The Smyrna High football squad is hoping that more experience will lead to more wins in 2008. Last year, the Eagles made the transition to Division I and moved into the Henlopen Conference’s Northern Division for larger schools. They also installed a new offense and defense under first-year head coach Clay Lloyd. But now the transition has been made, and the returning players have a year of experience in the new system. The Eagles will kick off the season on September 5 at Dickinson. Smyrna’s home opener will be September 12 against Lake Forest.
The Smyrna High football squad is hoping that more experience will lead to more wins in 2008.
Last year, the Eagles made the transition to Division I and moved into the Henlopen Conference’s Northern Division for larger schools. They also installed a new offense and defense under first-year head coach Clay Lloyd.
Smyrna finished with a 3-7 mark last fall in a year of many new beginnings.
But now the transition has been made, and the returning players have a year of experience in the new system.
Coach Lloyd said the team will retain the same basic style of play this season.
“We’re continuing with what we started last year, with a few minor adjustments we think will make us more successful,” he said.
The learning experience from last year is already paying dividends for the Eagles. Lloyd said the team is way ahead on the playbook compared to last year.
This year’s team features nine returning players on offense and eight returning players on defense who had significant playing time a year ago.
Returning seniors include David Brower, Yemi Cole, Hugo Johnson, Reuben Fountain, Michael Lopez, Donnie Messick, Gregory Watts and Peter Williams.
A total of 82 students came out for the football team this year.
The Eagles have lots of seniors at the skill positions, but Lloyd also pointed to the offensive line as a strength.
“Our line looks to be one of our strong points this year,” he said. “Where our offensive line takes us – that’s where we’re going to go this year.”
Lloyd said the first goal for the team this year is to have a winning record.
Loftier goals – like making the state playoffs, winning the conference and going undefeated – all start with achieving a winning season, he said.
Much of the team’s leadership will come from the “senior council,” a group of senior players who meet to discuss team goals and act as the voice of the team.
Reuben Fountain and Yemi Cole are two members of the senior council.
“We’re trying to be a better team than last year and have a better record,” said Fountain, who will play at tailback and linebacker.
“We’ve got a better understanding of the offense and defense,” added Cole, a wide receiver and cornerback for the Eagles. “We want to have a better season and hopefully win a lot more of the close games.”
Cole said it will be important for his teammates to push each other and come together as a team.
Looking ahead at the upcoming schedule, Fountain and Cole are both excited about the home game against Dover on September 26.
“We’re really looking forward to Dover,” Fountain said. “That’s going to be a hard-hitting game.”
A week later on October 3, Smyrna will meet Polytech in the Eagles’ homecoming game.
Coach Lloyd said defending division champ and state finalist Sussex Central remains the team to beat in the Henlopen North until someone knocks them off.
The Eagles will kick off the season on September 5 at Dickinson.
Smyrna’s home opener will be September 12 against Lake Forest.
Senior quarterback David Brower said one of the keys to the season will be to never give up.
Brower pointed out that many of the games Smyrna lost last year came down to the wire. Now the Eagles have to find an extra push in the fourth quarter to turn some of those losses into wins, he said.
“The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender,” he said.
As a senior, Brower wants to go out with a bang in his final high school football season, but he also wants to leave Smyrna with a bang by getting the younger guys on the team ready to step up next year.
Brower said the returning players already have a firm grasp of the playbook, so the freshman can turn to them for help as well as the coaches.
Brower said the team’s running backs are looking strong heading into the season.
“They’re running hard and filling the gaps, and the lineman are making huge holes,” he said.
Brower said he wants the team to achieve a winning season this year, and if they get that, to shoot for the playoffs.
“It’s going to be a fun season,” he said. “It’s going to be fun for us to play and fun for the fans to watch. Everyone’s looking forward to it.”
Smyrna coaching staff: head coach Clay Lloyd; assistant coaches Andrew Mears, Mike Feldman, Dan Wagner, Michael Marks, Michael Judy and Kenny Brown; and volunteer coaches Tom Sayers, Richard Heath and Zach Golson.
2008 Smyrna High varsity football schedule*
Sept. 5 at Dickinson
Sept. 12 Lake Forest
Sept. 19 at Woodbridge
Sept. 26 Dover
Oct. 3 Polytech**
Oct. 10 at Sussex Central
Oct. 17 Milford
Oct. 24 at Caesar Rodney
Oct. 31 Sussex Tech
Nov. 7 at Cape Henlopen
*All games scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
*Home games in bold.