The Christian Collegiate Academy Bulldogs are looking to challenge for a state championship again in MAIS Eight-Man football.
Two years ago, the Bulldogs made the state title game for the first time in school history. And Coach Joe Roberts would like to challenge again after a 6-5 season in 2016, when injuries hampered the Bulldogs’ effort.
“The sky’s the limit,” Roberts said. “The last two years we’ve had to replace a lot of good seniors who built the foundation for us.”
CCA will be competing in a revamped MAIS E2 Class 1 that consists of Prentiss, Rebul and Louisiana schools Tensas, Riverdale, Franklin, Tallulah and Briarfield.
Cody Hilton, a junior, will be starting quarterback and he also plays linebacker. He got some valuable experience last season as he stepped in when quarterback T.J. Clolinger was hurt for six games.
“We will be more of a running team,” Hilton said. “But we will still be able to pass. I like to run more but I can throw the ball.”
Junior Micah Spinks makes the move from center to fullback for this season.
“Micah is a real solid kid,” Roberts said. “He led us with 111 tackles. He is willing to stick his nose in there and is not afraid to tackle people.”
“I think we have prepared well this summer, this group of guys have clicked together,” Spinks added. “I played center last year. Coming from the offensive line, I know where the holes will be. There is a big upside to what I’m doing.”
Junior Jailon Phillips, who plays cornerback, wide receiver and running back, is ready to make a run.
“I think we will have a great season, and hopefully get to the state championship,” he said. “There is a lot of pressure (at cornerback). Just don’t get beat deep.”
Other key returnees for CCA are sophomore guard William Martin, sophomore center Brady Carrell, senior guard James Kneiss, senior defensive end/offensive lineman Parker Hewes, junior tight end Bryant Carrell and wide receiver Braden Martinelli.
Hewes registered eight sacks in 2016.
As CCA guns for its fifth straight district title, the Bulldogs will feature more of a running attack.
“We have a good offensive line returning,” Roberts said. “When I first got over here, we had a small offensive line so we had to learn to spread it out more and get the ball out quick. It was hard for us to line up and power it.
“Over the years, in the weight room, we’ve gone from kids 5-foot-9, 5-10 and weighing 175 pounds to 6-2, over 200 pounds. So now we are able to line up and play more power football.”
In special teams, Martinelli replaces Matthew Brown in the place-kicking game.
“We had a starter in Matthew Brown for three years,” Roberts said. “Martinelli is stepping into that role as punter, field goal kicker, and kickoff guy. We are looking forward to him doing a great job.”
Roberts knows the conference will be tough with at least five contenders. One thing that is assured is that CCA will log some mileage on the road with trips to Franklin Academy in Winnsboro, Louisiana, Riverdale Academy in Coushatta, La., Briarfield Academy in Lake Providence, La., and Russell Christian Academy in Lauderdale County.
The Bulldogs open their season at home on Aug. 18 against Sharkey-Issaquena Academy from Rolling Fork.
CCA has had some spirited duels with Franklin and Tallulah the last few seasons with Tallulah knocking CCA out of the playoffs two years in a row.
“We have a little unfinished business with them,” Spinks said.
Aug. 18: Sharkey-Issaquena
Aug. 25: at Prentiss
Sept. 1: Tensas, La.
Sept. 8: at Riverdale, La.
Sept. 15: at Russell Christian
Sept. 22: Rebul
Sept. 29: at Franklin, La.
Oct. 13: Tallulah, La.
Oct. 20: at Briarfield, La.
Oct. 27: Prentiss
1 Jailon Phillips
2 Brandon Dear
3 Alex Conley
4 Braden Martinelli
5 Cody Hilton
7 Parker Hewes
8 Micah Spinks
9 Cody Bozant
11 Casey Clanahan
15 Elijah Deese
22 River Johnson
48 Bryant Carrell
50 Gregory Haywood
52 Jaden Ash
70 Brady Carrell
75 James Kniess
79 William Martin