Behind a strong running attack, the Lee-Scott Academy football team has turned its fortunes around this season after going winless in 2018.
The Warriors (4-2, 1-0) picked up their fourth win of the season last weekend with a 33-0 triumph over Northside Methodist.
The biggest difference between last year and this season is just that the team has gotten a lot stronger behind solid leadership, said first-year Lee-Scott coach Robert Johnson.
"Our kids have really bought in to what we’re doing and what we’re trying to accomplish," said Johnson, who added that it's huge that the players have tasted success again. "These kids, from day one, they’ve had really good enthusiasm and really trying to learn what we’ve been teaching them. I’ve been really pleased.
"It’s been about the same each and every day, which is good, the way it’s supposed to be. But winning obviously makes you a little more eager to come back to work."
The strong running game has paced the Warriors' offense over the first six games, where they have averaged 325 yards on the ground to just over 71 yards passing. Senior Thomas Whatley has been the workhorse of the Warriors' running back committee, rushing 91 times for 895 yards and seven scores while catching eight passes for 123 yards and two more touchdowns. Senior Mailon Reese has also gotten plenty of reps, with 479 yards on 65 carries for six scores so far.
"They’ve been really big, and Garrett Keller had a really big game running the ball the other day, too," said Johnson. "But our offensive line has really been kind of the backbone of our team. They’ve really opened up some holes and done some good things for our backs."
Keller finished the game against Northside with 50 rushing yards and 70 receiving yards and two scores last weekend against Northside.
With three region games coming up in as many weeks, the Warriors have already put themselves in a good position with their first region win against Morgan Academy earlier in September.
"Our next three games are all region games. Those are all top-10 teams, extremely, extremely strong teams," said Johnson. "We know we’ve got our hands full. To go ahead and have one region win in our pocket is gigantic for us."
The Warriors will host a familiar team for Johnson in region rival Tuscaloosa Academy on Friday. Johnson left the Knights to come to Lee-Scott after last season.
Johnson said it will be business as usual for the Warriors this week as they prepare to take on the Knights.
"We’ve got to just prepare our guys and make sure we know what we’re doing and execute. It’s the same type of film work and practice schedule. Nothing is really going to change on our end as far as that goes," he said. " TA’s got a really good team, very talented, very large team, a lot of speed, run and throw the ball well, and then their defense has just been lights out. They’ve played some really, really good defense."
The Warriors and Knights (5-3, 1-0) will square off at 7 p.m. Friday at Jud Scott Field.