(Sept. 2, 2022) There are about 100 players in the Stephen Decatur football program, with around 40 on the varsity team, which is young this year with many underclassmen in the lineup.
“I expect the younger kids to play big roles. They’ve got to. We have 44 freshmen [in the program overall]. It’s an extremely large class and we have a very big sophomore class too. We have 24 on varsity and one freshman on varsity,” said Decatur Coach Jake Coleman. “We definitely have a lot of youth on the varsity. We’ve got a little smaller junior and senior classes. We’re definitely exploding at the seams with sophomores and freshmen.”
Coleman said offseason and year-round participation has been phenomenal.
“My 19 years as a head coach, this has been probably the best offseason I had. We had no less than 50 kids at each workout, maybe 60, 70 at a few of them,” Coleman said. “Young guys knew they were going to have the opportunity to come up and they have done a lot of hard work and we’re really excited about it.”
Coleman said the team is talented this year.
“We have quite a few returners. The guys we do have that are juniors and seniors, we do have a healthy mix, especially with the seniors who have had two and three years of varsity experience,” Coleman said. “The JV team was 8-1 last year and we brought up a bunch of players. Those guys are ready for varsity football. It’s definitely going to be a lot faster game, a more physical game, but they’re ready.”
Coleman said senior Luke Mergott (RB/TE/MLB) and junior Gavin Solito (WR/CB) established themselves as leaders during the offseason.
“The main thing is really just lead by example. I know what Coach Coleman likes to do and we’ve been successful the last few years,” Mergott, a four-year player, who has committed to Duke University, said. “I know what it looks like to win and I’m just going to help lead by example. We’re young, but were solid. We’ve got a lot of athleticism and we got to work on discipline, but were going to get there.
“I think that’s a big thing for football teams everywhere. A more disciplined team usually wins,” he continued. “I think if we keep pounding that, keep working that in practice which our coaches are big on, then we’ll be fine. I’m excited for the last run.”
Joining Mergott and Solito as captains on Friday nights will be a practice player of the week, “whoever had the best week of practice or their effort and enthusiasm was contagious,” and the scout team player of week, Coleman said.
“Those guys will be representing us to open the game up,” Coleman said. “You don’t have to be a senior to be a leader. I want to empower all kids to take on leadership roles in every aspect.”
Also returning to compete alongside Mergott and Solito are juniors Brycen Coleman (WR/QB/FS) and Brogan Eastlack (kicker), and seniors Caden Shockley (RB/OLB), A’zavion Manuel (WR/DE), Logan Bradshaw (WR/FS), AJ Tremble (T/DT) and Daegan Risser (RB/MLB).
Several of those players earned All-Conference honors for their performance during the 2021 season when the team finished with an overall record of 8-4. The squad advanced all the way to the state quarterfinals, where the Seahawks lost, 28-14, to Huntingtown.
“We’re running an uptempo, no-huddle, air-raid offense. We’re probably going to throw the ball as much if not more than anybody else. We led the state in passing attempts the last two years,” Coleman said. “With the combination of some of our different linebackers, we’re really fast on defense. We might be a little undersized at times, but we’re going to be fast, so that’s exciting.”
Decatur will kick off the season today, Friday, at 1 p.m. against the James M. Bennett Clippers in Salisbury.
Tickets must be purchased in advance. To get tickets, visit the Stephen Decatur Seahawks Football team Facebook page or go to https://gofan.co/app/school/MD22643?fbclid=IwAR3yw4GFDhFqQpXUexBtpO82833PlslnpLay6xlowdCp861Kzi_dvePWcI8.
“If we can get better every single day I like our chances. I like our chances every week as long as we’re progressing each and every practice,” Coleman said. “It’s just about being more consistent. Right now we’re inconsistent. We’re consistently inconsistent. We’re developing. They have great attitudes and they want to get better. They accept our coaching and when you have those factors it’s going to lead to a lot of growth.”
While all teams strive to have winning records, it’s not the only thing that measures success.
“Your goals are to win every single game, but more importantly than that is what type of kids are you developing as a coach,” Coleman said. “Goals are not just on the field. We want to have a team GPA of 3.25 or higher, we want to make sure our kids are great citizens in the school and off the field, we want to make sure we’re developing young men that will be future husbands and fathers, and we want to teach them responsibility.
“I think you have to struggle in life in order to have growth,” he continued. “I look forward to great competition, I look forward to seeing how we respond after a tough defeat, then take all that and put it together and evaluate what we have.”