By Reid Bankston
Coming off a 2008 season with 1,388 yards and 15 touchdowns, there is no secret about who Water Valley’s go to guy is. Although Logan was the workhorse for the Blue Devils last season, the talented senior will be featured more on both sides of the ball in 2009.
“We’re trying D.C. (Logan) at corner. He’s really good and has good ball skills and that’ll help us there as long as he can handle the load of playing a lot of offense and defense,” said head coach Brad Embry.
Although opposing defenses will be zeroed in on Logan, he will need to make his senior year his best if Water Valley is going to achieve some lofty goals and prove some naysayers wrong.
“Hopefully we’ll go to State and that’s what I expect for us to do. I think we’re better than we were last year and all of our skill people are back,” said Logan. “People put us last in the division, saying we’re going to go 3-7, but like coach (Embry) says, we just have to take it one game at a time. We’re going to use that as motivation.”
Being the quarterback for any team at any level of football brings pressure. Being the quarterback for a team that expects to make a deep run in the playoffs, well that’s what Water Valley senior Josh Johnson has to look forward to in 2009. Coming off his junior campaign were Johnson was inserted as the starter early in the season, expectations are high for the Blue Devil signal caller in the new spread offense.
“He’s (Josh Johnson) doing well and getting better. I thought towards the end of last year he was getting a lot better,” said Head Coach Brad Embry. “Obviously he’s a good athlete, but learning to play the quarterback position is a lot to ask of a kid. He’s going to get better every day and in the next couple of weeks, I expect him to pass where he got to last year”
Johnson showed flashes of being a solid quarterback, but he also suffered from poor decision making under pressure. The weapons are certainly around Johnson, with the districts best group of running backs behind him and Chris Conard at wide receiver, but it is up to him to manage the game and take care of the ball if Water Valley wants to go one better than last year’s first round playoff loss.
Arguably the player with the highest ceiling of any Blue Devil, sophomore wide receiver/cornerback Chris Conard will be counted on to make big plays all over the field in 2009. Blessed with good speed and great game changing instincts, Conard showed flashes of what Water Valley coaches and fans believe could be a very talented and productive player in the next couple of seasons.
Safeties coach Shane Brown didn’t hesitate to say that, “Chris has been a shutdown guy,” at the cornerback position, while Embry and the Blue Devil offense will rely on Conard to lead a youthful group of receivers. While Conard is one of four standouts in the secondary, if he can prove to be the guy for the Water Valley receivers, he will certainly make opposing defensive coordinators’ jobs a lot tougher.
2008 was a season of bright spots that could’ve been brighter had it not been for some inconsistent play that plagued the Blue Devils. However, that was not the case for junior linebacker J.D. Fondon. Simply put, Fondon was a rock in the middle of the Water Valley defense, totaling a team leading 118 tackles.
“J.D. Fondon is the heart and soul of the defense. He’s the captain and leader wrapped into one. If you could build a linebacker in high school, he’s your linebacker,” said defensive coordinator Richard Russo. “He’s not the fastest linebacker I’ve ever coached, or the biggest linebacker I’ve ever coached, but if you tell him to do something, he’s like a sponge, he soaks it up.”
Surrounded by an extremely talented defense, Fondon should be freed up to match that total of 118 tackles this season, a season that Fondon hopes will be special.
“This year I’m a lot stronger, faster, and smarter. I was a little nervous last year, but this year we’re hot,” said Fondon. “We’re going to take it one play at a time and one game at a time and at the end of the ear, we’re going to be where we need to be.”
If Fondon can continue to anchor the Water Valley defense and provide the leadership that his coaches know he’s capable of, don’t be surprised if “where we need to be” turns out to be a deep playoff run.