2019 High School Football Preview: Patriots building from the inside out

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WEST END SENIORS. Pictured, from left: Jackson Tidmore, Levi Armstrong, Mason Barrett, Jeremiah Roberson, Adam Bates. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

Following an offseason of reflection and reassessment, Kyle Davis believes he has his finger on the pulse of the 2019 Patriots.
“We talked a lot during the offseason about what we wanted to be as a program. We decided to build a solid base in terms of culture and becoming good men, which would put on the path of being good football players. Basically, we’ve been transforming the team from the inside out.”
West End’s seventh-year head coach acknowledged that developing his players’ character and mental toughness will be placed above their Xs and Os acumen.
“Last year, we were getting away from the things we could control and worrying too much about outside elements. So during the offseason, we really focused on character-building and making sure we put the team at the forefront of everything we did. Obviously, we can’t guarantee that we’ll win more games if we accomplish that, but we do know that if we don’t fix it, we’ll definitely lose more games.
The 2018 Patriots did not win their first game until Week 9 against Woodland and went 1-5 against region competition.
“What we should have done last year is stick with the younger guys who we started with at the start of the season,” said Davis. “We started to do that over the last half of the year, when we played our best football down the stretch. We want to take that fighting mentality that we had over those last few games and push it into what we’re doing right now and for the future.
“We’ve got only five seniors, so we’ll be really young again. But a lot of these guys have played in every game since they were freshmen, so we’re not inexperienced. I don’t know how many games we’ll win, but I know that we’re going to compete and battle and give ourselves a chance to win.”
Chief among the returnees is junior Eli Pearce, who switches to quarterback from receiver, where he had 43 receptions for 877 yards and seven touchdowns in 2018.
“Eli’s going to continue to get better and better,” said Davis. “He brings a running threat, which is something we haven’t had at the quarterback position in a while. We threw the ball well the last few years, but didn’t have that other element of running the ball that other teams had to honor. If Eli consistently gives us a chance and doesn’t put us in a position to lose, he’s going to be a guy we can really rely upon to win some games.”
Pearce’s development at signal-caller will be helped by one of the top receivers in the state in senior Jeremiah Roberson, who was named to the ASWA Class 2A All-State second team after catching 67 passes for 818 yards and 11 TDs.
“Jeremiah obviously had some great numbers, but he actually got those with limited things that we did,” said Davis. “So I see him having even better numbers this year.”
Also back is senior Jackson Tidmore, who had 11 receptions for 178 yards in 2018, as well as junior Jacob Camacho, who underwent rotator cuff surgery earlier this year.
“Jacob’s cleared to play but he probably won’t see much action for the first couple of games,” said Davis. “I see Jackson filling some of the role that Eli left at the position.”
Senior Levi Armstrong returns at halfback, while senior Mason Barnett has moved from tackle to H-back.
Davis believes that that the offensive line, which experienced growing pains last season, should hold its own.
“We’ve got three sophomores and three juniors [in] Trey Ruger, Dakota McAlpine, Tanner Gibbs, Ashton Self, Hunter Tucker and Caleb Pierce. I think those kids took it personally of how much we struggled running the football last year. They’ve gotten stronger in the weight room, and I really think we’ll see improvement in that area.”
Tucker, who had 58 tackles last season, will man the defensive line along with Barnett, sophomore Isaiah Roberson and junior Trevor Willett, an Etowah transfer.
“Tuck’s just a solid player who is going to give a great effort every time, and Isaiah’s improved by leaps and bounds,” said Davis.
Roberson is also a standout on defense at free safety.
“Jeremiah’s grown up a lot and has really taken on a leadership role on the defense,” said Davis. “He’s our adjuster and makes the calls in the secondary. I really see him being a difference-maker back there.”
Camacho, Tidmore, so-phomore Jay Glover and freshman Chad Pierce will also see action.
Barnett will handle the kicking and punting duties with some assistance from freshman Evan Stancil.
West End once again shares Class 2A Region 6 with Westbrook, Gaston, Cleveland, Ohatchee, Ranburne and Woodland.
“If you ask anybody, obviously they’re going to put Ohatchee and Ranburne No. 1 and No. 2,” said Davis. “But after that, it’s very competitive. But I’ve told our guys that the toughest opponents we’re going to face this season are fear, distractions and failure. If we can control those three elements, we’ll be fine.”

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