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CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVE?

M.D. Roberts focused on getting better

M.D. Roberts Middle coach Rosby Johnson says his team has gotten a lot of leadership from the returning players, and that’s why they are off to a 3-0 start. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

M.D. Roberts Middle coach Rosby Johnson says his team has gotten a lot of leadership from the returning players, and that’s why they are off to a 3-0 start. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

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Teammates Deighton London, left, and Demaje’ Carter talk on the sidelines during the closing minutes of the Rams’ win at Sequoyah earlier this week. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

JONESBORO — Deighton London didn’t mince his words when asked about the championship chances of this year’s football team.

The M.D. Roberts Middle School eighth-grader was quite blunt in his assessment.

“For us, its championship or bust,” London said. “We want to bring home that trophy at the end of the season. This is our last chance. I know it puts a lot of pressure on us, but we are going to take it one game at a time.”

Last season, the Rams lost to eventual champion Rex Mill in the semifinals. And the previous season, Roberts lost in the championship game.

Each of the last four seasons, Roberts has lost in either the title game or semifinals to the eventual county middle school champions.

And this year’s group wants to end that hard luck.

So far, it has been on track to get back into the playoffs. The Rams are 3-0 heading into next week’s game against Kendrick, which is 2-0 on the season.

Roberts entered the season with eight returning starters from a group that finished the regular season with a 4-2 record, and advanced to the semifinals in the playoffs.

Rams coach Rosby Johnson has counted on David Crawford, Demaje’ Carter and London to help provide the leadership for the squad.

“We have a good group of eighth-graders that are helping out a lot with the leadership of this team,” Johnson said. “Our leadership has been tremendous. They have been around this program, so they know what is expected of them, and their teammates. They have been leading the younger guys.”

That leadership is what Johnson is counting on to bring home a championship.

The coach said the team has credited a “family type environment” for the players.

“These guys like playing with and for each other,” Johnson said. “They have been doing the things that it take to be a winner. They have been doing any thing necessary to be the team to hoist that championship trophy at the end of the season. I think they are hungry for that championship.”

Johnson pointed to Tuesday’s 55-14 win over Sequoyah as a potential turning point for the season.

“This is one of the best games that we have played this year,” he said. “I saw where we put everything together in that game. We are still not perfect, but we are getting better as the season progress. They gave a big effort in that game.”

The players say they have confidence in themselves and teammates, but are not overconfident because they don’t want to overlook any team on the remaining schedule.

“We have to take control of ourselves,” Carter said. “We feel good about our chances on the season. We’ve got to control ourselves and work hard and play as a team.”

After disappointing ends to the last few seasons, the players say they are even more resolute this year.

“We are very determined,” London said. “We have to stay really focused on winning and getting better.”