Enterprise returns a number of veterans on both sides of the ball but the coaching staff is equally as excited about a crop of young, hungry Wildcats that could potentially become stars in 2021. If Enterprise is going to make a run deeper into the playoffs – especially as a member of the brutal Class 7A, Region 2 – these players will have to help lead the way.
Sam Whitaker, Jr., Running Back: Despite being one of the team’s smallest running backs, Whitaker played in all 11 games in 2020 and finished with 126 yards and four touchdowns rushing.
“Sam is a very versatile dude,” Enterprise head coach Rick Darlington said. “He is a good, tough football player.”
The 5-foot-6-inch, 150-pound junior boasted a staggering nine yards per carry average, as well.
“When you look around in our region there are a lot of teams that Sam probably wouldn’t even be able to play for because he’s not very big,” Darlington said. “For us, he can do a lot of things we need him to do. Sam played a ton last year and I think his role will just continue to increase this season.”
Aiden White, Jr., Wide Receiver: White officially has moved to receiver this season after spending 2020 playing both quarterback and receiver. White is expected to fill a huge void left by departing seniors from last season’s team. The 5-foot-11-inch, 156-pound White brings the type of speed to the position that Darlington hopes can help fill that void.
“He needs to be our big-play receiver,” Darlington said. “He’s one of the only returners that caught a touchdown all last year. So, he needs to be that guy for us.”
White battled an injury in the spring that kept him from seeing the field much but in the summer he has showed off his play-making ability. In 2020, White caught two passes for 81 yards and a touchdown along with rushing for 15 yards on four attempts. He also competed one pass attempt for 33 yards.
Brison Chatman, Jr., Linebacker: After starting a number of games at safety in 2020, the 5-foot-10-inch, 166-pound Chatman has moved to outside linebacker going into 2021.
“Brison is freakishly athletic,” Enterprise defensive coordinator Jed Kennedy said. “He played safety last year but we’ve put him at outside linebacker this year and he has really started to come into his own. He had a great, great spring and summer.”
In 2020, Chatman netted 19 tackles and a fumble recovery from the safety position.
Wyatt Darlington, So., Tight End: The youngest of the Darlington boys may be preliminarily listed as a tight end on the team’s roster but the versatile youngster can play a bevy of different roles for the Wildcats. Wyatt Darlington caught six passes for 72 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 59 yards and another touchdown as a freshman in 2020.
“He’s a really versatile kid that can do a lot of different things but he just has to stay healthy,” Rick Darlington said. “He’s a guy that can hold a lot of things together for us just by his football smarts.”
Wyatt Darlington – at 6-foot and 200 pounds – has already played quarterback, running back, blocking back, tight end, fullback and nose tackle in his young Enterprise career, but the key for him will be staying healthy.
“He needs to stay healthy,” Rick Darlington emphasized. “Since he’s been here he’s broken his thumb, had an ankle (injury), a shoulder (injury) and (injured) both knees. We need him to be healthy this year.”
Tysen Cole, Jr., Linebacker/Safety: Cole started 11 games as a sophomore in 2020 and this season will be looked at as a “flex” type of player that can seamlessly transition between multiple different positions.
“He’s not very big but he’s a kid that played 11 games for us last year,” Kennedy said. “He’s a kid that is going to have to play a lot of different positions at safety and both outside linebackers. He has really high intelligence and he’s a guy that you may see play three different positions on a given night.”
The 5-foot-4-inch, 139-pound Cole was fourth on the team in tackles last season with 62 tackles along with two tackles-for-loss, an interception and four pass breakups.
Zy’Air Boyd, Sr., Running Back: This senior running back is coming off a senior campaign that saw him rush for 119 yards and a touchdown, but has made his presence known during offseason workouts. The 5-foot-5-inch, 182-pound bruiser rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game against Early County (Ga.).
“He’s a guy that has put his time in and deserves to be on the field,” Rick Darlington said. “He’s not as dynamic as some of the other backs we have but we’re carving out a role for him. He has earned his place on the field and the opportunity to play. He’s strong and works hard in the weight room and he has come a long way as a person.”
Xavier Moore, Sr., Defensive Lineman: The five-foot-11-inch, 180-pound Moore was Enterprise’s most consistent defensive lineman in 2020 despite a shoulder injury that slowed down the end of his season.
