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JCMS looking for follow up historic season with new standouts

JCMS head coach Matt Bray couldn't have scripted his first year any better as the Longhorns were conference champions for the first time since 2004 and they made their first-ever TMSAA playoff appearance.
Though many of those JCMS players who played on that championship team have moved on to play for the high school, a new group of kids have entered the program that are used to winning, but reclassification and a tougher schedule will be something they will have to overcome.
The Longhorns have plenty of talented people at the skill positions and they will go as far as how well a young line steps up.
Still, Bray likes the make-up of this team and feels it can be successful.
“This is a whole new group for the most part as the majority of our team were eighth graders,” Bray said. “We're a different team on the charts and on the field as far as some of our strengths last year are not our strengths this year and some of our weaknesses last year are our strengths this year.
“We are a quicker team this year and have more skill players. Our line is a little small and a little inexperienced. We have a young line, but we're working on it every day. People need to realize this is a different team and we're starting all over again. We want to prove it's not a fluke, but people need to have realistic expectations.”
Many of these players were members of the PeeWee Team in the Johnson County Youth Football League under the direction of Blake Fenner that won a championship last year and did it pretty convincingly.
Though the competition level will be higher, the fact that these kids have either won in youth league or have been a part of the middle school success gives Bray a lot of hope for this upcoming year.
“They do know how to win and they have been well-coached,” Bray said. “It makes my job easier to have such well-coached individuals, but the size and speed of the game will change. I think from getting to know the boys, they will adapt.”
There is a twist this season. Yes the Longhorns will be still be a member of the Little Watauga Conference, but after the school joined the TMSAA last year their classification was bumped up to Class AAA and now to make the playoffs the Longhorns are going to have to play some of the bigger middle schools in the region.
Bray has scheduled three of the best middle schools around in Ross Robinson (Dobyns Bennett feeder), Science Hill Middle School and John Sevier, another feeder school of Dobyns-Bennett.
The three games mentioned above will be the first three games of the season for JCMS.
“They are actually in our size classification which is AAA,” Bray said. “We're still in the Little Watauga Conference at least for this year. They're our size as far as the classification, but they're not actually our size. Unicoi and T.A. Dugger are more our size. We had a hard time finding games because when you're successful other teams don't want to play you. We had two teams back out on us. Also, I feel like you have to play better competition to get better. We might get our nose-bloodied at first, but over time like the high school did in the Mountain Lakes Conference, hopefully we'll adapt and be better for it.
“We do have a hard schedule on our hands and this was the best we could do just to find people to play us because of our success in the past. I didn't want to play the three schools back-to-back-to back, but the way our conference was this year all our games got pushed back so that all our openings were at the beginning of the season and that was the only place I could put them.”
Bray says the new schedule will pay benefits later on this year.
“It will get us prepared for our conference,” Bray said. “Win or lose we will be prepared for our conference games.”
The Longhorns are up to the task with a good enthusiastic group of kids.
“Winning does breed winning and they have won in the past, they know how to win. All our captains are excellent leaders and they're good boys. They're good on the field and off the field. I'm impressed with that.”
Bray's staff will include Gary Horne, Tom Kerley and a newcomer in J.J. Sauer, who will be doing double duty, as he will be helping the freshmen also.
“He put a lot of time and effort last year and I was impressed with it and he came on board and really helped us.” Bray said.
Bray is really pleased with everyone involved in the program.
“I feel I have good coaches, I have good parents and I have good players and I feel we will go far with that combination,” he said.