With a year under head coach Rick Darlington’s program, a number of Wildcat veterans and young players are going to be expected to step up in 2020 if Enterprise is going to make a return to the playoffs in Class 7A’s brutal Region 2.
The Wildcats return a big group of starters on both sides of the ball, as well as some players from injury and young playmakers expected to come through in 2020.
Mykel Johnson, So., Running Back: Despite dealing with a number of injuries, Mykel Johnson led Enterprise in rushing as a freshman with 820 yards and five touchdowns in 2019. The 5-foot-10-inch, 175-pound shifty running back returns in 2020 with a chance to be even better, but health will be a big factor.
“He just has to stay away from injuries that keep him off the field,” Darlington said. “He’s a very talented player but he has to stay healthy and he has to get better at the things that don’t come to him naturally like blocking, faking and those types of things.
“When a guy is as talented as MJ is things come so easily that sometimes those types of players don’t worry about the other things that don’t come naturally.”
Jared Smith, Sr., Wide Receiver: Jared Smith is the fastest Wildcat on the team and that fact is sometimes overlooked, especially after playing last season coming off a torn ACL in 2018.
“He’s immensely talented. People don’t understand just how fast he is,” Darlington said. “He’s a fast guy and catches the ball really well. You never see him drop a ball. I think he’s going to have a very good year as a receiver.”
At 6-foot-2-inches and 195 pounds, Smith brings both size and speed to the receiver position.
In 2019, Smith led Enterprise in receiving with 22 catches for 366 yards and one touchdown with 42 yards rushing. Smith also had 24 catches for 324 yards and four touchdowns in 2018 before injuring his knee late in the season.
Jalen Cunningham, Sr., Cornerback: Jalen Cunningham is another versatile Wildcat that has played at a number of positions on both sides of the ball. While Cunningham – who caught 19 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns in 2018 – may be a more natural receiver, he’s accepted his role as Enterprise’s top cornerback for the good of the team.
“He’s a talented kid and probably playing out of position to help the team,” Darlington said. “He’s probably a better receiver than a defensive back but we need him out there covering people. I think that’s a good thing that he’s willing to do that and he’s definitely our best cover guy.”
The 5-foot-7-inch, 180-pound Cunningham played cornerback for the first time at the varsity level last season and recorded 17 tackles and three pass breakups as he continued to learn the position.
Brison Chatman, So., Safety: Since moving up to the varsity level, 5-foot-10-inch, 170-pound Brison Chatman quickly moved into the rotation in the Enterprise secondary and has been a steady playmaker during the offseason and fall camp battling for a starting job.
“He’s very talented but still very young and still has a ways to go,” Darlington said. “Defensive back is a tough position to play but we think he’s going to be a really good player.”
Cole Killingsworth, Sr., Offensive Lineman: Killingsworth is one of two returning starters on the offensive line and one of Enterprise’s most trustworthy players in that group.
“He’s one of my all-time favorite players. He’s tough, smart and a hard worker; everything you want in a high school football player,” Darlington said. “He’s our dude on the line and kids like Cole are what high school football is all about.”
At 5-fooot-8-inches and 215 pounds, Killingsworth isn’t the biggest linemen on the team but his experience at multiple spots on the line makes him a valuable leader up front.
Tanner Rogers, Sr., Linebacker: Tanner Rogers ended the 2018 season as a starter at safety, recording 23 tackles and one tackle-for-loss, but moved to linebacker as a junior before earning a starting spot there. Unfortunately, the 5-foot-10-inch, 175-pound Rogers broke his leg just before the season started and had to miss the entire year.
“He’s another Cole (Killingsworth) type of guy. He’s all guts and leadership and dependability,” Darlington said. “I hated he missed his junior year like he did but I’m glad he’s back. He means a lot to our program.”
Nick Cox, Jr., Offensive Lineman: The biggest lineman in the Wildcat bunch, Cox is the younger brother of former starting offensive lineman Michael Cox. Darlington said that while he expects him to be good on the field, he’s been just as impressed with the younger Cox off the field as of late.
“He’s come a long way as a person,” Darlington said. “I think he will be a really good offensive lineman and he wants to get better, that’s the biggest thing. He’s consistently getting better. He’s not soft at all and is gifted with a big old frame.”
At 6-foot-6-inches and 280 pounds Cox is one of the biggest Wildcats.
Zach Martin, Sr., Offensive Lineman: Enterprise’s other returning starter on the offensive line is also one of the more consistent players in the group.
“He’s one of our returning guys there and very consistent, very tough and always plays hard,” Darlington said.
Martin will be called on to lead the offensive line alongside Killingsworth this year. At 5-foot-8-inches and 220 pounds Martin is also a smaller linemen but also brings experience and quickness to the line.
Xavier Moore, Jr., Defensive Lineman: Xavier Moore is a veteran returning with playing experience but none on the defensive line. Moore played on the offensive line and at tight end on offense last season but with Enterprise losing its entire starting defensive line from last year, coaches were looking for a difference maker.
“I love that kid. He’s a great leader, great in the weight room and plays hard,” Darlington said of Moore. “We needed some defensive linemen that we can count on, so we put him over there.”
Moore is small – standing 5-foot-10-inches and weighing 185 pounds – for a lineman but brings speed that few possess at that position.
“He runs a 4.7 (in the 40-yard dash) and we knew he would play hard every snap. I think our defensive line will be the biggest difference (on defense) because we have a lot of guys that are smaller but can run.”
Matt Sheahan, Sr., Kicker/Punter: After sitting out his junior year, Matt Sheahan has returned to the football team to take over kicking and punting duties for the Wildcats. The 6-foot-3-inch, 170-pound Sheehan – who is also a starter on the soccer team – will be able to bring experience to a position that is replacing two-year starter Hunter Perry.