After helping lead Aquinas to its finest season ever, Brendan Douglas decided to work even harder during the summer.
When he wasn’t working out in the weight room, the senior fullback/linebacker – the one with a max bench press of 400 pounds – sweated on the field, pulling sleds and parachutes behind him. For Douglas, it was all in an effort to get faster and more powerful.
“Anything I can do to get better,” he said. “I just want this team to succeed. Whatever I have to do to help the team, that’s what I’m going to do.”
The 5-foot-10, 210-pound Douglas, one of three seniors on the team, is hoping to finish his career in style after the Irish set a school record for most wins in a season after going 9-4 in 2011.
Aquinas also made its deepest playoff run, defeating Athens Academy at home in the first round, pounding Wilcox County on the road in the second round and losing at home in the final minute to Landmark Christian in the Class A quarterfinals.
“Everybody in the state knows who we are now,” senior quarterback Grey Klosinski said. “That’s huge. That’s where we want to be. We have to have prove we’re that good again.”
In his fourth season at the helm, coach Matt LeZotte has established the Irish as a state power after taking over a program that won eight total games in the three seasons before he arrived.
LeZotte is 20-13 in his Aquinas tenure, having beaten every region rival except Lincoln County and Warren County.
Aquinas opens this season with non-region road games at East Laurens and George Walton before returning home to play host to Josey.
The meeting will be the first one between the schools since 1977, and the Irish will play their first Augusta school since 2009 (Westside).
“We were looking for a local opponent,” LeZotte said. “I’d like to stay local.
For the longest time, we couldn’t compete with local teams, but we’ve made a lot of progress.”
Aquinas will try to make even more progress this year with just 40 players on its roster, including four starters on each side of the ball.
LeZotte is not concerned about any perceived lack of experience, because many players saw significant playing time last year.
The biggest asset of the Irish will be their offense, one which scored 21 or more points in the final 12 games last season.
All the skill players are returning, and Douglas, who rushed for almost 1,600 yards, scored 27 touchdowns and also made 121 tackles in 2011, is expected to again impose his will on both sides of the ball.
“We’re going to line him up all over the place,” LeZotte said. “He’s a machine. He works really hard.”