By TIM GAYLE
Special to the Elmore/Autauga News
Changing the culture of Prattville Christian Academy’s Football program can’t be accomplished overnight.
That’s what Jeremy Carter already knew, but in his rise from Prattville Christian Academy assistant coach to head football coach in 2019, Carter knew the hardest coaching job of his career was ahead of him.
He’s coached rebuilding efforts at Billingsley and assisted on championship-caliber teams at Bessemer Academy. PCA has a program that has never had a winning season as an Alabama High School Athletic Association member. There have been seven coaches in the past 15 years. This presents a daunting obstacle of both players who are in school and never participate in football and those outside the program who want to play football and would never consider the school.
As a result, his first year resulted in a 0-10 season in which seven of the 10 opponents scored 47 or more points.
“We’re better off this year already,” Carter said. “My young guys have gotten a year of experience, with all the ninth graders who played last year, and a couple of guys that were walking the halls are out (for football). Technically, we’re a little better. Our kids know the system, which helps us out with them understanding and having a little confidence in themselves.”
The Panthers struggled offensively last year as several of their key contributors were first-year players. Having senior Jake Davis returning in the backfield along with sophomore Kenny Gunn and receivers Stillman Davis, Matthew Lisle and Trey Barkley should take a little pressure off of a talented group of underclassmen that include freshman quarterback Tanner Byrd.
“I feel like the offense has gotten a lot better,” Gunn said. “We have a new line coach (Michael Graffman) and he works with the line a lot and I feel like our blocking game wasn’t that good last year but has gotten a lot better.”
Several of those younger players will find roles on the offensive line along with senior Grant Scott and juniors Taylor Lowe and Hunter Coleman and junior Brooks Bias figures to have an expanded role this season at tight end and along the defensive front.
PCA came close to ending the season on a winning note before falling at Horseshoe Bend 22-20 and nothing builds confidence more than winning games. But Carter is quick to note that two of the Panthers’ first three games are road games – 1A Billingsley as the season opener and the region opener at Thomasville – and will take a season-long approach over an early-season boost of confidence any day.
“It’s a little too early to put too much emphasis on the early games,” he said. “That’s where you can find out where your flaws are and try to change it before region play.”
The goal is to be one of the top four teams in 3A Region 3 that qualifies for the playoffs and three of those competitors for fourth place in the standings will be played in the month of October – Southside, Monroe County and Greensboro. Carter said this will give the Panthers a little time to grow up and hopefully build some confidence.
“Of course, we want to get in the playoffs,” Gunn said. “But we just want to become a better program so more people will come to PCA and we’ll get the word out there about Prattville Christian.”