Southside football sets foundation for upcoming season

Published 6:57 pm Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Change is in the air. Or at least at Southside High School it is.

The 2018 football season officially began this past Monday and change is on Southside’s agenda as the Seahawks have their first practices of the young season, just like it was during summer workouts.

“Summer workouts went well,” Southside head coach Jeff Carrow said. “We had a little bit less numbers than in years past, just because of the high graduation number last year and then a small eighth-grade class coming up this year. So, numbers were a little bit lower. But it was consistent and steady all through the summer.”

There’s often a change in leadership year-to-year on high school teams, due to students graduating. But 21 seniors graduated this past spring, leaving a large void in leadership.

Carrow said seniors Jonquil Haywood, Roberto Tello and D.Q. Gorham all worked extremely hard over the summer and look primed to step into larger roles as leaders this upcoming season. Carrow pinpointed Haywood, who he described as a “jack-of-all-trades” running back, as a player who’ll play a key role in the offense this year.

“He’s our most veteran guy that’s got varsity experience in the backfield,” Carrow said. “He’s not a huge guy, so he’s not going to be that big of a power runner. But he’s got good vision; he’s got good feet. He’s got decent hands to be able to catch the ball out of the backfield.”

KEEP YOUR FEET MOVING: A Southside defensive player shuffles to his right in the mud during a defensive drill. (Sean Finnerty)

Along with a change in senior leadership, the Seahawks are also tweaking their offensive and defensive systems. Traditionally a wing-t offense, Southside will line up out of the shotgun more often this year. Despite the change in formation, Carrow said Southside’s offensive identity wouldn’t change much.

“We’re still going to be a run-heavy offense. Just because we’re gun doesn’t mean we’re going to be a true spread offense. We’re still going to be wing-t principles, just out of a gun set,” he said.

Having begun the transition this past spring, Carrow is pleased with his offense’s progress.

“Slow and steady but we’re moving forward each day, we’re getting better at it each day. The biggest thing is, now that we’ve got everybody there together for mandatory practices, now we’re really kind of putting the pieces to the puzzle. Who needs to be where, especially in the backfield and skill positions?” Carrow said. “But again, we’ve been practicing; we’ve been working into it since the spring. I like the growth where we’re at right now.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Carrow said the Seahawks will switch it up from a four-man defensive front to a 3-4 base defense. Southside’s defense was always going to be younger and less experienced than the offense this year, but the defense became even more inexperienced earlier in the summer.

Jamari Nelson, the team’s lone returning starter on defense, broke his leg in a 7-on-7 tournament during the summer and might be back before the season ends. This pushed more underclassmen into positions to receive significant playing time, and some guys, like Richard Shavender, are learning how to play new positions to help the team.

Carrow said the coaching staff has set a simple, but important, goal for the team as the Seahawks’ season opener on Aug. 17 against Ayden-Grifton approaches.

“Just keep growing every single day,” Carrow said. “We knew that we were going to be a little bit young, but the guys, from the seniors down to the freshmen, have been out there busting their butts and learning. The amount of coaching and teaching that’s gone on in between the beginning of summer and now has been really impressive to all the coaching staff. How much we’ve been able to actually work at a steady pace. I’m not saying we’re flying through it, but we’re working at a steady pace. The effort that the kids have put in to learn it and to continue to work hard, we’re just proud of them.”