Football starts at Midtown after year long hiatus


Archer Streelman

Coach Jackson helps the D-line with footwork and hand placement, preparing for the first home game of the season on Friday against KIPP Atlanta Collegiate.

Archer Streelman and Sam Silcock

Following the dissolution of Midtown football for the 2021-2022 season, the team has returned under new leadership.

This year, the Knights will play 10 non-region games. The team kicked off the season with a jamboree Friday, Aug.12 against Kendrick and Spencer, treating both games as practice and not keeping score.

New head Coach Darrell Howard has high hopes for this year’s season. 

“My goal is to win .500 plus games out of the 10 game season,” Howard said. “My expectation is to play hard, give effort every game, no complaints, be the solution not the problem. My last goal is for us to build and bond as a family, all coaches and players.”

Howard says the influx of players has helped improve the team.

“Having more kids means better practice,” Howard said. “It means better and more reps for the team to improve and grow as players. One of the key things of growing a football team is for everyone to get practice and reps, even if it requires more planning; everyone is improving.”

Howard has enjoyed watching the team’s attitude change throughout his time as head coach. 

“One thing I’ve seen these guys improve in is their attitude,” Howard said. “Since the day I’ve come here, I’ve wanted to help them know what it means to be a football player. That’s being coachable, being prompt, being on time for practice, and knowing how to be a student-athlete. Those are the things we’ve loved to see grow.” 

Senior defensive end Donovan Yon says the team’s larger roster and new attitude improved the team from last season. 

“We’ve improved this year; we have a lot more people,” Yon said. “Last year we had a bunch of people quitting because they didn’t believe in the team. This year there is more of a sense of pride in playing for us.“

To prepare for the upcoming season, the team participated in different summer training activities like yoga, and a family, coach and player meet and greet. 

“I just think we are in better shape, we have better mindsets, and they [the players] know what to expect from me,” Howard said. “Next summer we should be rolling, not a lot of bumps and bruises. I also met these two young ladys by the name of ‘Prime Lifestyle’ [a workout company]. I met them at Piedmont Park and I just thought it was a great idea to let the kids release the tension that they have built up over the summer.” 

Junior quarterback Ezekiel Teffere spent his summer preparing for game time decisions. 

“We have done a lot of studying,” Teffere said. “A lot of film, going over the playbook, memorizing it, doing really everything I can for my part and just trusting my teammates that they will do the same.” 

An addition to the roster this year is senior Jordan Taylor, a running back. 

“I have had a love for football my entire life; so, I just wanted to be able to play it just one more year before I go off to college,” Taylor said. 

This year, Midtown hopes to rely on their skill players and family first mindset. 

“The strengths of our team have to be our skill players,” Howard said. “I have some very great skill players. We are still working on learning the game of football and we are still working on developing those leaders, having someone to step up and lead, do as I do, not do as I say. Another strength that we have is they already love each other. They are already like a family. We are trying to find our way to bring everybody in from our community and at Midtown.” 

For the first game, the plan is to come out fast and to play hard. 

 “We are going to be fast and furious,” Howard said. “Everything is going to be fast, everything is going to be hard. Right now we are going to be in a zone spread offense. On defense we are going to do a 4-2-5. Everybody is going to be flying around, having fun, hitting people, having a positive attitude and being very competitive.” 

The players and coaches are excited for the experience Friday night games will bring. The Knights first game is Friday Aug.19 against KIPP Atlanta Collegiate at home. 

“It’s going to be a while before we play under the lights, but I am looking forward to those winter games, those great fall nights,” Howard said. “I am looking forward to winning the game and being able to celebrate after the game. I am looking forward to seeing the students pack the stadium. I am looking forward to the pep rallies, you know all of the stuff that we get excited for when you think of football in a town like Atlanta. I am looking forward to that football feeling.” 

Overall school pride was affected negatively by the teams’ demotion to JV last season, and eventual cancelation. Yon hopes to see more school involvement for the team this year as well. 

“I want people to actually not be ashamed of our team this year,” Yon said. “I know last year people would like to bring us up and joke around about us or just wouldn’t talk about the team. I want people to look at our group and want us to represent them.” 

Junior, and fan of the football team, Will Roberts says the return of football should increase school pride. 

“I think football’s return will [increase] school spirit for this year,” Roberts said. “Now we actually have a team people will watch, which I think should make people show up to games and support them.” 

The cancellation of varsity football affected several clubs at Midtown. Varsity cheer captain Taylor Ward says last year’s demotion was disappointing for the program, but this years season creates excitement.

“With the demotion of the team last year, we put all of our focus on competition cheer, which we wanted to try, but I think some people within the team were annoyed that there was no sideline,” Taylor said. “Now with the promotion, a lot of us on the team are excited to finally get back into practicing on sideline and preparing for the new season.”

Roberts is looking forward to watching Midtown’s first varsity season get under way. 

“I’m excited for the upcoming season,” Roberts said. “It sucked not having football games to go to my freshman and sophomore years, so I’ll definitely be attending any games I can.”

Howard aims to show the Midtown community what football is all about. 

“Football runs the school,” Howard said. “For us to come back and have the numbers and start winning games would be great. I want us to be the talk of the town. The more successful we are as a football team, the more fun we can have as a school and as an overall community.”