A senior-laden Peabody-Burns football team has its sights set on making the playoffs this season.
“(The playoffs) was something we shot for last year, but we knew, with what we had, it would be a tough row to hoe,” coach David Pickens said. “But this year our guys are fired up and ready to go.”
Leading the charge will be a trio of talented seniors: Hunter Pickens, Austin Savage and Lucas Larsen.
“They’ll be huge,” coach Pickens said. “They’re the leaders on the team. They’re the captains. They’ve been working their tail ends off and they’ve been pushing the rest of the guys to work very hard, too.”
Leading the way is Pickens’ son, Hunter, who starts as quarterback and middle linebacker.
“Hunter’s got excellent speed, so offensively he’s a handful,” coach Pickens said. “Hunter, with his speed at middle linebacker, should be able to play the sidelines.”
Larsen plays offensive lineman and defensive end for the Warriors, and Savage will come in as running back and defensive end.
Savage is a tough runner and Larsen is “a big kid with good feet,” according to the Warrior coach. Both are solid athletes who should do a good job forcing the edge for PBHS.
“They’re all big, physical kids who have put in their time in the weight room,” Pickens said. “They’ve been dedicated in the off-season and to themselves, really. They just try to work harder than anybody else and it shows on the field. They’re just exceptional athletes.”
Pickens said seniors Christian Guard and Tommy Morris, though they didn’t play much last year, are expected to be a big help this season. They will play both ways as defensive backs and offensive receivers.
Another upperclassmen to watch will be junior Xavier Jabari.
“He’s been just really showing us a lot these first couple weeks,” Pickens said. “He played for us last year, defensively and offensively, but this year he’s going to end up in a starting role where he can really get after it and show what he’s got.”
Also pitching in will be sophomore Braxton Hodges, who is a backup quarterback and running back and starts at slot and safety.
Pickens said the team’s current read/shotgun style of offense was developed to capitalize on their play-makers, but it’s been a bit of a learning curve for his players.
“It took several games (last year) for us to start learning really how that works in a game, and what adjustments you have to make,” he said.
“They’ve had several games of doing it and they’re looking tremendously better so far.”
The Warriors hope the new game plan will give them an edge in a tough district battle.
The team faces a strong White City squad on the road to start the season, though Pickens said he’s unfamiliar with many of the district opponents this season.
“I do know about the defending state champion, Madison, that we’ll play the eighth game this season,” he said. “They’re just always good, so you have to go out there and play a heck of a game to even think about beating them.”
But all the goals the Warriors have been talking about, Pickens said, come down to working hard and getting everyone on the same page.
“We have several people in new positions this year, so the sooner we do that the better,” he said. “We’re getting there, but we’re not there yet.”
Peabody-Burns is scheduled to play Friday at White City, a 6-3 team in 2011, to begin the season.