Losing 29 seniors is always a tough task. It’s an even tougher task when one of them was a US Army All-American, a two-time Mr. Football Award winner, and a four year starter at running back. The seniors of the the 2016 team leave big shoes for the 2017 Big Red to fill, but Team 119 is up for the challenge.
Montgomery Bell Academy ended the 2016 football season with a disappointing 38-42 State Championship defeat at the hands of Brentwood Academy, their second such loss in a row. With that disappointment comes motivation to work hard for the upcoming season.
Team captain Jackson McFadden said, “We were really disappointed, especially with it happening two years in a row. It’s definitely hard to bounce back from that. We got in the weight room this summer and worked as hard as we could, because we felt that we had to get better as a team and that we had to buy into what the coaches were telling us.”
The hard work throughout the summer built “Deep Roots” as the coaches say. Because of the adversity the players have faced through various conditioning exercises, they feel that the team will be ready for anything they face during the season.
In coach Marty Euverard’s seventh season on “The Hill,” MBA returns nine starters from the State Runner-Up team of last fall. Most important of those nine is senior quarterback, Ty Allen. Allen, who will also serve as one of the three team captains alongside McFadden and Gordon Pollock, looks to lead an offense that relied heavily on the run game last season to a more balanced attack.
“I think with a year of experience, I am a more confident player,” Allen said. “I will be able to run the offense more efficiently. I also think I may be a little bit faster from offseason training.”
Allen will have plenty of targets to throw to this season with talented wide receivers. Jackson McFadden returns as a role player from last season while Clint Blackwell, a starter his sophomore year who missed last season due to injury, will also make an impact. Alongside the seniors, talented junior wide receivers Cole Crider and Tye Herbstreit and junior tight end Josh Meriwether will split out wide for the Big Red this fall.
The biggest question surrounding MBA this season is the running back position. Senior Michael McGuire and Tay Munoz along with junior Brendan Harris look to fill the role.
When asked about the task, McGuire said, “Players like Ty [Chandler] don’t come around too often. He was an incredible player, and we learned a lot from him.”
Munoz added, “I hate hearing about filling Ty’s shoes. Ty made us better, and we made him better too. Michael and I are ready for whatever is ahead.”
On the offensive line, MBA returns senior center Jackson Abbey and junior left tackle Jackson Lampley. Joining them are a solid group of seniors ready to protect Ty Allen and open holes for the backs to run freely.
Defensively, MBA returns as much talent as anyone in the state, and the goal for coach Chris Chauvin’s defense is to be the one of the best in recent memory. Up front, senior Harrison Graves has moved from linebacker to defensive end while junior Jackson Hannah did the opposite. Graves and Hannah will look to disrupt opposing offenses all season long, just as they did in preseason scrimmages. Cal Bryan, Clay Garstin, and Rhys Rutherford, all seniors, look to be forces up front alongside the returnees.
In the secondary, MBA has made some changes to adjust to the spread offenses of football these days. Senior twins Gordon and Fenner Pollock return to start for their third year at safety and cornerback respectively. 2016 BlueCross Bowl Defensive MVP, Nick German also plans to be playing physically and set the tone for the Big Red defense.
When asked what their defensive goals were, Gordon Pollock said, “Coach Chauvin, our defensive coordinator, preaches under nine points a game. We always want to be fast and run to the ball. We want to be aggressive and hit any opponent hard.”
Senior leader Jackson McFadden spoke about the senior class of players saying, “All of us seniors know each other really well. We are all really good friends outside the locker room. I think that really helps us because we aren’t just together when we are competing on the football field. We are building bonds not just on the field, but also off the field.”
Having been to the State Championship the past three seasons, MBA has high expectations.
Fenner Pollock said, “The goal is always to win a State Championship. We hope for nothing less than that.”