By: Chris Cunningham
PCA Athletic Director and Head Coach

Prestonwood Christian Academy Lions Varsity Football Team Looking Forward to New Season 

The 2013 football season is finally here and should be an exciting one for the Prestonwood Christian Academy Lions! With 16 seniors leading the charge, this will be a year with a good mix of old and new faces. Being a young team last season, the Lions have six starters returning on each side of the ball and several more coming back that saw significant playing time last year. With a tough pre-district schedule ahead, including the #2 State-ranked and 2012 3A State Finalist Gilmer High School, the Lions should be prepared as they begin their district play against Liberty Argyle.

“Even though we are still a very young team, many of the underclassmen have already been through the fire in the 2012 season. With a tremendous off-season and summer training session behind us and some new additions, this should be fun season! Our offense has a chance to be very explosive and there should be some big plays made when our defense is on the field,” said Coach Cunningham.

PCA Head Football Coach Chris Cunningham is excited about the senior leadership he has going into this season. On the offensive side of the ball, the offensive line has developed into a formidable unit. Anchored by returning starters Senior Patrick Murray, Senior Kaleb Earls, and Sophomore Jarred Bird, and strengthened with the addition of Senior Michael Sherwood, Junior Grant Ludgar, and Junior Chandler Albracht, this group will open holes for Sophomore Running Backs Ryan Bradberry and Collin Whitaker. They will also provide time for a passing attack that will have an assortment of different weapons. The Lions have 2 quarterbacks in Juniors Twayne Blackwell, Connor Smith, and returning letterman Ryan Cash, who is only a sophomore. All three have looked strong through the fall training and will have tremendous targets to go to with returning starter and leading receiver from last season Sophomore Jonathan Heasley. The defense won’t be able to load up on Heasley however because of the threat of the other Lion receivers, Sophomore Michael Irvin, Senior returning starter JR Reed, and the addition of Junior Hayden Clark, who was the leading receiver for the PCA junior varsity team last season.

The defensive unit will be led this year by veteran defensive back and 2-way starter, Senior JR Reed. Reed will be a force both at safety and cornerback as the season brings different offenses the Lion defense has to shut down. He’ll be joined in the secondary by Austin (Tank) Tankersley, who has the speed and the size to be an ominous presence for receivers trying to cross the middle of the field. These two returning starters will be joined on the back end by Sophomore Collin Whitaker and Senior Will Harker at cornerback, and Senior Gabe Lozano along with Senior Trey Warren at safety. The Lions lost 2 Division 1 inside linebackers from last season with Alumni Mike Mitchell (PCA ’13) going to Ohio State, and Corey Meador (PCA, ‘13) going to Texas A&M. Filling those shoes this season will be Seniors Jordan Lord and Drew Wicker, along with Sophomore Gerrit Choate. These line backers all have good strength, a nose for the ball, and excellent speed to handle not only the inside, but help outside the tackles as well.

The outside edge of the defense will be in good hands with returning Sophomore Deonte Williams on one side, and Seniors Michael Roach and Alex Freeman, along with Junior Eric Stevenson on the other. After just his freshman year, Williams has already received a verbal scholarship offer from the University of Cincinnati. Providing a strong push up front on the defensive line will be some new faces as well. Seniors Brennan Dawkins and Jackson Flowers will be joined by Junior Christian Vendal and Sophomore Will Jones, to line up and do battle with some of the best offensive lines in the state. Joining these men on the front lines will be the Lion’s other two way starter, Murray, who will secure the middle at the nose guard position. With strength and quickness built through the summer and off-season, this unit is going to surprise a lot of teams!

Just like last season, Special Forces are expected to bring the unexpected to each and every game! While the Lions would like every one of their drives to end with a score, when they have to punt, Heasley will give his team a chance to win the field position game with a strong leg and some booming punts. Gabe Lozano is returning to kick along with Sophomore Luke Wendl. Both of these young men will be kicking off and have the legs to give the Lions scoring potential anytime they cross the opponents 40 yard line. Returning to long snap this season will be Murray, who will also be starting on both sides of the ball for PCA.

We pray for the continued success of several of last season’s seniors who will continue to play on the next level such as Alumni Mitchell at Ohio State, Zach Missimo ( PCA, ’13) at The Air Force Academy, Christian Morgan (PCA, ’13) at The University of Mississippi, Meador at Texas A&M, and JP Coward (PCA, ’13) at Oklahoma Baptist University.

With the theme of “Lay it Down, Pour it Out, Bring it on” going into this season, the success of this Lion football team will hinge more on the team’s attitude than its talent. Based on the scripture of John 15:13, this team’s strength will come from each player laying down his own concerns and pouring out his effort for his team mates on a daily basis. If they can approach each day like this, then they will be ready for anything that comes their way. Cunningham is sure that this new class of seniors is ready to lead this team into a season where the Lions will be the “underdogs” in their district and in several of their pre-district games. “We’re not really caught up in what people outside our program predict,” said Cunningham. “Our focus is on working and playing in a way that honors Christ and serves our brothers. We feel like each day is an opportunity to become closer to what God wants this team to be and closer to the destiny he has for us.”

The Lions first home game is Friday, August 30. Game starts at 7:30 p.m. at Lions Stadium.