The Crusaders set a program record for most wins in a season with six in 2012. They return 10 of 11 starters on both sides of the ball while mixing in bigger and faster athletes.
“How can you not be positive when you’re bringing back 10 of 11 from the most successful team you’ve had?” Duffie said. “We’ve always had good players, a guy here or a guy there, but we’ve never had that whole team. I think this is as positive as we’ve been coming into a season, collectively.”
Curtis Baptist set a program record for wins before November last season, including four consecutive region wins by a combined score of 159-30 in October. The Crusaders held a 6-3 record going into their final two games, but lost their last two and bowed out in the first round of the GISA Class A playoffs with a loss to Robert Toombs Christian Academy and finished 6-6.
Over the past three seasons, Curtis Baptist has seen an improvement from three to four to six wins. It’s a process that required an overhaul of the program by Duffie and his staff.
“It’s not like a movie where you have a minute montage and you go from some scrub team to playing for a state title,” he said. “I think I was even naive to think we would come in within a year and succeed. It takes years to blow up everything, put your blueprint in and stick with that.
“If we taught it and built that foundation, it would eventually pay off. Record-wise, it’s indicating that slowly but surely we’re going in that direction.”
Optimism now abounds during practices, and for good reason.
Along with the duo of Christian and Trey Reid leading the offense, the Crusaders will implement newcomers Duvelle McClendon and Shawn Brown in the backfield. Both transfers, the two provide a change of pace, with McClendon expected to offer bruising runs while Brown’s speed will work on the outside.
McClendon and Naquan Wright are expected to use their size up front to stop runs and provide pressure on the defensive side. The Reid brothers provide speed in the secondary.
“We get to the ball better,” Brown said. “We’ve got a better offense and defense. It’s not an individual thing. It’s a team thing.”
Another transfer, Josh Boham, will give Curtis Baptist a scoring threat in a different way. Boham is a kicker and punter with the goal of playing at the college level. Duffie said he warms up from 40 yards out, and has shown the ability to split the uprights from 50 yards in practice.