Calera Eagles 2019 football prediction

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

It’s no secret at this point. The Calera Eagles struggled in 2018 both on and off the field with team chemistry from coaching to players, which led to 1-9 overall record in their first season in Class 6A.

Heading into 2019, however, there has been a coaching change from Andrew Zow to defensive coordinator Trey Simpson, and the team seems rejuvenated and ready to work with the goal of preventing last year’s disappointment.

Last year, talent wise, Calera was probably as good as anyone they played, but certain issues kept them from playing to their full potential.

This year, with the return of several key playmakers and a team hungry for success, the Eagles seem primed for a bounce back season.

After averaging just 14.7 points per game offensively and giving up 31.4 points per game defensively, the goal is pretty simple—play better on both sides of the ball.

Easier said than done, but Calera was in almost every game at halftime last year, meaning five points per game more offensively and less defensively could make all the difference in the world this year.

A big reason for their second-half struggles last year were because of guys playing both sides of the ball at the 6A level. While the Eagles will do that again this year, they’ll be more prepared and conditioned heading into the season.

As far as talent goes, Calera should have the right tools to be successful this year, starting with a loaded offense.

The last two years, Quindarius Crews has been one of the team’s go-to receivers, but he’s also been one of the best athletes in the school.

Needing an answer at quarterback this year, Crews has shifted to the backfield and will take Calera’s snaps. The coaches wanted to make sure the team’s best athlete touched the ball on every play, and he’s handled the transition smoothly.

He’s a playmaker with a high IQ for the game and loves the pressure of the position. If he handles quarterback as well as he did receiver, this year’s team can be extremely good solely based on his talent.

Joining him in the backfield will be a strong group of running backs, including senior Blake Shoddie, who is a powerful 215-pound back. He’ll be joined by sophomores Chris Cotton and Kobe Prentice, both of who are speedy athletes that can take it to the house if they make the first man miss.

While the top receiver will be moving to quarterback, he’ll still have plenty of targets to look for out wide, including senior Dylan Killingworth, who has great hands and knows how to get open. He’ll be joined by Dallas Toles, who will be the tallest receiver this year with a physical playing style and great speed.  A couple of young guys including sophomore Wesley Head and freshman Jaydian Rutledge will play a role, but depth will have to form throughout the season.

The trenches is where Calera will win games this season. If the Eagles can find depth and stay healthy, they’ll have the experience, including four seniors on the offensive line.

Alabama commit Jayson Jones and fellow senior Gabe Schweitz will be the two anchors on the line. Both are tall and weigh in over 300 pounds. Ryan Caver adds a three-year starter to the unit and is considered the leader of the team. Jordan Williams will be the fourth senior to fill out the line, while six others are projected to rotate in.

The defensive line will be in a similar situation with some of those guys playing both ways including Jones, who was recruited to Alabama for his ability as a defensive lineman.

With him likely being double teamed, that will pave the way for other guys to step up and make plays, including edge rusher Fred Hurth, who is described as being relentless.

The veteran experience will carry over to linebacker with four seniors bringing back experience, including Caver, who will be an extension of the coaching staff. Joining him will be E.J. Jemison, T.J. Gilbert and Morgan Clinton.

In the secondary, Calera will return two seniors and three juniors with experience, which could make the back end of the defense the strongest unit on the team. The unit will be led by Killingsworth and Jacobi Gaines, who both played a lot last year, while Trent Yowe should return as a solid playmaker as well.

Derek Edwards and Art Amos are two juniors who played some last year and should take a step forward in 2019.

Prediction (5-5): I’ve been guaranteed this team won’t be 1-9 this season, and there is no way they should be. All this year’s Calera team has to do is put together four complete quarters. They were in just about every game last year, but blowing a 21-0 lead against Pelham in game one became the theme for the rest of the season. This is such a veteran-laden team with several playmakers on the field that they should honestly finish better than 5-5 and should probably make the playoffs. But playing on both sides of the ball in one of the most difficult 6A regions will be the hurdle to overcome. If depth shows up, if they are conditioned and if they play four complete quarters this team could surprise a lot of people. The defense should be so stout this year that they knock off close to 11 points per game from what they gave up last year. If the Eagles can do that, the offense will be consistent enough to keep them in every game yet again, but making plays late will be the difference in a win.