By Doug Gorman
The Jonesboro Cardinals football team is eating, breathing and sleeping football this week?literally as the squad has moved to the school for its annual camp.
It all part of first-year head coach Larry Mortonson's master plan for building team unity as he takes over a program that is looking for a second straight trip to the playoffs, something that's never happened at Jonesboro.
"I've always been a big fan of these type of football camps," said Mortonson. We bring everybody in and get to know each other. We can really concentrate on football."
Mortonson, who served last year as the head football coach at Rockdale, is returning to Jonesboro for the second time. Early in his career, he was an assistant coach on the Cardinals' staff.
Before moving to Rockdale, Mortonson also served as an assistant coach at Lovejoy.
"This is sort of a homecoming for me," Mortonson said. "I'm really excited about the season."
The Cardinals camp featured four sessions each day, including one practice designed to improve team agility.
Mortson said he is pleased with the turnout during the Cardinals preseason workout as 74-players including non-varsity members have attended the camp.
A year ago, Jonesboro clinched a spot in the playoffs with a 7-3 record, taking advantage of a squad dominated by seniors such as wide receiver Harry Douglas, who signed with Louisville, and quarterback Kenyari Addison, who is scheduled to play college football at Mars Hill.
Despite the loss of those talented players, Mortonson doesn't face a total rebuilding program.
"Coach Webb didn't leave the cabinet totally bare," said Jonesboro's new coach. "We have some talented athletes coming back.
That includes on both sides of the ball.
Defensively, Darrell Robertson a college prospect at his defensive end spot, defensive back Jamal Lewis and Defensive lineman Corey Denham are the three returning starters.
Garrett Williams is expected to step in for Addison at the quarterback spot.
Through the early preseason, wide receiver Tyderick Williams and tight end Chris Expo are stepping up too.
Offensive lineman Darrell Bailey is also earning the praises of the coaching staff.
Jonesboro opens the 2003 season against Morrow on Sept. 5.