Originally created 08/27/99

Coach knows road long for Hephzibah



HEPHZIBAH -- Bill Navas has a lot of work to do, and he's well aware of it.

That's why the first-year Hephzibah High coach and athletics director has worked 15-hour days this summer -- to try to turn around a losing program.

"I'm just trying to run a football program the way I know it needs to be run," Navas said. "If the journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step, we've already gone five or six miles."

Those are big words from a man who inherits a program that went 2-8 last season, has only four winning seasons in the past 45 years and never has made it to the playoffs. However, Navas is working to correct a major flaw in the team's scheme.

"We made a commitment to these kids that we're going to throw the football," he said. "To do that, we had to find out if we had any quarterbacks who could throw the football."

Navas found two in sophomore Thomas Payton and junior B.J. Gibson. After a summer's worth of work, Navas said his two quarterbacks have matured mechanically, and both will start throughout the season.

The quarterbacks will have a tough time, though, if the offensive line doesn't come around.

"It all depends on the offensive line," Navas said. "That's the weakest part of the team. With the exception of a few guys, the dedication on the offensive line has been very poor."

At running back, Gavin Willingham, the brother of former basketball star LeCoe Willingham, along with Tavarus Maxwell and Marcus Scott, will step in and try to replace Alex Weaver.

"Those genes are made for running," Navas said of Willingham. "He's a tough kid and he's fun."

On defense, Navas admits his team is substantially stronger with six returning starters. Navas calls free safety Brandon Lynch one of the best players he's coached, while defensive end Justin Jackson and linebackers Andre Kittles and Tommy Roe also will be ones to watch.

"Ultimately, my goal is to win a state championship," Navas said. "On the real side of football, if we can win four, five, six football games, we'll have come a long way."