Preserving a legacy

Published 11:33 pm Monday, August 4, 2008

SWEET WATER —They will return to class Wednesday, but the Bulldogs took to the practice field Monday, resuming the process of preparing to continue its 27-game win streak.

In order to stretch that streak and make its run at a fourth state title in five years, the team will need sizable contributions from new faces at key positions, as well as strong leadership from its eight seniors.

“They’re doing fine. They’re hard workers,” head coach Stacy Luker said of his seniors. “They’ve been exposed to winning and they’ve been exposed to what we want out of leaders.”

Luker believes the 19 state title rings possessed by his senior class is more than enough reason to feel comfortable in the notion the 2008 Bulldogs will continue the winning tradition formed by its predecessors. The sixth-year head coach shows no reservations about handing the reigns of his offense over to new quarterback Damaraquis Williams.

“He knowst the offense. We don’t worry about him. He’s a leader. He’s had a good summer so far,” Luker said of Williams, who first started for the team as an eighth-grader.

“We believe he can do it,” junior running back Johnny Lockett said of the offensive group’s confidence in Williams. “He’s a fifth-year starter now.”

Williams reported being comfortable in the system that has become almost second nature to him.

“I’ve been in it since I first started and I just know everything,” Williams said.

Much of Williams’ success as the team’s signal caller will be a direct result of the athletes who line up in front of and behind him. The offensive line that will be responsible for protecting Williams features four new starters.

“They’re coming along well. They seem to be executing well early in summer camp,” Luker said of the group, which features three sophomores and a freshman.

Williams will also need sizable contributions from the committee of running backs that will attempt to fill the void left by the departure of Anthony Landrum. The group, which will likely be headed by Lockett, includes Chris Landrum, Randy Jackson and Desmond Bouler.

“For Johnny, it’s just his turn,” Luker said. “We pulled him off defense to get him more touches.”

Lockett understands the weight Anthony Landrum’s name carries at Sweet Water, and is humble about the role he will play as the back’s heir apparent.

“Playing with him, I learned a lot from Anthony. You can’t fill Anthony Landrum’s shoes because he was great and I just try to do the best I can,” Lockett said.

Despite Lockett’s youth, Williams expresses the utmost of confidence in the man who figures to chair the committee of Bulldog backs.

“I know he’ll work hard. He’ll run hard,” Williams said. “He’s got one thing on his mind and that’s score.”

On the other side of the ball, the Bulldogs return a majority of the group that helped it to a 14-0 record and a state championship win in 2007.

“We think that’s going to be our strength,” Luker said. “We’ve got a couple of positions that we’ve got to identify.” The head coach said he is confident younger players will step up, helping to provide depth within the defensive unit.

Following its recent success, the team carries with it lofty expectations heading into the 2008 campaign.

“It’s very much the culture. We want the expectations to be like they are,” Luker said. “It’s the reason these guys come to work. We take a lot of pride in protecting that.”

The program’s success has also redefined what the team considers a successful season.

“The season as terrible,” Lockett said of the possibility of a 2008 that ends without another Sweet Water championship run. “We could go undefeated and lose the state championship game and it was a waste.”

The Bulldogs shot at extending its remarkable winning streak to 28 games will come Aug. 29 when the team kicks off its season at rival Thomasville in annual match up of 1A and 4A schools.

“It’s probably a little more pressure on them than it is us,” Luker said. “It’s bragging rights. I think when we get together and play, you can throw the ones and the fours out.”