By Sarah Moomaw
This week, college football kicks off – JUCO included.
The East Central Warriors are headed to No. 16 Itawamba to open the season with a lot to prove, not necessarily to fans, but to themselves.
First year head coach Ken Karcher said he is excited for tonight’s kickoff and the first time he’ll see the team compete against anyone but themselves for a full 60 minutes.
“They are a good football team,” he said. “They have a good tradition. Obviously, it’s an uphill battle for us, but we’re excited. I’m more excited to just to go out and see, you know, where are we? Are we real far away? Can we compete in this league with the type of kids we have now? I just don’t know. It’ll be interesting to see.”
Karcher has taken over the program in his first year with the hopes of turning it into something successful. He knows it won’t be an easy task, or necessarily a quick fix, but that won’t stop him. He has also recruited six assistant coaches, all with football resumes that he is confident will help aid the Warriors for years to come
Without much JUCO exposure on the staff, and with 44 new freshman on the 55-man roster, the only concern is not knowing how the league plays.
Karcher said he and the team have discussed Itawamba’s NJCAA preseason ranking at No. 16, but Thursday night’s game isn’t about the Indians — it’s about the Warriors.
“If we go out there, [and] we don’t block, we don’t tackle, it won’t matter if you play the 100th ranked team in the county, you’re gunna get beat,” he said. “We’re more concerned about what we’re doing right now than what Itawamba is going to do, who they are or where they are ranked.”
The preseason scrimmage against Belhaven was canceled, meaning lining up against a new opponent will be a first for the squad. Karcher said the Warriors are going to keep things simple on the field and avoid digging their own grave.
“We’re going to try and be simple in what we do, hopefully we can get players to make some plays with their ability,” he said. “Key is to not beat ourselves — don’t turn the ball over, don’t jump off sides, those types of thing.”
The Warriors will be carrying a few woes into the game. Obviously the biggest being youth, but Karcher and his staff understand how that could affect the outcome.
“I’m just hoping we don’t make too many young mistakes,” he said. “We’re getting better, it’s going to take time to get to where we want to go.”
Additionally, they have some banged up players that’ll miss the start on the offensive line and linebacker, weakening those spots.
Karcher said one of their biggest strengths could be the youth’s mindset, which could go a long way – further than Game 1. They are new to Warrior tradition, and joining during what will hopefully be the transition year into a new era of football in Decatur.
“A lot of new kids that haven’t been here in the past so they are looking for good things to happen,” Karcher said. “These kids attitude could set the future.”
By Sarah Moomaw
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