Photo by Derrick Mahone
Led by the trio of wide receiver Eric Tate, left, quarterback Rodricous Gates and running back Rodney Smith, Mundy’s Mill’s offense has had a successful showing in a pair of 7-on-7 passing leagues this offseason.
JONESBORO — A telltale sign that an athletic program is turning the corner from doormat to contender is the elimination of the “we’re just happy to be there” mentality.
When Mundy’s Mill coach Greg Manior surveyed the psyche of his ball club after losing to Pierce County in the Toast of the Coast 7-on-7 Passing Tournament in Brunswick, he may have seen the sign he’s been looking for.
“We were really disappointed that we didn’t win the whole thing,” Manior said. “They were upset that they didn’t go farther. We’d beaten Pierce the day before. We felt like we should’ve been able to do it again.”
And perhaps they would have if Mother Nature had not intervened.
Manior felt that his Tigers had momentum. They believed that Pierce was on the ropes yet again. But a thunderstorm swept through the area, stopping play for about 30 minutes, and perhaps causing Mundy’s Mill to loose a little of the steam it had built up.
“I feel like if we didn’t have that lightening break, we could’ve continued our momentum and maybe won that second game,” Manior said. “We came out flat after the rain delay.”
Still, Mundy’s Mill racked up an impressive 10-2 record against some of south Georgia’s finest — including beating Class AAAAA runner up Ware County — as well as schools from South Carolina and Florida.
Manior was cautious not to read too much into the passing league success — after all, there are no linemen, no pads and no blocking or tackling to speak of. However, he said he’d dare not do anything to dampen the flame of confidence in his bunch that seems to burn brighter with each week that passes.
“They played against teams who had no idea who they were,” Manior said. “People kept saying, ‘Who’s Mundy’s Mill? Who’s Mundy’s Mill?’ We impressed a lot of people with our tenacity and physicality. Our guys are learning how to compete.”
That includes some 2012 standouts who are starting to be seen as budding stars, and one who’s trying to regain his star status after injury.
Manior singled out Rodricus Gates and Eric Tate as players who pushed the envelope of personal growth last weekend. Gates, a rising sophomore quarterback with a big arm who threw for just under 1,000 yards last season, is starting to learn how to be the total package at signal caller.
“Rodricus is still playing very well,” Manior said. “He’s turning into a quarterback who’s reading defenses and becoming a verbal leader. I like what I’m seeing from him right now.”
Gates completed just 42 percent of his passes last season, and threw more interceptions (nine) than he did touchdown passes (five).
But Gates said that his growing familiarity with Manior’s style of play is starting to pay off for him.
“I’m getting extremely comfortable in this offense,” he said. “Everyone is doing what they are supposed to do, which is making us a successful team.”
Manior said Tate gave out an “MVP”-worthy performance, even while playing against tough and physical corners. Tate was the team’s leading receiver last year as a junior. He tallied 326 yards on 20 catches to go along with three touchdown grabs.
Give credit, Manior said, to the summer passing sessions for the noticeably growing cohesion between the pair.
“Eric’s catching everything we throw at him,” Manior said. “With the way those guys are improving, along with [wide receivers] Cedric Lawrence and Marquis Kempson, we’ll be able to throw the ball 10 to 15 percent more than we did last year.”
Add that threat to mending all-region running back Rodney Smith, who got on the field for live competition for the first time since tearing his ACL against Ola on November 2, and you’ve got a potentially potent offense.
“I think our passing game will definitely compliment our running game this coming season,” he said. “We should have the best offense in the state.”