First Presbyterian Christian Academy will start its fourth season of football Friday by hosting Bulloch Academy at Long Bell Stadium in Hinesville.
Last year, the Highlanders achieved a series of firsts for their young program. They claimed their first-ever victory — added another — and made their first trip to the playoffs.
The Highlanders showed true grit as they mustered their way from game to game with a small roster the last few years. The players played nearly every down of offense, defense and special teams. This season, FPCA has doubled its numbers with about 24 players listed on the roster.
That alone will make a huge difference.
This year, FPCA’s coaching staff has doubled as well. Head coach Terry Middleton and assistant coaches William Herdman and Jason Stewart are in their second years running the team. Joining the staff this season are assistant coaches Stevie Harris and Jay Hendrix and strength-and-conditioning coach Johnny McAllister.
That also has made a difference.
“This year, I’ve had them since day one,” said Middleton, who became head coach at mid-season last year. “We’ve been training throughout the spring and summer.”
And the gains in the weight room are noticeable. Guard Jordan Gilliard is a solid 278-pound force to be reckoned with. Defensive end Nasmeek Murphy stands at 6-feet tall and weighed 258 pounds after the summer workouts. Newcomer Brandon Attical is slated to be the team’s center at 6-foot-3 and 268 pounds.
Every starter from last year is back, including quarterback Dylan Stewart, the team’s 2014 Mike Reed Chevrolet/Coastal Courier Player of the Year.
Senior Jimmy Ouyang will look to lead the offense in rushing again this season. Joshua Armour, Jamison Golson and Isaiah Dickey also will be critical to the success of the offense.
Murphy, Austin Hendrix, Gilliard, Brantley McKorkle, Herdman and Steven Harris will anchor the defense, while junior Ausar Gibbs returns as kicker.
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.