smiles on Jenkins County with a pair of games in Millen to kick off 2011. This year’s Eagle squad gets its first test Aug. 26 against Metter.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.