Chad Michael tasted postseason success in his first season as Edgewood’s head football coach in 2020.
The Wildcats had reached the semifinals of the AISA Class AA state championships last season, slugging out a 35-34 first-round playoff victory against Patrician to get there.
Edgewood lost its semifinal game to eventual state champion Chambers Academy 51-20, but in year two under Michael’s leadership with a full summer to prepare this time around, the team is working to close that gap.
“(A state title) is the goal every year,” Michael said. “We try to focus on each day and how much better we can get each day. If you’re doing those types of things, you’re focusing on each day and getting better each rep, the wins take care of themselves.”
Fourteen seniors are gone from Edgewood’s 2020 roster.
Perhaps the largest set of cleats to fill on Edgewood’s roster are those vacated by former quarterback Alex Johnson, who is off to Martin Methodist University after a successful senior season slinging the rock for the Wildcats.
Junior Austin Champion has been the heir apparent since leading the Wildcats to an upset win over Chambers in the regular season in 2020 while Johnson was injured, a game in which he threw for 250 yards. Michael is a big fan of Champion’s leadership and athletic abilities.
“He’s one of the hardest workers in the weight room,” Michael said. “Austin’s very capable of stepping in there and putting up the same numbers that Alex did, being just as good of a leader. We don’t expect any dropoff at that position.”
Johnson isn’t the only core contributor being replaced. Three of last year’s graduates were first-team All-Elmore County players.
Running back Mitchell Boyd averaged 6.7 yards per carry with 712 yards total on the ground last season, production that will need to be replaced alongside that of wide receiver Connor Bailey and tight end Carson Peevy, who combined for 895 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns last year.
Those three weapons are gone from the Wildcats’ offense, but there’s one advantage this year’s attack holds over last year’s — implementation.
Michael had to keep things simple in his first season with the COVID-19 pandemic severely limiting offseason preparations. That’s not a problem in year two.
“This year is our first full summer together,” Michael said. “We’re less rushed to get things in. So it’s going really well, being able to install offense and defense right now.”
One of the larger position battles Michael is sorting through right now is at linebacker, where five candidates are making a bid for playing time.
Seniors JT Brazell and Sam Williams are among those vying for a role.
“All five of those guys are fighting for a starting spot at linebacker right now, and all five are doing a really good job,” Michael said. “They’re learning the system and asking the right questions and competing really well.”
The biggest strength of this team entering 2021, Michael said, is its unity.
Despite the exodus of talent from the previous senior class, this year’s group of fourth-year players has seamlessly grabbed the reins, led by offensive lineman Colton Jones and Jake Allison.
“This group truly gets along,” Michael said. “They enjoy being around each other. They enjoy pushing each other. Our team chemistry right now is actually one of the best things going for us.”