The Livingston Academy Wildcats are entering 2020 looking to build on one of the most successful seasons in school history. They will have to do it with a mix of experienced players and new faces.
The Wildcats enjoyed an undefeated regular season in 2019, but are looking to replace some of the most prolific players in school history.
“I’m ready to go out and compete,” said LA head coach Bruce Lamb. “Everything has been very unusual… Usually we’ve had two or three scrimmages by now and 7 on 7’s. We don’t know what to expect right now. We lost 14 seniors and we’re just hoping we’ll be ready to.”
Lamb said that while his team has an interesting dynamic in 2020.
“We’re not young, but we’re a little inexperienced,” said Lamb. “I’ve got 22 seniors. Some of them it’s the first time they’ve played in a long time, but most of them got a little experience last year.”
Livingston is replacing one of the top passers in school history in Will McDonald. McDonald broke several school records while propelling his team towards a Region 3/4A championship. Lamb said Parker Coleman, who has been a basketball athlete at LA, has emerged as the likely starter in a position battle between three players.
“If we started right now, Parker Coleman,” said Lamb on who his quarterback would be. “Parker was a basketball player and an extremely good athlete. He hasn’t played football in a while. He decided to stick with basketball and then last year… decided to come back in the middle of the year. I think he’ll be our starter.”
The Wildcats lost several skill-position players, but also return key starters. At running back, Kaleb Robinson returns after a strong 2019 season. Lamb said Robinson will turn into a star with an increased workload after splitting carries last season.
“Kaleb had a great year last year,” said Lamb. “Kaleb’s the full-time starter now. He has really worked hard and got to the point where he’s going to be a star. He’ll get 20-25 carries every game. He makes people miss and is extremely athletic.”
Lamb added Nathan Carwile could see some carries from the tailback position throughout the season.
On the outside, the Wildcats are replacing dynamic receivers Wesley Smith and Aubrey Hollars. Senior receiver Raven Carpenter showed big-play ability in 2019, and will be asked to take on a larger role in the offense in 2020.
“Raven’s put on 35 pounds since last year and it’s all muscle,” said Lamb. “He is very impressive right now.”
Lamb went on to say he is pleased with his depth at the wide receiver spot.
“Then we’ve got Bryer Mosley who played a whole lot of receiver last year,” said Lamb. “Jayden Lawrence has stepped up. Ayden Coffee has stepped up. A young man moved in here named Bryson Tucker, who is 6’3” at wide receiver. We’ve got a lot of kids that have stepped in and I think they’ll do well.”
While the Wildcats have experience on the outside, they are hoping some less experienced players step up along the offensive line. LA lost four starting linemen from 2019 due to graduation.
“That was tough, because they are the heart and soul of your football team,” said Lamb. “We do have Carson Smith back at left guard, and he is going to come out and give you everything he’s got every week. We rely on him a whole lot. At left tackle we’ll play Austin Reeder there some. At center we’ll have Noah Sliger. Our right guard will be Dexter Wright. Ethan Rumancik will play right tackle.”
Defensively the Wildcats return three of four starters on the line, including Reeder and Wright who captured all-region honors in 2019. They will anchor a defense looking to build on their dominant season in which they allowed double-digit scoring outputs by their opponents in just four games.
Lamb said he is also comfortable with the state of his secondary with Mosley and Carpenter returning at corner back and anchoring the back-half of the defense. Cowgill and Coleman will see playing time in the secondary at the safety position.
The Wildcats will also enjoy a strong linebacking core led by Carwile, who led the team in tackles a year ago.
“He’s our quarterback on defense,” said Lamb. He puts everyone in the right spot. He’s one of the most intelligent kids I’ve ever coached. Just an outstanding linebacker.”
Livingston will look to defend the region championship in a competitive region. With Dekalb County and Macon County being marked as preseason favorites.
Lamb was complimentary of every team in the region.
“I know Dekalb County is going to be the team to beat,” said Lamb. “They really came on towards the end of the year so it’s going to be tough to get by them… I just hope we can compete. I just want to compete each week and hopefully things go right.”
In a year marred by the COVID-19 pandemic, Lamb said his team is just pleased to have the opportunity to play football.
“There’s so much negativity going around the world today… we just want to go out each week and make the most of each day,” said Lamb. “We just want an opportunity to go out and play. My expectation for my kids is just to go out and play hard.”
Livingston will get the season underway Friday, August 21 when they travel to take on Westmoreland. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.