Who’s on deck?

Published 5:25 pm Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Plymouth coach Robert Cody (center) looks on during an offensive line drill at a Vikings practice at Plymouth High School. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

PLYMOUTH – It’s a new era in Plymouth. Gone is the dynamic backfield of Ronnell Blount, Carl McCray and Elmer Cooper, along with the Paris Palmer-led offensive line that helped power the Vikings’ wing-T offense and pave the way for their 13-2 record and a share of the for Rivers Conference crown.
While last year’s stars have departed, Plymouth fans shouldn’t be too worried as the program, led by coach Robert Cody who will stalk the sidelines for his 28th season, has a history of churning out great athletes and quality blockers. The big question isn’t so much who will fill those roles, as much as it is which players will elevate to star status.
In 2007 Plymouth won the NCHSAA 1-A state championship as it was powered by a star-studded group that consisted of players like Angelo Sharpless, Andre Mitchell and Kendrick Phelps. When that group departed, it was Blount, Cooper and McCray’s turn to shine.
Blount, a two-time WDN Male Athlete of the Year recipient, rushed for 1,814 yards and 28 TDs last season as the Vikings steamrolled into the East Regional round of the playoffs where they were topped by eventual state champs Wallace-Rose Hill.
With that group gone, it’s time to see whose on deck for the Vikings.
“2008 was the last time we had to replace all the backs,” Cody said. “And we got fortunate and won 9 or 10 games … (This year) we’ve got Devonte Bland, and I think Kendrick Pitt and Quadray Pettiford will be pretty good too.”
While Cody and his staff sift through the 56 athletes that came out for the team this year looking for ones that they can count on, one thing the team can always rely on is its history. A body in motion tends to stay in motion, and a winning program tends to keep winning.
“Winning breeds winning. I think they feel like they’re expected to win and can win,” Cody said. “We have a pretty good rec and junior high program here. We are pretty young, but that doesn’t mean we’re really bad; we’re just young. I’m hoping that our past success will help us.”
Fielding a young team, Cody said it’s important for his players to build confidence sooner than later, then stay healthy enough for the confident players to bloom on the field.
“A big key is to have success early,” Cody said. “Once you start putting things in then you hope the players don’t get hurt so we can keep using them every week. I’ve been through years were you get some kids, they get hurt then you got to put in other kids and reteach everything. That kind of stuff can make it tough.”
One thing that is making Cody’s 28th preseason a little bit easier is his team’s attitude.
“The strength of this team may be its work ethic,” Cody said. “They are some really good workers and good kids to be around. The older you get the more important that is. The longer I’ve been on the sidelines the more you begin to look for that more than you do the great player.”