With a new coach in a new league, the Crusaders know what they have to do to complete a turnaround that began in 2008-09.
“We’re looking at everything that went into last year, and we’ve got to give a little more,” coach Cliff Richards said. “We went to the state title game last year, and in our minds we weren’t just satisfied with getting there. In our minds, our kids want to win it.”
Richards, who previously served as defensive coordinator, takes over for former coach Nathan Duffie, who built the program from a one-win team to a state title contender in just four seasons.
Curtis Baptist returns much of its core from the 2013 state runner-up team that went 11-3 and lost to Robert Toombs in the GISA Class A state championship.
“It wasn’t hard motivating them. They ultimately know,” Richards said. “They’re a little easier to coach when they know this isn’t going to get it done.”
Curtis Baptist will contend in SCISA Region 2-A. Richards said there is a level of uncertainty after playing in the GISA for years, but he reminds his players to only worry about their level of play and the rest will take care of itself.
Senior Christian Reid returns for his final attempt at a state title. He threw for more than 1,000 yards and ran for 800 while totaling 24 touchdowns last season.
Richards said the offensive line is the strongest the program has had, giving Reid the necessary protection to make an impact. The skill players are younger and will have to make up for the loss of top rusher Trey Reid, but Richards said they’re faster than last year.
The defense lost some key pieces but returns athleticism and speed. The Crusaders developed a strong defensive reputation last season by recording three shutouts and holding three more opponents to single-digit points.
Richards said the biggest difference from last season is leadership. He expects more seniors to step up in big spots, which could be a factor in seeing Curtis Baptist’s process to the finish.
“They’ve put in the work and seen the program change,” he said. “It’s up to them to hold each other accountable.”