Westmoore will look very different this season.
The transformation began before the spring, when the departure of a massive senior class left the Jaguars wondering what was next.
In the vacuum, a few upperclassmen emerged as leaders, but even before they picked up a weight or tossed a ball, coach Lorenzo Williams told his players to embrace the change, that they wouldn’t win if they stuck to their old formula.
“I don’t think we can replace that senior class that we had last year,” Williams said. “You try to get that out of your head pretty fast, even though it’s like missing the pretty girlfriend that left you. But what we try to do is get those guys to have their own identity.
“We want to create something new and different with the guys we’ve got.”
Williams has made the playoffs in each of his first two seasons at Westmoore. That’s not easy in Class 6A-I. Since the 32 teams have been cut down to 16, there’s not much room for error.
There will be even less this season, when Westmoore returns just three offensive starters, led by offensive lineman Jorge Exinia and Layne Grantham, and welcomes back a defense that allowed 24.8 points per game. But the overall team speed is at an all-time high.
“We were monstrous last year,” Williams said. “[Now] we’ve got a lot of guys that can run.”
The other returning starter on offense, wide receiver Jacob Clark, who led the team with 42 catches and 525 receiving yards, is learning to become a more vocal leader. Williams envisions him helping in that area through summer workouts.
“It’s not a question on if he can be vocal, he just doesn’t talk,” Williams said. “What he does have is a really good work ethic. Whatever he’s doing, he’s doing it 110 miles per hour.”
• Back at QB: Daniel “Deuce” Hishaw Jr. guided Moore to its first playoff appearance since 2005 as a sophomore, and yes, he will be back at quarterback this fall.
Hishaw was both Moore’s signal caller, passing for more than 1,000 yards and rushing for 655, as well as one of the team’s top defenders, at cornerback. He will do both again this fall, while also playing in a few packages at wide receiver and running back.
“He could do whatever,” coach Brad Hill said. “We’ve got some recruiters coming in that like him at running back or slot [receiver]. Some like him at quarterback, some at outside receiver or safety, outside linebacker or corner. He could go anywhere and play multiple positions, and he’ll play multiple positions for us.”
The growth of backup quarterback Cameron Allen gives Hill options. The second-year coach feels confident in Allen’s arm, but admits he doesn’t want to take the ball out of Hishaw’s hands.
“He’s going to take the snap the majority of the time,” Hill said. “But Cameron Allen spins the ball really well. The way he plays, his leadership ability, is going to give us the option to put Deuce at tailback or receiver, because [Allen] throws it so well.”
• Numbers up: Southmoore coach Jeremy Stark said he has more than 80 athletes in grades 10-12 attending summer workouts, which is a far cry from last year.
After a rash of players leaving via transfer, or simply quitting the team, the SaberCats suited up just 55 players as they finished winless in 2017, halting a run of three consecutive playoff appearances. They enter this fall on an 11-game losing streak, which is eating away at the returners and even some of the newcomers.
“These guys are hungry,” Stark said. “We’re very ready to get back out there and show we’re not going to be a 0-10 team again.”
By virtue of the limited roster, Stark played nearly everyone last season. It was a hindrance having so many unexperienced contributors, but he’s ready to reap the rewards of getting everyone some playing time.
“We’ve got seven starters on offense and nine starters on defense, and a lot of guys that have played a lot of football for us last year,” Stark said. “It’s nice when you have guys coming back that have experience and they know your expectations. There’s so many guys to talk about that had good springs, because when you have that many guys coming back, you know they’re going to be better than last year.”