By Tim Gayle
Special to the Elmore/Auauga News
Chad Michael may be in his second month as Edgewood Academy’s head football coach, but the former offensive coordinator at Macon East Academy has seen a lot from the Wildcats’ offense over the past two years.
“I’ve seen them run up and down the field against us the last couple of years,” he said. “We’ve seen that. Now, can we be a more physical team up front?”
The Wildcats have reached the Class AA semifinals in each of the last two seasons, finishing as runner-up in the region both years to eventual state champion Autauga Academy, then being eliminated in the semifinals by eventual runner-up Escambia Academy.
“Those two teams are the pinnacle of AA football in the AISA,” Michael said. “To be able to take that next step, you’ve got to raise your game up to where they’re at. Physically, scheme wise, we’ve got to be able to step our game up to compete with those guys.”
This is certainly the year for Michael’s team to make that move. There were talented seniors on the 2019 team, including linemen Cade Bazzell and Clay Williams and receivers Kam Burleson, Robert Stewart and Kaleb Varner. But 14 seniors dominate this year’s roster, including quarterback Alex Johnson.
“Offensively, we’ll look fairly similar (to last year’s team),” Michael said. “We’ll do a lot of the same things. We’ll tweak some things here and there that I think will make us look a little better, a little more explosive. We definitely want to get Alex a little more involved in the run game.”
Tailbacks Drez Crawford and Mitchell Boyd return as seniors and senior receivers Connor Bailey and Dawson Owens and Carson Peevy at tight end give Michael some weapons, but the idea of allowing Johnson to get on the edge with a zone-read offense is something Macon East turned into an offensive asset with Cephus Cleveland the last two years.
“I’ve always wanted to get more involved in the run game,” Johnson said. “I’ll face any obstacle that’s thrown at me. They’re like second nature.”
Seniors Caleb Justice, Joseph Benton and Drew Hanson return along the offensive and defensive front and juniors Jake Allison and Colton Jones complete the offensive line. Boyd, Peevy and Crawford give the Wildcats a talented and quick linebacker corps that Michael hopes to exploit.
“Defensively, we’ll look a lot different,” the Edgewood coach said. “Coverage wise, we’ll be different, we’ll be different up front with multiple fronts and bring guys from multiple spots on the field with the blitz package.
“We’ll be able to move guys around a lot. We’re really multiple so we won’t just be sitting in the same spot all the time.”
Edgewood moves out of Autauga’s region this year and into one that includes former A power Chambers and former AAA power Macon East along with Springwood School and newly created Banks Academy, so the Wildcats are certainly considered one of the region favorites heading into the season and one of the four teams in the five-team region to advance to the playoffs.
With Autauga and Escambia in adjoining Region 2, Edgewood is almost guaranteed a matchup with one of them in the semifinals. Win that game and you might well face the other one in the championship.
“Last year, I just think they were more physical than us,” Johnson said. “This year, we’ve just got to be more physical and do the little things right. The mental mistakes, we’ve got to fix those and we should be able to come out on top.”