August 20, 2014 10:25:15 PM
CARROLLTON, Ala. -- Josh Thacker said everybody needs to be on board this season for the Pickens Academy football team to have success.
Gone are the days when the Pirates could rely on multi-talented Josh Lewis to call his number and make something happen. Last season, Lewis paced Pickens Academy with 1,587 rushing yards and 1,015 passing yards and 34 touchdowns (23 rushing, nine passing, one kick return, one interception). To say Lewis did it all as quarterback, free safety, punter, kicker, returner would be an understatement, so Thacker knows how difficult it will be to replace the void left by Lewis' graduation.
More importantly, Thacker said Lewis, who earned honorable mention and signed to play football at West Alabama, was such a great young man and was so coachable that he was a huge influence on his teammates.
"Last year, we thrived on big plays, explosive plays from our offense," said Thacker, who went 7-4 in his first season as coach at the school. "A lot of them came on the heels of Josh creating it, or making it happen, or Josh being a decoy for somebody else to do it."
This season, Pickens Academy, which went scoreless against Southern Academy and Oak Hill Academy in a jamboree, will rely on a team approach Thacker hopes will create opportunities for every player to be an option.
"Not to say we didn't last year, but this year it is a 100-percent team effort," said Thacker, who is in his second year as coach. "This man has to get the ball so many times. This man has to touch the ball so many times. ... It is not solely centered on one person. Now you have to account for our X, for our Z, for our Y, for our H, for our F. We try to run some two-back stuff and a lot of different things."
Without Lewis, Thacker said he will look to senior Joseph McGlawn to step in at quarterback. Last season, McGlawn had 14 catches for 285 yards. He also had five touchdowns. Junior Chance Britt also figures to shoulder a bigger load. In his first year as a starter at tailback in 2013, Britt rushed for 461 yards and eight touchdowns on 108 carries.
Those numbers pale in comparison to Lewis', but Thacker said a team approach will be the key. He said the Pirates can't afford to rely on one or two people. He said everyone will have to play their part so Pickens Academy has a variety of weapons that keeps opponents off guard.
Thacker said the Pirates have a sign that says, "The team, the team, the team" to stress how much the Pirates need to rely on each other to produce. Thacker said "the team, the team, the team" is a mind-set the Pirates will have to utilize to overcome their lack of playing experience.
"I have always been told that a goal without a plan is just an idea," said Thacker, who also coaches the Pickens Academy junior varsity football team.
Any advantage will help Pickens Academy, which moves from Class A to Class AA. It will play in Region 2 with Clarke Prep, East Memorial Christian Academy, Marengo Academy, Russell Christian Academy, and Wilcox Academy. Three of Pickens Academy's four region games are on the road.
A year ago, Pickens Academy lost to Marengo Academy, the Class A champion in 2013, 28-0 and to Clarke Prep, the Class AA runner-up, 59-19.
Pickens Academy will open its season Aug. 29 at Patrician Academy. Last season, Pickens Academy lost to Patrician Academy 50-31.
"We went from we goes as Josh goes to do your job. You're accountable. Do your job," Thacker said. "Everybody has a job to do on every play. If one man is not doing their job, we're going to get beat. We're holding everybody accountable all year. Last year, Josh could make some people right when they were wrong. Now it is to the point of you have to be right. Do your job. Don't worry about anything else. Don't worry about being a superstar. It is all about the team.
"It has been a great shift into that. Last ear, it was all about mentality and toughness. I wanted our guts to be tough, mentally tough, and I wanted our guys to rise up to be able to rise above any situation that was thrown in front of them. ... They have taken that and absorbed that into the team, the team, the team, so the buy-in aspect was we are in year two of a system. ... The leadership has been good, and the accountability has been great. ... There are some exciting times coming."
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.