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FRIDAY, AUGUST 10, 2007
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East Lawrence defensive coordinator Harold Anderson drills the Eagles' defensive line.
Daily photo by Brennen Smith
East Lawrence defensive coordinator Harold Anderson drills the Eagles' defensive line.

HIGH SCHOOL COUNTDOWN
Learning
to fly again

With three wins in four seasons, E. Lawrence Eagles continue rebuilding

Fourth in a series.

By Ross Dellenger
sports@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

CADDO — Joe McDaniel propped his white Nike tennis shoes on his desk and ripped off his thick glasses, tossing them on a stack of papers. He rested both hands behind his white hair and gently reclined in his office chair.

The 62-year-old East Lawrence football coach acknowledges that this is probably the last stop of his career. And he didn't even mean for it to happen.

Two years ago, he came to East Lawrence to be a math teacher.

Now he finds himself in the middle of a catastrophic rebuilding process, holding the reins to a football program that has won three games in the last four seasons under four different head coaches.

Understandably, McDaniel is struggling to teach his 40 players how to win.

"It's not an easy thing to do," he said. "They've been down so long. People in the community tell them they aren't any good. "Kids in the hall tell them they aren't any good."

In his second season as the Eagles' head coach, McDaniel said he planted the seeds of success during a bumpy 1-9 campaign last season. Now, he's just waiting for them to grow.

"We were hoping to reap a bigger crop this year," McDaniel said.

But the Eagles lost three two-way starters and another offensive starter during the summer. Those players either quit or moved.

That coupled with the loss of six graduating senior starters has forced McDaniel to rearrange his depth chart, placing young, smaller players into larger roles.

His largest starting lineman may weigh just a little more than 200 pounds. The two quarterbacks battling for the starting job are both sophomores. And his roster lists only five seniors.

But he lets it roll off his back.

"I like this team," said McDaniel, his white hair and dark skin a result of years spent cutting grass on the practice fields.

McDaniel added, "We've got good kids. The ones we've got right now have made the commitment to this football team and each other,"

"Now, as far as how many games we're going to win, I don't have a clue. But this bunch will play hard and give it all they've got."

McDaniel said that building a program from nothing into something will take time, serious hard work, but most of all, it will be done only with players who are "good kids, good students and good citizens."

Even McDaniel recognizes that his coaching strategy is unlike many. He considers himself laid back, relaxed. He doesn't force his players to work out twice a day over the summer every day.

But he does expect commitment from his players. He wants desire and heart. That's his strategy to building a winning program at East Lawrence.

"We feel like, if we are going to turn this program around, which we are going to do, that's where we have to start, getting the commitment out of both players and parents and people in the community," McDaniel said.

With inexperience and small players on the line, he expects the skill positions to be the team's strength.

He has two experienced running backs in senior Chris Terry (5-foot-7, 140) and junior Bruce Mason (5-9, 155), who both also play safety.

Junior receivers Kenneth Bolden (6-3, 200) and Roy Young (6-1, 175) will be large targets for either Martin Garner or Marquez King, the two sophomores who are taking equal snaps at quarterback for the time being.

McDaniel said King and Garner are "probably the two best athletes on the squad" and they can run the 40-yard dash between 4.5 and 4.6 seconds.

"If one gets way ahead of the other, we'll probably move one to another position," he said. "But right now they are pretty much equal."

With a picture of Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville and Alabama coach Nick Saban hanging behind his head on the concrete office wall, McDaniel continues to stress that wins will take time at East Lawrence.

He said that last year he started two seniors who never had played football. All of the other seniors on the team were playing under their fourth head coach.

"It's hard to ask a kid to make a commitment when we don't make a commitment," he said. "We're trying to get some continuity.

"We're going to be here."

East Lawrence at a glance

Last year: 1-9. Did not make state playoffs.

Head coach: Joe McDaniel (1-9 in one year at East Lawrence)

Noteworthy: After going winless in 2004 and 2005, the Eagles won a game last year. The victory came over DAR, which visits East Lawrence on Oct. 12 ... Sophomores Martin Garner and Marquez King are battling for the starting quarterback job.

- Ross Dellenger

East Lawrence High schedule, results

2007 schedule

8-31 Lawrence County

9-7 at Ardmore (R)

9-14 Madison County (R)

9-21 at East Limestone (R)

9-28 at West Morgan

10-5 Columbia (R)

10-12 DAR (R)

10-19 at North Jackson (R)

10-26 Priceville (R)

11-2 at Hatton

(R)-Class 4A, Region 7

2006 results

at Lawrence County L, 25-7

vs. Ardmore L, 35-7

at Madison County L, 40-0

vs. East Limestone L, 34-6

vs. West Morgan L, 22-0

at Columbia L, 18-6

at DAR W, 12-6

vs. North Jackson L, 36-7

at Priceville L, 21-14

vs. Hatton L, 15-14

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