October 15, 2013 8:51:49 PM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
That is just one of the ways the Victory Christian School football players remind themselves not to let the numbers get in the way of their success.
More accurately stated, the Eagles' lack of numbers might appear to be an impediment to success. Despite having 15-17 players dress out for each varsity game, Victory Christian has overcome its lack of depth in part through the leadership of junior Bo McCrary and senior Brandon Shaw. Both players are like many of the Eagles in that they play on offense and on defense. To be able to go both ways, nearly all of the Eagles participated in offseason workouts to get them prepared for the 2013 season and one of their biggest rivalry games of the season.
This season, a second chapter in the rivalry with Tuscaloosa Christian will be written in the regular season. At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Victory Christian (6-2, 3-0 Christian Football Association) will play host to Tuscaloosa Christian on Homecoming. Tuscaloosa Christian won the first meeting, 38-32 in overtime, in Cottondale, Ala., but that game didn't count in the CFA standings. A win by Victory Christian will give it the top seed and a chance to play host to a first-round CFA playoff game.
McCrary, a right guard/defensive tackle, and Shaw, a left guard/linebacker, said the work the Eagles did in the offseason and in the preseason has been instrumental in bringing the team closer together so it could reach its potential and realize its goals.
"This summer, we worked out a lot," McCrary said. "Most of the team was here about every day working out getting better and working out and getting in better shape because we knew we weren't going to have the numbers. We weren't going to let that be an excuse. One of the things we say is no excuses. The other thing we say is, 'Some people make things happen. Some people watch things happen. Some people ask what happened. We try to have all eight players make things happen."
McCrary feels he has done a better job of doing that after recovering from a torn labrum last season. He said he has gotten stronger and faster and is more aggressive in part because he has to be more powerful in his tackles.
McCrary said he Eagles also learned from last season, a year that included two losses to Tuscaloosa Christian. In 2012, McCrary said players would get down on each other after one mistake. This season, he said his teammates are supporting each other, which he feels is a key to the team's success.
"We spend so much time together in school and in workouts and at football practice, so our football team is really, really close," said McCrary, who is in his fourth year in the program. "This team is a lot closer than any team that I have been at Victory."
Shaw echoes that sentiment. On offense, Shaw and McCray team with Shane Bradford at center and Hunter Austin and Kody Anthony or Berkley Jernigan as ends. On either side of the ball, he said the key is "dominating " each play. As the bigger vocal leader of the two, Shaw relishes in the chance to get his teammates psyched to play a high-tempo game so they can control the tempo.
"I just feel close to everybody," Shaw said. "Most teams there are players who want to be the ball hog or someone who wants to be No. 1. But everybody has an important position. If the line doesn't block, they don't get touchdowns, so we have to play as a team."
That mentality is even more special for McCrary and Shaw, who are distant cousins. Both agreed the "family" ties extend beyond their relationship on and off the field. Shaw, who has been at Victory Christian since he was in pre-school, said everyone on the team helps each other if someone doesn't know how to run a play or if they are feeling a little sluggish. The result has produced strong results leading up to the game everyone marked on their schedule before the season started.
"We want to be remembered this year as a team with less players that dominated," Shaw said. "We had a pretty bad game against Tuscaloosa last time, but (Monday) in practice was a very good practice. Everybody's mind-set is on track, and I think we are going to go through this game pretty good."
Tuscaloosa Christian (4-4, 2-1) lost to Tabernacle 40-34 earlier this season, so it has to win to earn the top seed. The teams have been regulars in the CFA playoffs. Tuscaloosa Christian beat Victory Christian in the CFA title game in 2010. Victory Christian won the league titles in 2008 and in 2009. The second year, Victory Christian defeated Tuscaloosa Christian to cap the season.
Victory Christian coach Chris Hamm knows to throw all of the records out when it comes to rivalry games. He feels the team is prepared and motivated following the loss to its archrival earlier in the season. He also is confident leaders like McCrary and Shaw, who he feels complement each other with their differences and similarities, will have the Eagles ready to go Thursday night.
"Bo, in particular, worked really hard in the offseason and has worked real hard throughout the year," Hamm said. "He has done a good job on the offensive and defensive line. He is mostly leading by example. He is not real vocal, but he plays hard, has good size, and helps us on both lines. He has held up to playing both ways because he worked hard in the offseason.
"Brandon has done a good job for us. He is playing a little bit out of position at linebacker. In a perfect world, we would have him down at defensive lineman, but he has come up big for us in several games and, of course blocking real well. I am proud of both of them for their leadership and endurance."
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.