East Jackson’s football season started with a three-game winning streak and ended on a seven-game skid, but first-year Eagle coach Cameron Pettus said his charges did plenty to generate momentum heading into Year 2.
East Jackson (3-7, 0-6), which concluded its season Friday (Nov. 8) with a 17-0 loss to Jackson County, won more games this season than the previous two years combined and put up 118 more points and allowed 156 fewer this season compared to last.
“Oh yeah, our kids, they got better each week, and we kept on fighting and competing and I’m very proud of these guys,” Pettus said.
The team’s younger players, particularly at some skill positions, gained valuable reps during the improvement process.
“I didn’t know until after the (Jackson County game) but someone said, ‘Hey coach, there were seven sophomores on defense,” Pettus said. “Our young guys did a really good job of getting better each and every week … The good thing is we’ve got some good, talented young guys coming up.”
Pettus said continued improvement in the weight room is the No. 1 priority in the offseason. The other is create more depth. Pettus pointed to depth as one of the factors in the Eagles’ loss to Jackson County.
To that end, the coach will continue to recruit the halls of the school to add more players after participation this season grew over last year.
Pettus said school spirit “is way up” and excitement has been generated around the football program, which the coach hopes will lead to greater roster numbers next year.
“You just have to make those relationships with those kids and just get them out there and get them competing,” he said.
As for the weight room, Pettus said players “now more than ever understand the importance of the weight room” after a season under him.
“I can give them specific examples in real time of, ‘Hey, if we’re stronger here, we make that play,’” he said.
The Eagles’ improvement in 2019 didn't go unnoticed. Pettus said he received calls of support from other region coaches a couple days after the season ended. They told him the difference between last year’s team and this year was marked.
“They said … ‘You’re making great improvement with these guys, and obviously you’re going to continue doing what you’re doing. Just know that you’re closing the gap,’” Pettus said.
And the coach said the team must continue to close the gap with the level of play in 8-AAA.
“We’ve got an awesome region to compete in,” Pettus said. “We know to compete in the region, we just have to really step up our game.”