It was no surprise that C.A. Johnson struggled in terms of wins and losses a year ago.
The Green Hornets, as usual, were hampered by low numbers and a roster dominated by youth. There were six seniors, and all had to play both ways.
“We were competitive in most of our games, but we tended to wear down in the second half because we had to rely so much on a handful of guys who were physically mature enough to play consistently at the varsity level,” said coach Jerry Jackson, who team qualified for the state playoffs but won two of 11 games.
Things could be much different for CAJ this season.
Overall, the Green Hornets are more experienced and physically stronger across the board. Jackson might even have the luxury of a little more depth along the offensive and defensive lines.
“The goal this year is to control the clock with our running game, which will help us stay fresher on defense,” Jackson said.
The big news out of camp is senior Mike Knox could play more at wide receiver than at quarterback, his position the past two seasons.
“Mike was all-state as an athlete and colleges see him as a wide receiver-defensive back guy,” Jackson said. “So, we’re going to play him out there to showcase his talent as much as we can. But if we really need him at quarterback, that’s where he’ll play.”
Knox ran for 884 yards and 10 touchdowns and threw for 1,976 yards and 15 scores last season. He had 68 tackles on defense at strong safety.
Jackson considers Knox and fellow senior Peter Goodman to be Shrine Bowl or North-South all-star candidates.
Goodman had 33 catches for 707 yards and five scores on offense last season, and 42 tackles on defense at cornerback and safety.
But the key to the season is the play of the offensive line anchored by junior center Caesar Nieto (5-foot-11, 220 pounds).
Kendal Benjamin (6-2, 230), Eric Washington (5-10, 190), Kahlid Heatley (6-3, 230), Julius Grooms (6-1, 185), Wendell Bing (6-2, 235) and Andrew Brown return after gaining experience up front on both sides of the ball last season.
Newcomer Hezekiah McCoy, sophomore Willie Wise and junior Mike Davis are the running back candidates. Senior Reginald Carter, an undersized four-year varsity player, gets his first shot at significant playing time at slot receiver. Washington moves from the line to inside linebacker.