Corinth Holders broke through last season with its best won-loss output in school history. The Pirates started the season 6-1 and remained in the Two Rivers 3A Conference championship hunt until late October.
But losses in four of the Pirates’ last five games made for a less than promising end to the season.
So as the 2014 season in the land of the purple and gold begins there’s a sense of learning from those late-season struggles and a sense of promise for an offense that could put up huge numbers again in the passing game.
The offense returns a half-dozen starters, including senior quarterback Cole Sakowski who became one of the breakthrough players of 2013. He’ll have two of his top targets back as well in Tony Kirkwood and Dymon Walker.
Sakowski was among the area leaders in passing efficiency last season with a more than 3-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio and nearly 3,000 yards passing.
“Cole had a tremendous year last year and we’ve got two talented receivers coming back,” said Corinth Holders coach Barry Honeycutt. “And we’ve got two experienced receivers back who have good heights. There aren’t many teams who can consistently cover both of those guys. They’re 6-foot-2 and you don’t see a lot of cornerbacks that size.”
Kirkwood and Walker both finished with more than 500 yards receiving last season and five touchdowns.
The passing game will look for returning starters Jared Johnson and Matt Cooper on the offensive line to provide that time to pass and the ability to create running lanes for a group of inexperienced varsity runners.
“We need a running back to step up,” Honeycutt said. “We’re looking for a guy to step up and make that position theirs.”
Honeycutt expected Elliott Lindley and Kane Little to potentially lead the push there.
Defensively, Corinth Holders’ strength should be the middle of the field with linemen Khalil Wright and Kane Little back in the lineup and linebackers Lindley and Little expected to get playing time there as well.
“We think we will be solid up the middle on defense, with the linebackers we have and the returning guys up front,” Honeycutt said. “We’ll be young at (defensive) end and young in the secondary.”
The secondary will be all new for the Pirates this season so Honeycutt said Kirkwood and Walker will likely turn some time in on defense as well as the new players get some game experience.
And therein lies the issue that hurt the Pirates last season: fatigue as the number of players relied on to play both sides of the ball grew later in the season.
“We got off to a great start last year, but the injuries started to catch up with us late in the season,” Honeycutt said. “We lost two key defensive linemen and it showed in the last few games as we had to play more guys both ways. We simply ran out of gas because of the number of two-way players we had.”
Ideally, that number of two-way players will fall during the season as new contributors step up to find their spot on the field.
“We just want to be more aware of where our two-way starters are on the field and for how long,” Honeycutt said. “And we’ve made a big point of thinking in terms of having two or three guys ready to play at each area of the field. There will be times where we’ll have to have more two-way players, but we can’t rely on that all of the time.”