Coming off a winless campaign in 2017, restoring optimism was priority number one for Community Christian head football coach Mat McIntosh.
“After the year we had last year, our big goal for the spring and going through the summer was to just make sure our guys were excited again about football,” McIntosh said. “Be sure morale was good, be sure our guys really had a belief that we could really turn the corner this year and make a big jump.”
The Royals enter year three in Class 2A with their eyes set on contending for a playoff berth. CCS is once again in a challenging district with two-time defending 2A state champion Millwood and perennial power Washington.
“We know we’ve got our work cut out for us, but we do feel like with what we’ve got we should battle for playoff positioning,” McIntosh said. “We really feel like, after those first two (Millwood and Washington), it really does open up for two other teams to step up and an opportunity may be there for us.”
Sheer numbers in terms of kids that came out to play football was a challenge for McIntosh and his staff a season ago. They put an emphasis on getting new faces involved and returning some that had played on the gridiron in years past.
“We lined up our last game of the year with 18 guys, just because our numbers were low and had injuries,” McIntosh said. “This year, throughout all the offseason and spring, our numbers have rebounded really well. We recruited our hallways really good. I have about 10 upperclassmen that didn’t play last year that are coming back out to play this year. We’re very excited about this coming year.”
The Royals will once again operate out of a spread offense.
“One of the things that people notice, we are fundamentally committed to playing a more up-tempo type of spread. We’ll go fast,” McIntosh said. “One of the things with spread football, if you don’t pick up yardage, don’t get first downs or a touchdown, you’re not going to give your defense much rest. But, at the 2A level and with our kids, a lot of our guys play both ways anyway. So, we’ve just committed to the fact that we’re going to be on the field anyway. So, let’s try to use tempo to the best advantage that we can.”
While it’s a familiar scheme, an unfamiliar face will be at the quarterback position.
The likely triggerman for the Royals will be taking his first starting snaps behind center, if all goes according to plan. Coach McIntosh said they elected to move senior A.J. Ward (5’11, 180) into the starting quarterback role.
“It looks like right now A.J. Ward will be our quarterback,” McIntosh said. “It was a learning experience for him, but he did a good job. We’ve had a great spring and summer and feel like he’s got a pretty good grasp of the position.”
Sophomore Tyler Root (5’11, 145) will also see some time at quarterback, providing the Royals some flexibility offensively.
“He’s got a ton of potential and very big upside,” McIntosh said. “A.J. is such a good athlete, it will let us use him at some other places from time to time.”
One of the players McIntosh recruited back to football is primed for a big season in the backfield as well. Senior Jackson Montgomery (6’1, 190) played as a freshman and sophomore before sitting out last season. Montgomery will be the starting running back.
“To be honest with you, short of injury, I’d be surprised if he’s not an over 1,000-yard guy,” McIntosh said. “He’s a good, big athlete that has speed. We expect him to be a real weapon for us.”
The Royals’ 2017 all-purpose yardage leader returns in senior slot receiver Evan Young. Fellow senior wide out Matthew Gray is back as well.
“We think probably the deepest position on our team will be our skill guys outside and in our slots,” McIntosh said. “We’ll go easily two, three deep at each of those positions.”
Along the offensive line, CCS brings back two three-year starters in senior center Tanner Campbell (6’2, 170) and senior guard Chris Ledford (6’1, 250).
Defensively, the Royals will once again operate out of a 3-3-5 stack defense. Up front, Campbell and Ledford will pull double duty as members of CCS’ defensive line. One of the newcomers that McIntosh is excited about on the defensive line is sophomore defensive end Harry Shuman (6’2, 240).
“We think he’ll help us on both sides of the ball, but we really expect some big things from him on the defensive line,” McIntosh said.
Another athlete that has played in the past but did not last year is senior Tyler Ratliff (6’6, 190). He will figure in as well on the defensive interior.
“When we came out of our team camp, he was one of the biggest surprises for us. If he wins a start for us or not, he’ll spend time on the defensive front,” McIntosh said.
Another returnee is one of the headliners in the linebacker corps. Senior Case Harding (5’10, 154) had focused strictly on baseball in the past, but he’s back and has earned the nod at middle linebacker.
“He decided he needed to come back out, and he’s really taken the reins in spring and summer at middle linebacker,” McIntosh said.
At the other linebacker positions, a pair of sophomores that saw significant snaps as freshmen, Reed Holland(5’9, 195) and Alex Hoselton (5’8, 177).
“They’ve just come back bigger, stronger and smarter, so we look for some big things from them at linebacker,” McIntosh said. “We should be much better with a year of development and much better with some guys coming back out for football.”– BSM