“Our motto for our football team this year is 'Second mile.' We're basing it off Matthew 5:41: 'Whoever asks you go one mile, go with him two.' Basically, we've left it up to our kids. If you want to be good, we've been doing that for a while. If you want to be great, you've got to be willing to go the extra mile. We feel like that excellent means going above and beyond what is required. We've got some kids who are willing to do that.”
- Jason Allen, Chambers Academy head coach
Last season, Chambers Academy finally reached the mountaintop with the program’s first state championship. Now, the mission is staying there.
The Rebels have to replace the production of top rushers CJ Lyons and Jordan Gillespie, but the offense doesn’t lack for capable options. Quarterback Payton Allen returns after throwing for 1,401 yards last season, and head coach Jason Allen — Payton’s father — anticipates even more accuracy as well as more designed runs from the rising junior.
“We feel very comfortable at the quarterback position that we're going to be as good or better than just anybody we line up and play against on a Friday night,” Allen said. “We're going to put more on him from a running standpoint this time. We're probably going to expect to do a good bit more of that this upcoming season when you're losing guys like CJ and Jordan.”
Payton will be joined in the backfield by Braxton Allen, who’s made his name as a ball-seeking linebacker but now anticipates being the Rebels’ bell-cow ball carrier. Gavin Kight and Raphe Daniel will also help shoulder the load in the run game.
Allen also predicted Caden Smoot will prove himself at wide receiver this fall.
Allen said he feels the team is better at every other position this season, particularly on the offensive line. The Rebels return some established linemen to protect Payton, including Jake Waldrop, Dean Sheffield, Jacob Oliver, Gabe Brooks and Connor Gregory.
“We feel like we've got four or five guys that are really good backups, too, that are going to give us some quality minutes,” Allen said. “That's where my heart is — where those guys are up front. I feel like they win or lose football games.”
It will take a lot for Chambers Academy to top a defense that surrendered only 6.6 points per game in 2018. Still, the Rebels return the talent capable of making it happen.
Braxton Allen comes back after demolishing opponent after opponent in his junior year on his way to 112 total tackles and a championship ring. Braxton has been praised by Allen as the best linebacker he’s ever coached, leaving the expectations high for his senior season.
“I can tell you this: I wouldn't trade him for any player in this area — public, private or whatever. Pound for pound, he's one of the best kids I've seen on film,” Allen said of Braxton. “He'll play hurt. He'll play mad. He's just going to play, and you know what you're going to get every play. He's unquestionably one of the leaders of our football team and the heart and soul of it.”
While Braxton has often played like a one-man wrecking crew, he’s got plenty of reinforcements around him.
Braxton will be joined at linebacker by Dean Sheffield. Nose guard Dijon Darden has also garnered a ton of praise from Allen as well, and Waldrop will join him on the line. Brody Smoot had a breakout year last fall, and his ability as the weakside defensive end will be on display again this season.
Allen also anticipates Trent Thompson will play meaningful snaps at defensive end this year.