The third year of the head coach Kerry Phillips era begins Friday when Griffin Christian opens the season 15 miles away in Locust Grove against Strong Rock Christian. Kickoff is set to begin at 8 p.m., and Phillips couldn’t be any happier.
“We really like what we have seen at practice as far as work ethic and commitment,” said Phillips, who guided the Crusaders to a school-record four wins last season, doubling the previous mark, in only the school’s third year of existence.
To open the fourth year GCHS will face a three-year-old Strong Rock program, led since its inception by head coach Cris Bell, that is coming off a 5-6 record in its first year of varsity football.
Both coaches said they have lost players who have transferred to other schools during the off season. And although both have game film from last year’s preseason scrimmage between the two clubs, don’t expect too many similarities.
Griffin Christian, which was primarily a passing team back then, has switched to a more run-based offense to accommodate its current personnel — a stable led by returning wideout Anthony Lewis (who had a team co-high 7 TD receptions) as well as Monroe Academy transfer Trey Epperson (1,300 yards and more than 10 TDs) in addition to returning running back Kyle Daniel.
On the other side of the ball, GCHS is led by Daniel and Coleman Bailey at defensive end and Josh Robinson and Gralon Head at linebacker.
“We just have to worry about first-game jitters and not making mistakes and giving the football away,” said Phillips.
The Strong Rock Patriots, which lost their quarterback — a player who threw for 913 yards and rushed for a team high 851 yards — when he transferred, will employ the option attack on offense.
In to lead it are sophomore quarterback Jake Bartram (5-foot-11, 175-pounds) and classmate Coleman Smith (5-11, 185) at running back as well as senior Hunter Haffley (6-1, 185) at tight end.
Bell said Smith runs hard and Haffley has good hands and throws good blocks.
On the other side of the ball, the Patriots are led by Smith and Haffley at linebacker in addition to junior Collier Sanders at nose guard/linebacker and senior Dashon Douglas at defensive end.
“He’s undersized at 160,” Bell said of Douglas, “but he plays like he’s 260 pounds.”