Kendrick coach Barry Ross says he has been pleased with the leadership he has gotten from his returning players. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
JONESBORO — Barry Ross proclaims to have seen the “good, bad and ugly” when it comes to Kendrick Middle School football.
The veteran coach is hoping that this will be one of those good seasons when the playoffs begin next month.
After a 2-4 season a year ago, Kendrick is currently in the chase for one of the eight playoff spots. The Comets enter next week with a 2-1 record after an 8-0 loss to undefeated M.D. Roberts earlier this week at Tara Stadium.
Last season was the first in eight years that Kendrick missed the playoffs, but with the majority of that team returning, the Comets are experiencing some success.
“We had a lot of players on the team last year that had never played football before,” said Ross, who is in his 16th season on the coaching staff. “This season they finally understand what it takes to win. It was a good fundamental lesson for us. This group is really focused in the classroom and on the field. I couldn’t be any happier with them.”
Ross said that last season was also a learning experience for him.
“Last year really taught me how to reteach the game,” he said. “After so much success, we sort of took things for granted. We look to bring the program back to level of success that we have enjoyed. This season, our kids have been very productive.”
Kendrick last won the middle school title in 2005 when the Comets defeated Roberts.
With another year’s experience, he is hoping Kendrick can make a deep playoff run. The Comets are led by quarterback William Black and running backs Jalen Hughes and Diron Accoo.
Ross is hoping the experience of this year’s group will help them win some of the close games that were lost a year ago. He said the team showed a lot of resolve in the face of adversity during a lean year.
“We had a lot of kids to stick with us,” Ross said. “We had some close games that I think we should win this year because of our experience.”
In addition to Black, Hughes and Accoo, the coach has been counting on lineman Tommy Wright and wide receiver/cornerback Taj Brothers to help provide leadership.
“We are getting fantastic leadership from our captains,” Ross said. “The commitment has been there from all our players. They dedicated themselves this summer to workouts. We had high numbers from our preseason workouts.”
Despite its loss to Roberts last week, Ross said that the playoff race is still wide open.
“It is pretty much anybody’s game,” he said. “It just depends on who peaks at the right time. I think we have a well-rounded and balanced team.”