Photo by Derrick Mahone
Eagle’s Landing junior Bradley Dewberry is poised to take over the starting quarterback position in the team’s revamped Spread offensive scheme.
Eagle’s Landing at a glance
Last year’s record: 1-9
Summer progress: Much of the summer was spent building depth in the trenches. Coach Joe Teknipp said his entire offensive line will return and 6-foot-1, 290-pound nose tackle Chris Weis will be counted on to anchor the defensive line. “We lost several games last year because by the third quarter we just had nothing left. Our depth should improve that this year,” Teknipp said.
Work to do: In addition to implementing Rex Robertson’s new offense, defensive coordinator Sean Jones is installing a 3-4 defensive scheme to take advantage of the Golden Eagle’s talent at linebacker. Teknipp said that he’s pleased with his team’s progress even as they continue to perfect the new concepts.
Emerging players: With only four Golden Eagles as seniors, Teknipp said there are numerous possibilities for new playmakers to step up. Junior quarterback Bradley Dewberry is an obvious name, but Teknipp is also high on 6-foot-5, 185-pound junior receiver Warren Wright and junior tailback Corey Holloway. Said Teknipp of Holloway: “Last year he had a solid season but not breakout. I think people this year will be wondering where he came from.”
ROAD TO KICKOFF
The Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald is counting down the days until our high school football special section comes out on August 24 by taking a look at all 22 area high school football teams.
When Eagle’s Landing football coach Joe Teknipp looks for inspiration to lead his program back to its winning ways, he’s been able to find it lately in the school’s recent yearbooks.
“Just look in those books and you’ll see a winning season, then a string of seven or eight seasons before the next one,” Teknipp said. “It’s time for us to change that. Actually it’s past time.”
Teknipp, going into his fifth year as the Golden Eagles’ head coach, has reasons to be optimistic that this season can be a breakout year for his program, despite the contradicting evidence of the last few.
After going 6-5 in his first season and making the second state playoff appearance in school history, the Golden Eagles have failed to build momentum on that initial success, going 2-28 since. And though this pattern of inconsistency is nothing new in the school’s 21-year history, it is a tradition that Teknipp believes can be unraveled — starting this season.
“This is the year that we’ve kind of been pointing to over the last three years or so,” he said. “We’ve lost a couple of pieces, but with just four seniors, some quality juniors and talented underclassmen, we felt like this was the team that could really go out and win some games for us. We think this is the year that we’re really positioned to turn some things around.”
Eight starters return on both sides of the ball, who have not only experienced his system, but have also learned his ways as a disciplinarian.
After Teknipp’s first season in 2008 — the school’s first winning season since 2005 and only the third in school history — Teknipp said the popularity of Golden Eagles football was at an all-time high, as over 100 kids came out for football in 2009.
Larger rosters did not translate into greater success. Players didn’t really have a heart for the game, Teknipp said. A lot of bodies just going through the motions.
After trimming the roster down over the last two seasons and implementing a team-wide character development program, the coach says the differences are clear on and off the field.
“Now this group of guys we have, they know,” he said. “They know our expectations; it’s official now. Even to the point where the newer guys, when they don’t exactly realize what playing at this level involves and they aren’t feeling that urgency, the older guys take them under their wing.”
Former three-year starting quarterback, and son of coach Teknipp, Tyler Teknipp is one who is familiar with the coach’s vision for Eagle Landing football — so much so that the freshman walk-on at Georgia Tech worked out with the team at a recent practice, specifically helping incumbent junior quarterback Bradley Dewberry get adjusted to his new role.
For that, Dewberry is grateful, and said that he is confident his time spent as the younger Teknipp’s understudy is about to pay off.
“I learned from Tyler to always have faith in your team,” Dewberry said. “And from watching him myself as a quarterback, I specifically learned the importance of learning and looking through all your progressions. With becoming the new starting quarterback after a three-year starter, I feel as if there are a lot of expectations, but I feel as if we can live up to them.”
Dewberry will be handed the keys to a slightly re-tooled spread offense being installed by new offensive coordinator Rex Robertson, who is coming over from Henry County. Joe Teknipp said the Eagle’s Landing offense will be “multiple and try to utilize all of our playmakers all over the field.”
Indeed, having some potential Division I-level talent on offense should help smooth Dewberry’s transition. Among the leaders on offense will be senior tight end/defensive end Bill Teknipp — Joe Teknipp’s nephew. Bill Teknipp, who caught 45 passes last season, is drawing recruiting interest from such schools as Georgia State, Georgia Southern, Richmond and Air Force.
Defensively, it is 6-foot-3, 262-pound linebacker Shawayne Lawrence who Teknipp said will anchor what should be a vastly improved defensive front seven. Lawrence currently has scholarship offers from Fordham and Tennessee State.
Making the jump from Region 4-AAA to 4A-AAAA this season will add new challenges to the schedule. Gone this year will be 2011 playoff teams like Drew and Henry County. But postseason qualifiers Jonesboro and county rival Stockbridge, looking to build off its first-ever playoff win, will keep the schedule fairly rigorous.
But when asked if any particular game could be a potential season-changer for his team, Teknipp didn’t have to search too deep into the season to pinpoint it.
“Game one,” he said. “It’s the most important because it’s one that we’ve got to win. We feel like if we can get our confidence early, the sky is the limit.”
And if confidence is to be the tipping point for a successful season for the Golden Eagles, Dewberry said he has enough to go around for his entire team.
“I really believe that we will shock a lot of people this year,” he said.