Ardrey Kell High’s football team had high hopes going into the 2012 season: The Knights had won eight games in each of coach Adam Hastings’ first two seasons.
But after a 4-0 start, Ardrey Kell lost its final six games, hurt by injuries and a tough schedule. In those games, the Knights were outscored 201-78.
“You can’t ignore it,” Hastings said. “Obviously it hurts. You have two really good years, and last year was a drop-off from where we were.
“For us at the end of the year, we took every part of our program apart and said, ‘What are the things we can improve on that we can control?’”
Hastings and his coaches made an effort to improve upon those “controllables” in summer. He stressed improving competition, which leads to players bringing out the best in themselves rather than just beating the other team.
“When we play seven-on-seven tournaments we play to win, but we’re not playing teams,” Hastings said. “For us, it’s playing our potential.”
Ardrey Kell will move from the Southwestern 4A conference to the So. Meck 8 4A this season. The Knights’ 2013 schedule includes five teams they played last season: Weddington, Myers Park, Marvin Ridge, Providence and South Mecklenburg. Ardrey Kell was 3-2 against those teams last year.
The conference change also means a move away from Independence and Butler, two teams that have combined to win 10 state titles in the past 13 years.
The Knights return seven starters on offense, including quarterback Nathan Turnbow, running back Eddie Petzke – who took over for injured senior Quay Gilmore – and wide receiver Trey Ellis, who led the team in receptions.
The defense, however, returns only two starters: defensive back Allen Hayes and defensive end Thomas Wilkinson.
Despite the lack of experience, Hastings said he is excited about inside linebackers Ross Walker and Tyler Bizjack and a deep secondary.
“I’ve been really impressed with our defensive backfield (this summer),” said Hastings. “We have a lot of kids back there who are competing. We’re deeper than we’ve ever been at that position, and we have a lot of youth.
“We’re really excited about seeing those guys play and develop.”
Last year was a tale of two teams: one that scored 32 points per game and went 4-0, and the other that was outscored by nearly three touchdowns per game and went 0-6.
The true Ardrey Kell team is likely somewhere in between, Hastings said.
“This is a different crowd,” said Hastings. “They have to write their own season; they have to play their own year. You want to talk about (last season), but just like if you had a really good year, you don’t want to talk about it too much because that’s the past.”
This story originally appeared in the South Charlotte News/ www.newsofsouthcharlotte.com.
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