Thomas Jefferson Academy thinking three-peat

If Thomas Jefferson Academy can three-peat as consecutive state champions in 2007, they will be the first team in GISA Class 1-A to do so in 37 years.

 

And Jaguars coach Chuck Wimberly looks to the coming season with guarded optimism.

"I believe we are as good a team as we were the last two years," Wimberly said. "But I've been telling the guys that the bull's eye on their backs just doubled in size. There are teams out there might not care as much about winning the state championship as they do about beating us."

Last year the Jags beat the defending 2005 AA-champion Flint River by a score of 30-29 in double overtime to take its second straight state championship.

"We lost some great leaders off that team, but this year we have several seniors who have played in two state championship seasons," Wimberly said. "This team may have more talent than we have had the last two years. I believe we're stronger and faster as well."

The team certainly has more numbers. The Jags won both championships with 18-man teams. This year, the Jags are fielding 25.

"And we're bigger up front than we've been," the coach said. "We have eight guys over 240 pounds and they can move."

Wimberly has called junior running back Derrick Mathis, who carried the ball 146 times last year for a whopping 1,731 yards, the best running back the school has ever had. As a freshman, Mathis ran for 1,622 yards and scored 24 touchdowns. Only two years into his high school career, he could easily top 5,000 rushing yards this season.

"Derrick is one of the best running backs out there at any level," Wimberly said. "We expect a lot from him, but our success this year is going to depend on taking the pressure off of our running game."

And for the first time in several years, he believes he has the talent to do it.

"Chip Johnson is going to be our quarterback this year," he said. "He's a senior and he's played in the backup role now for a while. He knows our offense and he's going to be a big plus for us. We're a running team, but with him and our receivers I really think we're going to have the option to go for the pass on the first down instead of waiting until we're in deep and need the pass to get out."

The Jags are moving Josh Godbee from split end to fullback and will be looking to give the ball to the other backs and receivers like senior Josh Godbee who caught 18 passes last year and had three interceptions.

Wimberly is also expecting a lot from seniors Daniel Good at tackle, Tom Oglesby at running back, Drew Barrentine at linebacker and Justin Williams at tight end.

With a bigger roster to work with than usual, he is hoping to rely on these seniors and key juniors like Mathis and 280-pound tackle Ben Phillips to fill his starting positions.

"People talk about offense and defense," Wimberly said, "but it has been the special teams that have won the championship for us the last two years. We've really got to put that together too.

"And we're really going to rely on our secondary this year to keep those starters fresh. We have more depth than we've had and I plan to use it."

 

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