CLINTON, Tenn. (WATE)- It feels like a new team for the Dragons this season with first-year head coach Darell Keith at the helm.
Keith is tasked with taking over a team that went 2-8 last season, and has not had a winning record since 2014. Navigating COVID-19 and its obstacles add a layer of difficulty to his job.
“The lack of contact and being able to hit on a regular basis has affected a lot of things,” said Keith, reiterating what a lot of area coaches have felt during this unprecedented time.
Keith compares getting ready for the season in three weeks, without scrimmages with other teams, to cramming for three or four final exams.
The Dragons return five starters on offense and six on defense, however under Coach Keith it’s a level playing field.
The Dragons will look different on offense this season running a high tempo offense.
“In all respect to the Wing T, it will be totally different,” said the head coach trying not to give away too much about their new playing style on offense. “More upbeat, fast-paced, a little more modern with a mixture of old; a hodgepodge of things.”
Wide receivers and defensive line coach Dakota Summers says the receiving corps is “looking good” so far, working hard to learn a new system.
Nate Murphy is expected to have a comeback season at receiver after breaking his leg in a preseason scrimmage last year.
“He has worked very hard all offseason was able to get the leg back and strengthen him, one of the big guys on the outside for them,” said Summers.
On defense, Clinton is looking agile and fast, “flying around the ball.”
Senior Elie Deshomme, who plays on both sides of the ball, says the strength in the defense lies in their football IQ, with lineman able to quickly read an offense.
“[The defense] Really vocal and smart. We know what we can do and trust people. We give them a call and trust they can execute it,” said Deshomme. “A lot of football IQ on defense.”
Summers says the D-line is “looking good returning some guys with experience who are looking fast and strong after putting in work in the offseason.
The vibe of the team this season is different, filled with guys who are hungry and willing to work hard.
“It is a different vibe, guys are pushing themselves internally which is pushing the others around them,” said Summers. “When you start to see the culture change of guys wanting to come to work every day… that’s when you start to see games headed in the right direction.”
Junior running back and outside linebacker Connor Moody says he sees more unity in his team this season, forming a brotherhood and really coming together.
The Dragons are not expecting to go out and win a state title per se, but the new head coach says one of Clintons’ goals this season is to be respected.
“That’s our main, thing we want everybody to know that we’re for real. We’re not to be looked past and put on for homecoming queens or kings we just want to be respected,” said Keith.
The Dragons are playing by the motto: one team, one fight—promoting unity and inclusion among all Clinton sports and the community.
The Dragons are set to kick off their season against cross-town rival Anderson County Friday, August 21.
While the goal is to beat the Mavericks and put on a good show for Clinton fans, Keith is looking to also shift the rivalry into a healthy one; taking some of the “toxicity” out of the game.
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