Going to four straight title games and winning two of them is an amazing accomplishment, whether it's 8-man, 11-man or in the independent ranks. For Thomas Jefferson, that's the exactly what they've done in the past four years.
Getting back to a fifth straight title game will be more than a chore for the Jaguars especially when you replace the likes of Derrick Mathis, a once in a lifetime type of running back who set all sorts of state rushing records. Don't feel sorry for this team though. Now it's time for others to shine and hold up an unparalleled tradition.
"Yeah, it's a lot of pressure because the past couple teams have been really good and gone to the state championship and you don't want to be that team that lets the school down and the community down," said senior Taylor Barrentine.
"The notion of not trying to let down Thomas Jefferson Academy and not being in the state championship game is a huge burden," said head coach Chuck Wimberly. "But it's also a major goal and I think these kids here are set to make that goal."
Look for guys like Barrentine and Michael Watkins to lead this year's team. Hank Gilmore, Austin Dressel and Mason Johnson are some of the others that'll be counted on more then ever. As Coach Wimberly puts it, it's time for others to shine.
"I'm not really worried. We have great players coming up," said Gilmore. "We've got returning all-state players, great runningbacks and great linemen. I don't think we'll skip a beat this year."
"Then you fill in younger kids around them that aren't necessarily younger kids," said Wimberly. "They are older kids that are just waiting their turn. They're juniors and seniors. They're not freshmen. This season will be interesting because there's a lot of no-names out there trying to make a name for themselves."
Looks like Terrell Academy will be the team to beat. The Jags open the season against Curtis Baptist.