It's time for another exciting season of Dragon football as the 2014 season is fast approaching. The Dragons was a "surprise" team last season finishing with a winning record for the first time since the 2007 season, falling just short of reaching the playoffs. The city of Jasper is buzzing about this team and I recently sat down with head coach Chris Parker and asked him what the expectations should be this season for his Dragon squad.
"The long term goal for the season is to make the playoffs. We've got to put ourselves in position to be good at the end of the season. Getting close to the playoffs is probably not good enough for our team right now."
Switching gears, he then talked about the young but improved defense from a year ago and what areas he and the coaching staff would like to see get better on that side of the ball.
"Defensively we played a lot of 10th graders last year. Probably only got about two or three seniors starting on defense right now. You've got to replace somebody like Thomas Howard who made a lot of tackles for us and Jake Dean who made a lot of plays for us. The guys that we lost were pretty productive and pretty important guys. It's going to be important that people step up and become leaders on the defense. It's important that all the guys do their job on defense."
I then asked coach Parker about who would step in to the quarterback role with Tanner Brumby graduated and fighting for playing time at Mercer.
"It takes more than just a quarterback to replace production. We've got to get a little bit more production out of wideouts, we got to get more production out of the offensive line. The bad news is we lost a quarterback, but the good news is we got most everybody back. Marcus Byrd's been doing a good job in there at quarterback for us. We hope we don't have too much of a drop off there at that position. It's going to take everybody playing a little better to move the ball and get yards. Having a guy like Shannon [Brooks] running the ball makes every quarterback look a little better."
The final question I asked coach Parker had to deal with the sort of "new" region the Dragons are in this year.
"The biggest difference in the region is that it's a straight region. It is eight teams so we'll play seven games and the top four make the playoffs. It's going to be difficult to be in the top four. Except for Cartersville, everybody else was already in our region last year."
This season can't get here fast enough if you ask me. It's going to be fun seeing the Dragons play teams like Ridgeland and Southeast Whitfield, who I think is on an upswing. Plus let’s not forget the annual "515" rivalry with Gilmer to be played this year on Halloween at Dragon Stadium and ending the regular season at the new/old region foe Cartersville. This Dragon team seems poised and ready to make that leap into the playoffs and their journey to that goal will be tough, but look for this team to be a surprise no more.