Season Preview: Central football team will have new look after surprising 10-2 season

Thursday, August 25, 2011
Central's Chris Martin tries to break free from Jackson defender Brannon Wright as Central's Jacob Campbell moves in during the Farmington High School Jamboree Friday, Aug. 19, 2011 in Farmington, Mo. (Fred Lynch)

Quarterback Christian Cavaness directed the Central offense to 10 victories and school records for points scored and yards gained in a season last year.

Even though the Tigers' roster was hit hard by graduation, Cavaness admits to feeling pressure to repeat the success he enjoyed in 2010.

"I think there's a little bit of pressure, not only being the quarterback and trying to lead them to another successful season," Cavaness said. "But you've got the guys you're always friends with that are a grade above you that are always going to come back if you don't do as good as they were. They're always going to be like, 'We had a better season than you our senior year.' There's a little bit of pressure, but we don't really look at it like that. We just look to what we can do and what we're going to do this year."

Central rushed for 3,626 yards last season, but only Cody Owens returns to the offensive line.

"We have a lot of guys who have been in the weight room all summer, so that's helped us a lot," Owens said. "We're getting after it. We're kind of meshing together and it's coming together pretty good."

Central quarterback Christian Cavaness is congratulated by assistant coach Nathan Norman during a game last season. Norman was promoted to coach for the 2011 season. (Southeast Missourian file)

Central first-year coach Nathan Norman expects the young offensive line to improve as it gains experience.

"They've got some size," he said. "They need a little more time working together, developing as a group. But they're only going to get better. Every week, they're going to get better. Every practice, they get better. They're going to keep working and they're excited."

The Tigers' top two leading rushers graduated, including Southeast Missourian player of the year Keilon Moore.

Tae Jenkins is the leading returning rusher. He gained 394 yards on 64 carries.

"We're going to be young, but that doesn't necessarily mean that we're not going to be talented," Norman said. "We're going to be running back by committee this year. I don't expect one guy to play the major role. We're going to have a wing backfield."

Cavaness likes the versatility in the backfield, where Chris Martin, Mikey Jones, Jenkins, Jacob Campbell and Alex Davis-Carter all could see time.

"We have three or four different combinations we can go with and each running back can play wing and each wing can play running back," Cavaness said. "It's pretty much just flip-flop. It doesn't really matter where they're at. They're working hard right now and they're running the ball really hard."

Jenkins is the only returning player who caught more than one pass from Cavaness last season.

"Garan Evans made the move to wide receiver and he's really going to help us," Norman said. "Tae Jenkins is going to help us at wide receiver and running back. Tae's got great hands and he's got great football smarts, a very smart football player. We've got a newcomer who moved here -- C.J. Todd. He's going to be a good addition for us at wide receiver and the secondary. Luke Phillips also will be thrown in the mix."

Central only attempted 58 passes compared to 496 rushing attempts last season. Norman said that will change this year.

"We're going to try to be more diverse on the offensive side of the ball this year, try to spread things out," Norman said. "[Offensive coordinator] Steve Williams, very creative football mind, a very intelligent mind. He's going to open things up a little bit."

Martin, a cornerback, is the lone returning starter on defense. Tevin Roper, who recorded 11 tackles last season, said the defense will lean on its speed to stop the opposition.

"Our defense is looking pretty good this year," he said. "Our defense, I think, is better and faster than the beginning of our first practice. Coach keeps us well-conditioned, and I hope he keeps us up."

Rene Reyes and Austin Martin join Chris Martin as the only returning players with more than 10 tackles last season.

"Our defense is pretty fast off the ball and we get to the ball carrier in time," Roper said. "Our linemen, we get to the ball as quick as we can."

And even though the defense returns only one starter, several returners earned playing time during some of Central's blowout victories last season.

"Defense also is inexperienced and young, but it's a hungry group of kids," Norman said. "They're working hard. We're trying to incorporate and harp on them about speed. They are undersized, but we think we have a little more speed than most people. We're going to try to use that to our advantage. Make sure they run to the football."

One advantage for the Tigers is their new 5,000-seat multipurpose facility. Central will play its first true home game in Week 2 against Festus after playing at Southeast Missouri State's Houck Stadium since 1930.

"I honestly don't think it's sunk in with myself or the kids," Norman said about the new stadium. "I don't think they really know what's happening, how big of a deal it is. I know they don't know that. You try to talk to them about it, but they don't comprehend what's going on. It's been 100 years, and what a facility. They don't know how lucky they are, and I've told them that."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: