After suffering the worst season at Daleville High School in more than 15 years in 2020, new head coach Will Garner is looking to rebuild the Warhawk program to its former glory.
Daleville had made the playoffs for six straight seasons before going 1-9 last season – with that lone win coming from a COVID-19 related forfeit – and has made the playoffs in 12 of the last 15 years. Daleville was outscored 75-434, giving up the most points in school history and scoring less than 100 total points for the first time since 1983.
There are few things more important in football than experience and Daleville came into 2020 lacking much experience at all after a big graduating class in 2019 and a number of transfers that hit the program. So, while Daleville’s team boasts just one senior and six juniors on the roster, many of the 11 sophomores and even a number of the 13 freshmen got important playing time in 2020.
“I think the biggest issue last year with all the guys is they were all so young,” Garner said. “We’re still really young but when you look at all the sophomores and freshmen that are playing, those guys were thrown into that fire last year and it only helped to make them better.
“We’re understanding who to block now and how to do it and the main thing that has changed is they are bigger and stronger from last year and (the line’s) confidence is building. That confidence bleeds over into everyone and we’ve shown that in OTAs. We see and are showing that we can do this day in and day out and when we get into region games that will be big for us.”
Garner said that much of Daleville’s potential success will be from the offensive and defensive line. While five of the six players that will get most of the playing time on the offensive and defensive lines are either sophomore or freshmen, they all have starting varsity experience.
Sophomore quarterback Omarion Pinckney earned playing time at quarterback some in 2020 and also played cornerback on defense and in 2021 will be called on as the starting quarterback as Garner’s veer/wing-T style of offense will look to control the game.
“We want to be able to control the ball,” Garner said. “What I mean by that is we want to be able to take time off the clock, sustain our drives and move the chains. The big plays will take care of themselves if you do that.
“The main thing we have to do, though, is make sure we don’t kill ourselves with turnovers and penalties. We need to be able to get in our pace and control the game from that standpoint.”
A big help in controlling that will be junior fullback Jeremiah Moore. Moore moved from the offensive line into the backfield during the spring and his combination of size and speed will make him one of the more formidable backs that defenses will have to try and tackle in 2021. Joining Moore in the backfield will be eighth grader Jav’eon McCloud and freshman Marcus Smith at the two slot-back positions.
“In our region, if you can run the ball you can win and if you stop the run you can win,” Garner emphasized. “Those are the things we’re trying to build on for us to be able to control the line of scrimmage on both sides.”
Transfer sophomore TJ Waller has combined with sophomore Zacorey Culver as a formidable interior pair on both the offensive and defensive lines during summer workouts and will help anchor those units to help the Warhawks reach that goal of controlling the line of scrimmage.
Daleville’s lone senior, Amaury Gomez, and junior Jacob Wofford will be the primary receivers the Warhawks use on offense, while junior Jeremy Barber, freshman Caden Elmore, sophomore Chris Page and sophomore Cameron Enfinger will fill out the other spots on the line.
On defense, the Warhawks will utilizing a 4-4 style of defense with four down linemen and four linebackers and a 4-3 with four linemen and three linebackers. Tackling is the primary focus for Daleville going into the season.
“We have to tackle better,” Garner flatly said. “You saw it on the film for last year, we didn’t tackle well at all and the willingness to tackle wasn’t there and the ability to tackle was not there.
“So, that’s got to be the main thing for us. We’re getting better recognizing formations and being able to line up but the effort and willingness to tackle are the things we have to correct and a lot of that is not about technique but is more about willingness to hustle and fly around to the football to make sure we always have 11 guys around the football.”
Joining Moore at linebacker will be McCloud, Elmore and Johnathan Lett, while Smith and Gomez man the two cornerback positions and Wofford plays safety. Pinckney will also chip in on defense in the secondary, as well. Moore will handle punting duties and Smith and McCloud will return kicks this season.
Garner points to learning to compete as the biggest goal for this young group of players.
“Our main goal is to learn how to compete. What I mean by that is that on Friday nights we have to understand how to hang in for four quarters,” Garner said. “The wins will take care of themselves if we do that. If we don’t learn how to compete winning will be hard. That’s the main thing this young football team has to do; learn how to compete.”