Degree losses are a reality in high school football, but sometimes the holes left by senior graduates are just a little bigger.
This is the case at Columbus High School, where third-year coach Joshua Pulphus must find a way to replace Ethan Conner and Steven Cattledge, who now each play for East Mississippi Community College.
“This year we have lost 95% of our production in attack and in defense 98% of our production is gone,” said Pulphus.
Pulphus may be exaggerating, but hardly.
Conner totaled 1,515 of the Falcons’ 1,519 passing yards and 1,011 of their 1,411 rushing yards. He pitched for five touchdowns and ran for six in a team that averaged just 11.8 points per game.
Cattledge was all over the field in the middle linebacker, registering 133 tackles while no other Falcon exceeded 42. Twice he made 17 tackles in one game and he made 16 in two other games. He recorded 5.5 sacks, almost half of the team’s total.
Head receiver Steven Turner is also gone, carrying his 456 yards to East Central Community College.
Pulphus said his players know full well how much production they need to replace.
“They are doing it, and we are talking about it,” said the coach. “The children understand the task at hand. They know we just lost Baby Jordan or Baby LeBron, and someone needs to step in.
It’s not that the Falcons don’t have any talent, it’s just that a lot of it hasn’t been tested.
Start at the quarterback. Columbus had strong competition for the starting position, and Pulphus thinks senior Omari Williams will be the guy. Williams made more passes (five) in a two quarterback spring game than he did all last season (two), both of which went to Conner. Williams spent most of his junior year as a wide receiver, making 20 catches for 185 yards.
Pulphus was quick to explain what Williams brings to the post: “Stability”.
“I think that’s the best word for him,” Pulphus said. “It’s year 3 for him in the program. He’s always been here. He still works hard. He is not flashy; he’s not a giant like Ethan Conner, but he does a great job and lets the kids see him work. He brings real leadership. ”
Pulphus loves his rears and his receivers; they just haven’t had the chance to prove themselves. Senior Tawonn Troop averaged 6.6 yards per carry last season, but only ran 37 times. Another elder, Bryson Lanier, only had 17 litters. Those two will be a “one-two,” Pulphus said.
“All of our receivers will be their first year as starters,” he continued. “Last year they were in second year, so we’re asking them to get up to speed and fill in the huge shoes of… Steven Turner, who was a horse for us last year.”
The Falcons only went 2-8 last year, but five of those losses were 24 points combined. Two years after a winless season in which they were outscored 456-92, allowing less than 19 goals per game, it’s a sign the program is moving in the right direction, Pulphus said.
“People don’t realize that Year 1 (2019) was huge for us,” he said. “We won four games after they went 0-11 the year before. Last year we were 2-8 against a tighter schedule, but we were competitive in nine games. Our goal this year is to complete these games. What I consider successful would be for us to find ways to end the games. “
And that doesn’t mean looking for cupcakes to help fatten their case.
“We knew we would be young at the start of this season, but I think the only way for us to relaunch the program, to get it where it needs to be, is to play good teams, good competition,” Pulphus said. noted. “The challenge is there, the competition is there.
Still, the Falcons’ ability to fill those giant shoes will determine whether or not they take the next step.
“We have a lot of holes to fill,” said Pulphus, “but I’m proud of my guys for taking up the challenge.”