The Toll Gate football team snapped a 10-year playoff drought last season, playing solid football on both sides of the line of scrimmage and establishing itself as a top group in the conference.
Although the Titans graduated a whopping 17 seniors, they also return numerous kids that got to play varsity minutes last year. Toll Gate head coach Jim Stringfellow feels that the Titans are in good shape as the 2018 preseason gets underway, and have no shortage in experience despite the roster turnover.
“We’re picking up right where we left off last season,” said Stringfellow. “We had a fantastic season and made the playoffs. We have a solid core coming back and we’re looking forward to another great year. We graduated 17 seniors but we have a lot of freshmen who got varsity experience last year since we don’t have a freshman program. They got a lot of varsity reps which is what we try to do, we try to work them into the program and get them some experience so then that way things fall right into place when we graduate the senior class.”
Stringfellow also feels that last year’s return to the postseason has made the retuning core hungry to get back to the playoffs.
“The kids are ready, they’re excited. Last year was the first time in 10 years that we made the playoffs so they got a taste of it and they want to get right back at it. That’s what we want … and I don’t think we lost a step at all from last year,” said Stringfellow.
“It was a while since we last made the playoffs so going to the playoffs last year and having that feeling has definitely made us want to go back and get further. We were knocked out in the first round so going further into it will definitely be a goal for us this season,” added senior running back and linebacker Chris Souza.
Souza believes that it will be crucial for the team to follow the guidance of the coaching staff, and to play as a unit instead of a group of individuals.
“We bring a lot of kids back but I definitely see a lot of new faces. We’re going to have to be sure that we’re working hard, doing everything we have to do, listening to the coaches, listening to everything because if one person messes up than the whole team messes up. We need to learn the plays, learn how to execute the plays, and know what we’re supposed to be doing and when we’re supposed to do it.” said Souza.
Both Stringfellow and Souza feel that the Toll Gate club is well-rounded, and will be able to do damage on each side of the ball.
“Defensively we should be very solid again, our roster is pretty much the same … offensively and defensively we really didn’t lose anything. We lost some lineman but we had some underclassmen that got a lot of game experience so they should be able to fill the void. There may be some roles that we need to fill but overall, we feel that we don’t have a real weakness,” said Stringfellow.
“We definitely have a strong backfield on offense, I can promise you that. On defense, I’m pretty confident in our linebackers and our (defensive backs),” added Souza. “We’re confident heading into this season with the people we have. It’s going to be a good season.”