After winning league and district titles and finishing last year’s regular season with an undefeated record, the largest obstacle the Warriors face is the precedent of their own excellence.
“The guys are confident. They believe they can win, that’s not the problem,” said 11-year head coach David Pickens. “The biggest problem we’re going to have this year is lack of varsity in-game experience.”
Peabody-Burns lost the majority of last season’s starters to graduation, but Pickens noted returning seniors Clayton Philpott, Brandon Entz, Dakota Reynolds, as well as sophomore Austin Reynolds, Dakota’s younger brother, as team leaders.
“Clayton is just a pure athlete,” he said. “He’s got outstanding speed and a great center of gravity which makes him a highly effective running back.”
Setting the team record for sacks “somewhere around 19” his sophomore year, Philpott also makes for an effective defensive end, Pickens said. However, he is considering moving Philpott to linebacker because “he makes things happen.”
Entz will return at offensive center and defensive line.
“Brandon is a vocal leader,” Pickens said. “He’s not the fastest kid out there but he’s like having another coach on the field. He keeps everybody in line and makes an all-out effort all the time.”
Dakota will have a couple adjustments this year. Pickens indicated that he would likely switch him between wide receiver and tight end on offense.
“Dakota made himself a better player in the off-season,” Pickens said. “He’s faster. He’s really improved his foot speed and his flat out speed.”
Dakota will likely be catching passes from his brother Austin this season at more than just family picnics.
Austin is favored to replace former quarterback Braxton Kyle. What Austin lacks in varsity experience, Pickens said, he makes up for in size, tenacity, and work ethic.
“Austin is a fierce competitor,” he said. “He does everything 100-percent. He never gives up.”
So far, Pickens thinks the team is shaping up well. As long as his players stay in the right mindset, keep training hard and continue picking up the plays, he thinks the Warriors have a chance to contend with anyone.
He said, however, that Austin and other young players would have some in-game learning to do under the Friday night lights when they meet “hard and physical teams” like Burlingame, Madison, and Lebo.
“Our team is a pretty tight bunch and they’re starting to come together.” Pickens said, “Everybody supports each other tremendously, but what many of our younger players are going to find out is that there is a whole world of difference between practice speed and game speed.”