Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer|
East Limestone head football coach Jeff Pugh with his players before they practice in Tuesday afternoon’s heat.
time to shine
E. Limestone group hungry for state crown
Ninth in a series
By Brooke Milam
CAPSHAW — With 24 seniors roaming the East Limestone High field house, second-year coach Jeff Pugh said it’s easy to predict the tone of this season for the Indians.
“With 24 of them, you can pretty much control most of the team with those 24 and what their goals are,” Pugh said.
“As a senior you don’t want to lose.”
A nucleus of seniors includes several big-name players who have been establishing themselves on the varsity scene since they were freshmen. They have one last shot at the goal of a state championship that has been a realistic possibility in the making.
Pugh and his staff aren’t thinking about the holes that graduating 24 seniors will leave next season; they’re thinking about the extreme benefits that a motivated group of seniors affords them this year.
“I think they’re goal-oriented,” Pugh said. “This group has changed. It’s amazing what it being their last year can do. It changes their priorities a little bit.”
East Limestone will start 10 seniors on offense and six on defense.
And even with key losses to graduation, East Limestone also returns plenty of talent and experience among its 61 players.
Skill positions remain a strength for the Indians. Senior quarterback/safety and college prospect Chad Dewitt (5-foot-11, 195 pounds), a four-year starter, who is also a three-year Daily All-Area selection and was honorable mention all-state as a sophomore, returns to guide the Indians’ offense. Dewitt passed for 1,002 yards and 11 touchdowns last season and rushed for 1,026 yards and 12 touchdowns.
At his disposal are three-year starting receiver/cornerback Marvin Baker (6-0, 175) and Jonathan Pinque (5-10, 180), a four-year starter at running back/linebacker, who rushed 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, and recorded 84 tackles, including nine tackles for lost yardage and five sacks at linebacker.
And even after graduating dominant offensive linemen Dresden Williams, R.J. Brown and Roger Haslip, three-year starter Jacob Green (6-0, 236) is back to anchor an offensive line that Pugh said will be “inexperienced, but should be strong,” and should benefit East Limestone high-powered offense.
“I think our offensive is really going to be good,” Green said. “As an offensive line, it makes us feel like our job is more important.”
East Limestone’s starting lineup is littered with seniors on both sides of the ball, including flanker/cornerback O’Neal King, offensive guard/defensive end Greg Holley and offensive tackle/defensive tackle LaBarron Bender. Junior offensive guard/defensive tackle Michael Wallace and sophomore offensive guard/linebacker Kyle Hart, also will play key roles for the senior-rich Indians this season.
East Limestone carries in the memory of last year’s 8-5 record, when the Indians placed second in powerful Class 4A, Region 7 behind North Jackson.
East Limestone’s season ended with a 37-7 loss to Guntersville in last year’s state quarterfinals. The Indians then watched Guntersville go on to take the Class 4A crown.
Pugh said for a group that has “never taken losing well,” that loss particularly stung.
“When the season was coming to an end last year, I was wondering who our leader was going to be,” Pugh said. “I’ve seen a whole group of seniors step up. I think they’ve got a goal that’s far beyond the third round of the playoffs.”
Indians players said after seeing first-hand what a state champion looks like, they think they fit the bill.
East Limestone ranked No. 7 in this year’s Alabama Sportswriters Association preseason poll.
“I figured we were better than that,” Baker said. “This year people are expecting us to go out there and do our job and make sure the team does their job.”
And after facing a state champion in the final game of last season, East Limestone meets defending 5A state champion Athens in the season opener Sept. 1.
After keeping pace with the Golden Eagles through the first quarter of last year’s highly hyped contest, East Limestone lost 44-15.
The Indians also remember losses of 28-27 to Tanner, 21-14 to North Jackson and 35-27 to Madison County.
Pugh said this is the year to make good on those losses, and experience and senior leadership point to this also being the year to meet expectations set for a group of Indians years ago.
“I know what they’re expecting, it’s what they’ve been expecting,” Pugh said.
“Everyone is expecting this group of seniors to win a state championship and they haven’t done it. They need to take care of business this year. They’ll remember their senior year for the rest of their lives.”
East Limestone at a glance
Last season: 8-5, lost in the Class 4A quarterfinals to eventual 4A state champion Guntersville 37-7.
Head coach: Jeff Pugh (8-5 in one season at East Limestone).
Noteworthy: East Limestone returns the majority of its skill players to an offense that averaged 30.4 points per game in the regular season and 26.4 points per game through 13 games. ... It’s been an emotional ride for 24 seniors, who have had three head coaches in their four years at East Limestone High. After the unexpected death of beloved coach Phil Cavnar the summer after their freshman season, younger brother Michael Cavnar took over, only to have to resign because of health. Coach Pugh is in his second year as head coach at East Limestone. ... On Sept. 9, 2005, the Indians named their football facility Cavnar Field, in memory of the late “Coach Cav.” A plaque of Cavnar’s likeness is mounted near the stadium entrance and Cavnar’s is the last face players see before hitting the playing field with a plaque displayed near the fieldhouse exit.
East Limestone results, schedule
Save $84.50 a year off our newsstand price:
|at East Lawrence
|vs. North Jackson
|vs. Madison Co.
|at West Morgan
|| W, 48-28
|Class 4A playoffs
|| DAR (R)
||East Lawrence (R)
||North Jackson (R)
||Madison County (R)
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