“Xavier is a guy that if you look at him you would probably think he’s an outside linebacker but he’s a really good defensive lineman,” Kenendy said. “He’s one of the fastest guys on our team and he’s very smart.
“He’s also healthy again. He provides a glue for us on that defensive line and he’s also a high character kid.”
Moore totaled 42 tackles, 10 tackles-for-loss, six sacks and seven quarterback hurries as a junior.
Jamel Fils-Aime, Sr., Nose Tackle: There’s no mistaking when Fils-Aime enters the game as the 6-foot-3-inch, 366-pounder is easily the team’s biggest player.
“Jamel has something that you can’t teach; he’s just a massive human being,” Kennedy said. “Our challenge with him is getting him where he can play more than two or three snaps (without coming out).
Fils-Aime totaled 19 tackles, 1.5 tackles-for-loss and three quarterback hurries in 2020 but made a number of plays in the spring game and practically lived in Early County’s backfield when on the field.
“If he can play at that level all the time he’s pretty dang good,” Kennedy said. “He’s had a good summer and gotten himself into better shape. I’m going to be disappointed if teams are able to run on him.”
Amare Griffin, So., Running Back: Rick Darlington said that he saw flashes of what the future had in store for Griffin as far back as his middle school days at Dauphin Junior High and while the 5-foot-7-inch, 162-pound youngster might surprise some people this season, the Wildcat coaching staff and players aren’t among those that will be surprised.
“He’s the guy no one knows about,” Rick Darlington continued. “When I saw him play in junior high I was really impressed with him and then on the freshmen team (last year) he was just as impressive.
“He’s a guy that always works hard and I think he’ll surprise some people this year. We know what he can but other people don’t yet.”
During the spring, Griffin showed flashes of that ability rushing for 67 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 carries.
Duwane Buckner, Sr., Defensive Tackle: Buckner is Enterprise’s smallest defensive lineman but the 5-foot-5-inch, 230-pounder is also one of the most important.
“He took a lot of snaps for us last year and he probably wasn’t ready to but we had to play him,” Kennedy said. “His greatest quality is his intelligence on the field and understanding of what we want to do.
“He actually makes a lot of the checks on our defensive line. With him it’s going to be about being more consistent.”
Buckner finished 2020 with 25 tackles, 4.5 tackles-for-loss, one sack and five quarterback hurries.
Johntavious Hooten, So., Linebacker: One of Enterprise’s youngest linebackers, Hooten is considered by the coaching staff to have one of the team’s biggest upsides, as well.
“He’s tall and long and runs really well and he’s very physical,” Kennedy said. “You have to have linebackers and that’s a position we have to get better at. I think the two young guys we have there are pretty good.”
The 5-foot-11-inch, 180-pound Hooten finished the spring game against Early County with two tackles, a tackle-for-loss and a forced fumble.
Eric Winters, Fr., Safety: With all of the youth on Enterprise’s 2021 roster, Winters will likely be the only starting freshman and Kennedy believes he will end up being a big-time player for the team.
“You would have to look a long ways away from Enterprise to find a rising freshman with the same athleticism that he has,” Kennedy said. “The thing that has been so impressive is how quickly he picks things up schematically.
“Usually the biggest thing for kids coming from middle school football is the things we put in and the alignments schematically. His ceiling is extremely high.”
At 6-feet-2-inches and 185 pounds Winters is already the biggest defensive back on the team and he showed off his some of his athleticism in the spring game when he made a leaping interception and nearly brought in a second one later in the game.
Jackson Blount, Sr., Linebacker: With all of the youngsters in the Enterprise linebacker group, a veteran is needed to hold them together. Blount is expected to be that guy.
“He’s a true run-stopping linebacker and he’s moving outside this year and has kind of taken on the role that Tanner Rogers had here.
“He’s extremely smart on the field, makes all of the checks for us on defense, is a high-character kid, is a great leader and the kids respond to him well. He’s just a great kid and the glue that holds everything together over there.”
The 6-foot, 178-pound Blount recorded 55 tackles, 8.5 tackles-for-loss, one sack, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in 2020 before a foot injury prematurely ended his season.