Carvers Bay has tried its best to forget the abrupt end to last year.
Having won nine straight regular-season games, the Bears entered the Class A playoffs as the top seed from the Lower State and were a team many had earmarked for the state championship. Instead, a first-round loss to rival Hemingway destroyed those dreams.
The team lost 10 seniors from last year’s team, including twin brothers Shaquan and Shayton Durand and quarterback Da’Shaun Aiken. The players who remain, however, remember every bit of a disappointing end of 2012 – and more importantly, what caused it.
“That’s a nightmare for us every day we wake up,” senior defensive tackle Naquez Pringle said. “Every day we think about losing to Hemingway. We’ve already talked about staying humble. The game that made us be a little too cocky was beating Timmonsville [in the regular-season finale]. We decided that we were the best, and we didn’t settle down. We weren’t ourselves.
“That game hurt all of us – the coaches, the fans, all of us. We tried not to think about it. But we think about it every day. We can’t take it off our minds.”
It served as motivation for a squad that will, in many ways return to the old-school ways that brought Carvers Bay two state titles during its first 13 seasons. Behind Aiken, the team threw the ball a bit more than in previous years.
This year, with yet another new quarterback, the Bears will return to the run-first, run-second squad it was before.
Junior Israel Davis, who moved up to the varsity after the beginning of last season, will convert from running back to call the plays. He won’t be throwing much, and that’s exactly what coach Nate Thompson wants.
“You don’t have to spread out as much,” Thompson said. “The kids pick it up quite well. We can find receivers and quarterbacks who can match up every now and then. But everybody wants to run the ball. We’ve got some kids who can really run the ball. We want to take advantage of that.”
The primary two ball carriers will be seniors Devin Cuttino and Hikeem Hampton. Both have bounced back from injuries during their junior school years (Cuttino’s came during the track season). But Thompson insists both will also have plenty of others behind them ready to get their shot.
Defensively, no one will draw more attention than Pringle. The defensive lineman has a number of scholarship offers from major BCS schools, and more will follow by the time the season is completed.
He’ll be used sparingly on the offensive side of the ball to maximize his production on defense. But with the bad taste of 2012 still prevalent, Pringle said he’ll do whatever it takes to make sure the end of his senior season is better than that of his junior year.
“I really want to get my ring and help my team get that ring,” he said. “It doesn’t matter to me. I’ll sacrifice it.”
Should everything go to plan, the Bears will be back in the playoffs – and possibly with a better result than the last time around.