COOSA CHRISTIAN SENIORS. Pictured, from left: Thomas Skaggs, Ja’Coby Tucker, Jacara Mostella, Dalton McGraw, Drake Albury, Dyllan Reed, Matthew Wright. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Coosa Christian’s 2022 football roster may be lacking in upperclassmen but not in experience.
Entering his third year at the helm of the Conquerors, head coach Mark O’Bryant has a wealth of “young veterans” at his disposal.
“We started between 14 eighth and ninth graders last year, so we’re getting a little bit older and a little more mature,” he said. “We’ve had great participation in our weight program, and we’re getting ready to go full throttle.”
O’Bryant had his team in playoff contention through Week 7 with a 4-4 record, but consecutive region losses knocked the Conquerors out of the region’s fourth spot and kept Coosa out of the postseason for the fourth straight year.
“I think we’ve got good senior leadership for the first time for the past few years. We’ve got six [seniors], which is the most we’ve had since I’ve been here. I think we’ll be a lot better this year, providing that we don’t have a lot of injuries.”
The Conqueror roster will include 40 players this season, a number O’Bryant said he has been working toward since he took over the program.
“That’s definitely an uptick from a few years ago. Everything is trending in the right direction; we’ve just got to keep the ball on the floor.”
Key returnees include senior quarterback Thomas Skaggs, sophomore quarterback John David Justus, senior tackle Matthew Wright (42 tackles, 12 for a loss, four sacks, two forced fumbles) and sophomore linebacker Clete O’Bryant (82 tackles, seven for a loss, four forced fumbles.
The Conquerors’ road to the postseason passes through Class 1A, Region 7 rivals Gaylesville, Decatur Heritage, Valley Head, Appalachian and Woodville.
“Basically, we lost Sumiton [Christian] and added Decatur Heritage,” said O’Bryant. “Our work is cut out for us. As far as non-region goes (against Geraldine, Spring Garden, Gatlinburg-Pittman and Victory Christian), I’ve always said that I’d rather lose to a really good team than win against a sorry team. We’ll just play hard and see what happens.”
A former U.S. Navy Seal, O’Bryant took the team to a sleep deprivation camp in July.
“We had our kids training continuously around the clock for two days and a half days, and at most, the kids got two hours sleep. The point of the camp was to see if each player, as a man, adheres to adversity, along with team bonding and attention to detail.”
O’Bryant believes he is ahead of schedule to where he wanted the program to be in Year 3 when he took the job in 2020.
“Facility-wise, support-wise, player-wise and talent-wise, we’re between a year to two years ahead, and I’m really happy with that,” he said. “A lot of folks might think that all private schools have money. Not this private school. We have to fundraise 100 percent of what we need, and that’s for all [the school’s] athletic programs, and I like where we’re at. It’s been a challenge, for sure.”