COOLIDGE — The players on the Imagine Prep-Coolidge football team can feel a change coming, and it’s apparent in the way they practice everyday.
“There were a lot of attitudes,” said senior Matthew Samuel about practicing during the height of the pandemic. “There were a lot of people leaving practice early, righting with the coaches. But this year should be different.”
Fellow senior James Duvall went a step further. “This year is going to be different,” he said. “I’m not gonna allow it.”
The seniors still have a bitter taste in their mouth for how the season went a year ago, finishing with a 2-4 record and missing the playoffs. With only five seniors on the roster, and only two of them having experience on the team, there might be a chance to start a new chapter.
“It’s difficult when kids come and go,” said coach Dushawn Austin. “But these new kids are going to help us because of what they did over the summer.”
So far, Austin like the way the team has come together.
“Once you establish that, all other things are second nature,” he said. “It makes each other accountable to each and every teammate.”
As far as the on-field style, the Eagles have spent the preseason practices figuring out their identity under new offensive coordinator Donte Booker. There will be a new quarterback following the graduation of last year’s starter, Diego Saveedra. But he believes whoever takes over at that position will have some good options, particularly Samuel at tight end.
But a lack of certainty heading into the season won’t put the Eagles in much of a disadvantage in CAA’s 8-man football, following a year where many teams didn’t even compete in the sports due to COVID. Schedules were always fluctuating and confusion followed. Austin is much happier this season knowing who he’s going to be playing and when.
“It was tough,” he said. “But it doesn’t matter. I have a very young team, and all that matters is what we do to build a program. The playoffs is always a goal for us. Ideally, that’s what every coach wants. But it’s how you get there. Are you there because of COVID or things like that, or are you earning it? If we earn the right for playoffs, we will have had a very successful season.”