You’d never know Jellico Elementary’s football team went winless last season by talking to Marshall Lay.
When the question arose last week as to which team was best in the Area 2 small-school division, the undersized back with a lion-sized heart was quick to chime in, “We are. There’s no thinking about it.”
Lay’s confidence mirrors that of his teammates, who are coming off a disappointing 0-8 season.
Actually, the Blue Devils haven’t won a game in five years, but their second-year coach Les Stiers says the time of victory may be at hand.
Jellico has competed well in pre-season scrimmages, including a 24-0 shutout of Oakdale. The Blue Devils hope to break out of their slump tonight (Thurs.) when they host division rival Burchfield for their season opener.
The long losing streak has been difficult for Jellico players to deal with, especially when they somehow managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory like they did a year ago during a 6-0 loss to archrival Williamsburg, Ky. on the final play of the last game of the season.
“I actually cried after that game,” said Austin Hunley, who has since switched positions from receiver to quarterback.
This year, Hunley and mates have lofty goals in mind.
“We want to win as many games as possible. We hope to win them all,” said the quarterback who hopes to lead the Blue Devils out of despair to prosperity.
A wealth of experience should help. Of the 45 players listed on Jellico’s roster, 16 are eighth graders.
“This is their second year in the system,” said Stiers.
“They know what’s expected of them. I’ve challenged the eighth graders, and there’s pressure on me to perform every time we take the field.”
With Hunley behind center, the Blue Devils expect to open up their offense more to take advantage of his passing ability.
“It puts tremendous pressure on defenses to adjust,” said Stiers, who has so much confidence in his signal caller that he gave Hunley the green light to call an audible at the line of scrimmage.
“He’s got a pretty good arm and a knowledge of the game,” said the coach.
“He’s a good leader, and we’re going to lean on him pretty hard.”
Drew Bruce, Travis Bowlin and Dylan Marlow will be Hunley’s primary targets. Fullback Bradley Nunn and running back Josh Lay will spearhead the Blue Devils’ ground game.
The other side of the ball appears to be solid, as well.
“Our defense is our strong suit right now. We’re very quick,” said Stiers.
“We should be better this year. We’re bigger, faster, stronger and quicker than we were last year.”
Without much thought to 2008, the Blue Devils are looking ahead to avenge past defeats.
“(The loss to Williamsburg) kind of hurt a little bit,” said Josh Lay.
“I’m ready for them this year. I don’t look at the past.”