The atmosphere surrounding U-High football will certainly be much different this fall, after coming off a 10-2 season. That marks the fifth straight season of 10 or more wins.
The Cubs have lost 5-star prospect Dylan Moses, who has been making national headlines since he was in the 8th grad. Moses left to spend his senior year at IMG Academy in Florida. He recently announced he will make his college decision in December and until then, every school has a chance to land him.
Moses' transfer to the IMG Academy along with attrition due to players graduating leaves openings for guys who haven't had a lot of playing time to step up in a leadership role. Many of which will have to play on both offense and defense in order for the Cubs to have a successful season.
"And really what's kind of unique about the four kids that we have here today is all of them are guys that we may have to rely on on both sides and they've got some experience of doing that," Mahaffey said. "But as a senior, you know maybe a year where they got to do more of that, with these guys in particular."
U-High was looking pretty impressive during their spring game against the McKinley Panthers.
Sophomore running back Mike Hollins and sophomore wide receiver Christian Harris both put on a show, making their share of electric plays offensively.
Head coach Chad Mahaffey said the Cubs will have many new faces on defense and at some of the other skilled position spots. But Mahaffey is excited about a veteran offensive line that should open big holes for Hollins and enable the Cubs to find Harris down the field.
"Leadership is the No. 1 priority. If us seniors can step up, then everyone else, comes forward as well, our team can be the best possible," said senior wide receiver and defensive back Marshall Vick.
"I think we don't have as many notable guys as we did in the past," said senior wide receiver and defensive back Chase Brown, "A lot of guys left, so we have to put our head down and work. I think we'll improve if we go to work every day, every week."
Who exactly will start at quarterback is undecided at this point as DJ White's 1-year stint behind center is now done.
"Yeah we've got BJ and another kid, John Gordon Mckernan that's a sophomore" Mahaffey said. "Those two kids are getting the reps right now. BJ was a backup last year. He started at cornerback. Very versatile, did a lot of good things for us. Confident he can get in there and do a good job, running the offense. Both guys are competing and I think both can do a great job for us.
"I think the spring game really went well. The offense moved fluently," said senior quarterback BJ Smothers. "This summer, I'll be working more on passing game stuff. Because I know I can run a little bit. I'm just trying to make sure we have two ways to move the ball. Some opposing coaches can't gang up and stop us from running the ball."
In an attempt at back-to-back state titles, the Cubs, who were the No. 1 seed last season, were bounced out of the 3A select playoff in a semifinal loss to the eventual state champion Parkview Baptist at Jeff Boss Field.
"Obviously last year wasn't good enough," said senior wide receiver and defensive back Adam Lewis. "We're putting our heads back down and we're going to work. A lot of focus goes into the weight room. The intensity level has certainly risen this year. The coaches are really on us."
Mahaffey will be entering his fifth season at the helm and recognizes that youth and inexperience will be obstacles that they will have to overcome.
"The biggest thing that I really feel we need to do as a team is really work on being a great team," Mahaffey said.
"I really feel like we need that this year because we don't really have the flashy players like we always have," Smothers said. "So leadership getting the younger guys ready because a lot of young guys will be playing with us this year."
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