Taking the next step
Brewer hopes to compete with every team this season
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
Now that the Patriots' 21-game losing streak is long behind them, the team is anxious to get back to competing in the difficult Region 8.
"Those last two wins that we had provided an impetus to go into the off season program," Brewer head coach Billy Coleman said. "I know for sure that we're going to be stronger; how that translates on to the field, I'm not sure, but our goal is to take the next step. The next step is to compete with every team we play, and that's going to be a very strong challenge."
When the clock expired following the Patriots' 21-12 win over Curry on Oct. 29, 2004, expiring with it were two seasons of winless Brewer football.
A second straight win, 42-41 over Fairview to end the 2004 regular season, only added to the rebirth of excitement on the Brewer campus.
"We've had a few more kids come out this year," Coleman said. "I think those wins generated a little bit of confidence in our players last year and a lot of enthusiasm. The team has really had a good attitude the whole time I've been here and I really appreciate their effort.
"We'll definitely have more numbers than we did last year."
The team will have to replace several key members of 2004's senior class, including starting quarterback Travis Boyd and running back/defensive back Markus Greenleaf. Although last year's class had only seven members, Coleman said that the class's leadership and talent will be missed.
"We didn't have a lot of numbers in our senior class, but they'll be missed because they provided big leadership," Coleman said. "Our quarterback Boyd will be one of the players we'll have to replace, but (this year's starter Lucas Wilson) played a good bit the last part of the season. Markus was a cornerback and wide receiver who was very fast; it will be tough to replace that kind of speed."
Other key players who were lost to graduation are linebackers Derrick Black and Kellen Brown and offensive lineman Matt Anderson. Even with these losses, Coleman is excited about this year's senior class and its ability to lead the Patriots.
"John Shivers comes to mind as a kid who's been a player for several years and brings a lot of experience and hard work," he said. "Joseph Burton our running back has worked really hard in the offseason and should provide us some leadership. Eric Hughes is a linebacker who was hurt last year and should provide some leadership as well.
"We've also got a large group of juniors who played a lot last year as sophomores, so we're expecting big things from them this season."
Wilson, who was Boyd's backup in 2004, will take over the team's quarterback duties, with Hughes expected to back up. Burton and junior Travis Campbell will see action at running back.
"Someone who got hurt last year and didn't get to play is Travis Campbell," Coleman said. "People will be surprised to see what he can do on the field."
Thompson and Logan Black will see time at fullback, while the team's wide receivers are expected to include senior Chase Moore and junior Rodney Childs.
"I think that Moore has improved a lot this offseason," Coleman said. "Childs is a new kid who's come out for the team for the first time and he has a chance to contribute right away."
Chris Humphries, who had 290 yards receiving last season and is Brewer's leading receiver coming into 2005, will start at tight end with Zach Graham also expected to be in the mix.
Shivers, Miles Cloer, Alex Marlow, Greg Pinkerton and Quest Momeni will probably be the Patriots' offensive linemen. Shivers will also be on the defensive line, anchoring a group that will include Graham, Ben Estes, Tyler Bentley and Brian Stevens.
Humphries is also the Patriots' leading tackler coming into this season, and will see action at linebacker along with Hughes, Aaron Eakin and Matt Loosier.
Eric Parker, Cody Maples and Miles Loosier are possibilities in the defensive backfield and Wesley Brasher is the team's tentative kicker.
The Patriots have plenty of experience this season at all positions, but Brewer has the misfortune of playing in one of the state's most competitive regions.
The Patriots open with Madison County, but then have consecutive games against Russellville and Athens. Walker, Cullman and Hartselle also loom large on the 2005 docket.
"Brewer's schedule is brutal," Coleman said. "I'm not sure there's a better region in the state, in any classification. When you talk about Russellville and Athens – both those teams made it to the semifinals in Alabama last year and those are our second and third ball games. Hartselle is always very good, Cullman has had several years of success and you've got Walker out of Jasper…it's tough.
"And in our non-region, West Point has had some good success so we know they'll be pretty tough as well."
But don't get the idea that Coleman is complaining about Brewer's schedule.
He knows that the only way for the Patriots to get to the competitive level they desire is to play the best of the best.
"You can't spend too much time lamenting over your schedule," he said. "Your schedule is what it is, so the best way to approach it is to just get ready to play those teams. No amount of complaining or griping is going to change a thing. That's the hand we've been dealt and we're just going to have to compete – we're not going to make any excuses."