Finding motivation is not a problem for the Evans football team as the players prepare for the 2006 season. During summer and preseason workouts, the Knights have had all the drive and determination they have needed after a dismal 2005 football season.
"It was embarrassing," starting quarterback Kevin Millward said. "No one wants to go through what happened last year again."
The 2005 season started with high hopes after the team reached the Class AAAA state playoffs the previous year. Instead of a return trip to the postseason, last year's 10-game schedule ended with only one win for Evans and an 0-5 record at home.
This season, every Knights' workout and organized practice has been directed toward preventing the same thing from happening in 2006.
"There's a lot more fire around here," junior wide receiver Jonathan Nicely said. "From the beginning we've been more focused. It comes from our record last year."
Evans coach Marty Jackson said he hasn't focused too much on last year's poor performance. Instead, the fourth-year coach is concentrating on the new season and returning to the state playoffs.
He doesn't have much time for anything else. Jackson will welcome back 40 juniors and seniors to this year's squad.
"Most of our skill position players are now juniors," Jackson said. "With the youth we had last year, the big strength we're going to have this year is all those young guys have gotten a year older."
They've also gotten bigger. The Evans offensive roster boasts at least three receivers standing at 6 feet 3 inches or taller. Jackson said that fact alone will change the way the Knights run their offense.
"I'm glad the players aren't like their coach. They're tall," he said. "They've gotten stronger. They've grown up. I would say we definitely are going to throw the ball (more than last year). We have that type of talent."
With Kevin Millward returning at starting quarterback, Evans is one of only two teams in Columbia County with a veteran quarterback. The junior signal caller's main targets will be 6-foot-5-inch junior Jonathan Nicely and 6-foot-3-inch junior David Smith. At tight end, senior Wes Wuchte will come off the line at 6 feet 7 inches as a third option.
"It's great to see all those tall guys out there," Millward said. "It makes it a lot easier for me when I see a 5-5 corner going up against a 6-5 receiver."
To help further develop the offense, Jackson added new assistant coaches to the staff this year. Former Greenbrier football coach and athletic director Mickey Derrick joined the Evans coaching staff as offensive line coach and Augusta State graduate Marcus Allen was hired on as a receivers coach.
"I like what I'm seeing," Jackson said. "What we've done is we've tried to get as much (coach-player interaction) as we can during the summer. You can tell the difference. I'm excited about it."
With plenty of fire power on offense, Jackson said the summer months allowed him and his staff to establish the Evans defense. Senior defensive end Ryan Alford (6 feet 3 inches, 220), linebacker Kyle Golden (6 feet 1 inch, 175) and linebacker Ben Rouse (6 feet, 170) will help lead the way.
"We've got a good idea of what we're going to do on defense with the kids we have," Jackson said.
Another standout player, 6-foot-1-inch junior Taylor Hooven, has been impressive in summer workouts, but Jackson said he wasn't sure where he'll play.
"If Kevin were to get injured, I wouldn't have any problem going with Taylor (at quarterback)," Jackson said. "If he's not at quarterback, I'm going to have him on the field somewhere because he's just too good of an athlete.
Evans will kick off the 2006 season with a home game against Harlem on Friday, Sept. 1, at 7:30 p.m.
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