In his first year at P.K. Yonge, head football coach Marcus McDonald led the Blue Wave to their first winning season since 2005.
His team finished with a 10-2 record, including an eight-game winning streak before losing in the playoffs to The Villages Charter. What led to the turnaround?
“Two easy factors: players and a favorable schedule,” McDonald said. “Bottom line is we had a lot of good kids last year, a lot of seniors we’re going to miss. We graduated 15 of those guys.
“We also had a schedule set up to where the competition was really where we needed it to be to win 10 games. That being said, the competition is a lot more aggressive this year and we’re looking to rise to that challenge.”
Replacing 15 seniors will be a challenge in and of itself. That group set the standard for McDonald’s program and created a winning culture that had been missing at P.K. Yonge.
“Those 15 kids set great examples for everyone else on the team,” McDonald said. “The biggest thing is they brought a level of nasty and toughness to the program that we didn’t have before. Hopefully that’s trend-setting for this next group of guys.
“I’m very happy with our offseason, because the guys who needed to step up have stepped up. We’re light years ahead of where we were last year at this point in time.”
Most important position battles: “Quarterback was the one that we had all summer long and we’re close to resolving that (between A.J. Small and Jorgen Salazar),” McDonald said. “It’s more about moving these chess pieces on the board because we have so many skill players. If you put one guy here, well do you have a drop off over here? We just have to fit all those pieces together, and it’s fun to do that.”
Key returning starters: “First and foremost Brandon Jenkins,” McDonald said. “With Brandon in the secondary, he’s quarterbacking that on the back end. And then our team defensive leader, Grant Dycus, will be in the box and calling things from a linebacker standpoint. Those guys will definitely carry a defense that I believe will be improved over last year because of so many returners. Offensively, we’re going to be looking to Jacobi Byrd to step up and help us score points in different ways.”
Key newcomers: “Jorgen Salazar, he’s an athlete and a great kid,” McDonald said. “We’ve been repping him in a quarterback battle all summer trying to determine who are starter is going to be. We’re going to make sure that the guy that’s not our quarterback is always going to help us in another area, and Jordan is one of those types of guys. He can help us at quarterback, wide receiver and running back. So we’re definitely going to use him like a Swiss Army knife.”
Looming camp question: “Is our offensive line ready? That’s the main thing. We graduated four linemen and three of those guys went on to play college football. We got one kid coming back on the offensive line. So we’re replacing four seniors with guys who are freshmen and sophomores and only have a few starts under their belt. They’re good kids and they can get the job done, but can they do it over the course of 10 or 11 games?” — Marcus McDonald