By WILL HIGHTOWER
The 2011 high school football season is upon us. After a deep playoff run last year, the Mountain Brook Varsity Football Team is preparing to build on their success. The Spartans have to rebuild on defense but have nine returning starters on the other side of the ball.
“It’s hard to make it to where we got last year,” said Head Coach Chris Yeager, who has been with the program for 13 years. “This year’s team doesn’t need to be satisfied with that. They need to want to get to another level. Human nature is to gravitate to mediocrity, so these guys need to avoid that.”
An offense that averaged 28 points a game in 2010 will return almost everyone, including senior quarterback Edward Aldag, but will miss last year’s biggest playmaker, wide receiver John McCrary, who accounted for 61 catches for 1,337 yards and 16 touchdowns. Yeager said junior Patrick Sullivan and senior Coates Doss, along with a host of other wide receivers, are trying to fill the void.
“Coates had a really good summer,” Yaeger said. “But at Mountain Brook, we have what I call a proverbial fence. A lot of guys are on it every year, and we get some surprises and some disappointments. John was one of those guys last year that came out of nowhere. So any of the wide receivers could step up.”
If Aldag can be the same facilitator he was last year, the Spartans will have a good shot at repeating their semifinal spot in the playoffs. “He will have a bull’s eye on his chest,” Yeager said about Aldag. “Teams will be targeting him. So for him, the question is: how do you handle pressure? How does he improve on last year?”
Yeager did place an emphasis on running the ball first to set up the pass, a task that will fall on experienced running back Mark Rector.
“Every good year at Mountain Brook we seem to have been a running team that uses play-action passes with a good short game,” he said. “The formula here at Mountain Brook is like the NFL in that it is a run-first offense to set up the pass.”
Defensively, Mountain Brook needs to rebuild. A strong senior class that willed the Spartans to defensive victories is now gone. The 7-0 win over Vestavia in the playoffs was the defining moment for last year’s Spartan defense. The defense was “angry, discontent, had something to prove,” according to Yeager, and led the team to more than a few of their 11 victories.
Even with good memories of last season and most of the offense returning, though, critics will point out that Mountain Brook hasn’t beaten Hoover in a long, long time. The Bucs loom on the horizon with their October 21 date in Spartan Stadium.
“If you are focused on Hoover, you don’t beat Hoover,” Yeager said. “If you are focused on being the best you can be and reaching your potential, you might beat them. I hope this team can build on last year and hopefully do even better than reaching the semifinals.”