CHARLOTTE, N.C. – For most programs, a 2-9 season is one to forget. But at East Mecklenburg, head coach Jeremy Buck is taking a different approach.
“Quite frankly, we don’t want to forget it. I put some stuff in the weight room about how badly some teams beat us last year,” Buck said. “We hurt ourselves as much as other teams hurt us. So I don’t want to forget about the year because that’d be unfair to our seniors and young guys who got a lot of reps.”
The Eagles are in the midst of a transition. The program lost some players through realignment last year, and a few players from the program have decided not to return this fall. Still, Buck thinks his squad will compete in the SW 4A Conference.
“We have some guys coming back, but not as many as we had hoped,” Buck admitted. “We will be young on the offensive line.”
Young, but very big.
Junior right tackle Kris Brown (6-2, 310) and sophomore Delano Cunningham (6-2, 300) both started the majority of games up front last year and will headline an offensive line that does not include one senior.
They will try to pave the wave for tailback Lawrence Pittman (5-10, 180), who did not play last year because of off-the-field issues.
“He worked extremely hard in the classroom last semester. He worked really hard in the weight room as well,” Buck said. “He’s the leader in the clubhouse in terms of our running back.”
The Eagles have talent in the receiving corps as well with Sam Shisso (6-4, 200) who committed to Miami (Ohio) last week. According to Buck, Shisso carries a 4.875 grade point average, which is higher than his 40-yard dash time.
On the defensive side of the ball, captain and three-year starting middle linebacker Jacques Ikolo (5-11, 190) adds experience. Fellow senior and three-year starter Antonio Crosby (5-10, 170) is back as well.
“Those will be the only two seniors that are returning that played last year on the defensive side of the ball," Buck said.
Junior Ahmek Henry, who Buck called “tough as nails,” fills out the other linebacker spot after playing every game as a sophomore despite a shoulder injury that required surgery at the end of the season.
Justin Adams and Rickie Tharr headline the starters at defensive back, and Drevon Warrior, who did not play last year, will be expected to fill a role on the defensive line. Warrior can squat up to 575 pounds.
"We feel we are in a better position depth wise certainly than were we were at start of the season last year,” Buck said.
The Eagles play six of their 11 games on the road, but will face Independence, Butler, and Providence all at home.
“I was reading some stuff and my coaches were telling me our conference may be down,” Buck said. “[But] you kind of have to come through Charlotte to get to the state championship game. We feel we have a pretty good brand of football here. It’s definitely a challenge week in and week out for us.”
Buck would love to get the Eagles back to a winning record but knows the schedule and the tough conference don’t allow for any rest.
“It makes you coach your tail off week in and week out,” he said.
8/18 @ Marvin Ridge
9/2 North Mecklenburg
9/9 @ West Mecklenburg
9/23 @Myers Park
10/6 @ Rocky River
10/14 @ Ardrey Kell
10/28 @ South Mecklenburg