STOCKBRIDGE — New goals and a new coach are on the board for the Stockbridge Tigers in 2019, but one constant piece of the offense this year happens to be one of the most cerebral position players on the roster.
Jevon McDonald, a senior this year, is coming off a year when the bar was set from the quarterback before him and he exceeded the expectations — a strong junior campaign that saw him throw for 1,600 yards and 13 touchdowns. Not only was he a threat to hit a deep pass accurately, but the dual-threat quarterback also carved up defenses with his legs. Another 1,036 yards rushing on 162 carries resulted in an impressive 14 touchdowns. McDonald also rushed for more than 100 yards in five games last year.
However, things have changed. Gone are the days of Kevin Whitley, but the coach who inherited the program knows what McDonald can do and has confidence in what he can do on the field. It was still crazy, though.
“Me and a couple of players had to just make sure everyone was just still locked in because we still have the same goal as we did in the past,” McDonald said. “I can say not too much has changed. I feel like me as a leader, I have to keep doing a better job of just having my teammates focused on the main goal, which is winning a state championship.”
But from the young players’ eyes, he says that much has changed from last year to this year.
“It’s a little adjusting for a lot of our players experience-wise and offseason-wise. It’s going to be on me to get them in the right spots and knowing what to do, especially on offense,” McDonald said. “So it’s a work in progress, but I know my coaches and I will get them ready for this upcoming season.”
There is a vibe around the program that McDonald will be the starting quarterback once more this season. Even McDonald is confident he won’t be replaced unless he stinks the field up, but it’s unlikely he’ll do something like that. This also includes the search for new playmakers to fill the holes left by the Yahsyn McKees or Steve Bonners. McDonald has been looking for their replacements, but he’s done well to find three receivers he wants.
“They are some go-getters who want the ball at any cost,” McDonald said. “And I feel as if it’s different this year because, in years past, we’ve never had three good receivers at one time who can all get the ball. But they are really coming on and we still have some work to do, so it’s on me to get them on the same page as well.”
It was expected that Stockbridge High was going to change their play calls up following Whitley’s departure at the end of the year, but in McDonald’s eyes, the system remains the same as it was. He’s still working and staying alert on what he’s doing to execute the playbook.
“Studying-wise, I just make sure I’m doing the right things at all times because there’s no room for error in this offense,” McDonald said. “I also look and see what can I do to make us even more dangerous and better than our last game because there’s a lot you can do to improve for the next opponent to leave them guessing. And when they guess, that’s a win for us all day.”
As the course of the offseason continues, there’s more work to be done in McDonald’s eyes and he’s been looking at many different things. From making quicker reads to open lanes, to knowing the pace of the game, he’s covering all the bases. Even the offensive line is a learning experience.
“I only have two returning starters and I’ve learned to become more patient and stay more composed,” McDonald admitted. “That goes for everyone on the offense, so the linemen are learning and coming along very well. The coaches did a very good job with my O-line last year, and this year, I have the same expectations with this group which has a lot of potential.”