Young Knights football team fills big shoes, seeks success


Jack Hudson

Knights varsity football team take the field before its season opener on Friday, Aug. 18. After scoring first, the Knights lost to rival North Atlanta 21-7 as the visiting team at Grady Stadium.

Jack Hudson, Assistant Managing Editor, Sports

The Knights took on the North Atlanta Warriors in their first game of the season, a 21-7 loss. Even with the loss, the team continues to build off last year’s performance despite losing several seniors who played key roles on both sides of the field.

“I’m expecting good things; we are predicted, preseason, winning the region,” said coach Earthwind Moreland. “I do know that it’s a very young and inexperienced team, and when I say young and inexperienced, I mean as far as playing on the varsity level. So I am looking forward to some of the guys who do have varsity experience to step up and lead the way from the beginning.”

Last season came to a halt when the Knights beat Walnut Grove in the first round of the state playoffs, but lost to Woodland-Stockbridge in the second round. The season ended with a 10-2 record resulting in the end of several seniors’ high school careers.

Those graduates who left roles to be filled include: Caylin Newton who plays for Howard University in Washington, D.C., Jacquez Sloan who amassed more than 1,300 last season and now plays at Western Kentucky University and Kemari Averett, who is now a tight end at the University of Louisville.

Other 2017 graduates included defensive back DiMarcus Clay who plays for Furman and wide receiver as well as return specialist Cincere Mason, who plays for nearby Kennesaw State.

Despite these losses, Moreland isn’t troubled by the situation and believes that experience is the best way to combat these concerns.

“We have some young guys that are basically in the position that Caylin was in when he was in the tenth grade, trying to fill in and lead a team,” Moreland said. “It’s going take experience, game reps, watching film, and just the lumps and bumps of a season to get them into the position that he was, and they have to really learn to be students of the game to take on that role.”

Looking to fill one those positions is freshman left tackle Nazareth Henry, who is excited about the challenges that await him this season.

“Not all freshman think they will make it to the varsity level,” said Henry. “It’s hard, he [ Moreland] expects more from us even though we are still freshman. The seniors from last year were good, but I still have my name to prove. My goal is to have at least 15 to 20 sacks by the end of the year.”

On the other hand, players who have been in the program for several years are being asked to step up and become leaders, on and off the field. Running back Craig Philpot has been a starter since his freshman year, and has stepped up as one of the team’s leaders following the departure of last year’s seniors.

“We are really just picking up the footsteps from last year,” said Philpot. “The younger guys really learned from Caylin [Newton], Kemari [Averett], and Jacquez [Sloan] as we built relationships with them. Now we are really just the next men up.”

One might label this year as a rebuilding year for Grady. However, Moreland is hopeful that his team will live up to the predictions, and sees a bright future in store for these young men.

“In a perfect world, I would love to win the region,” said Moreland. “Of course I would love to win the state championship, but it’s one game at a time, one practice at a time. That’s the beauty of having this young team because if we can get some games under our belt and we do pretty well, we will be able to grind it out right now and get the job done, then the sky’s the limit for the years to come.”