Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Karcher and ECCC Warriors ‘Excited’ To Begin Year Two!

Ken Karcher admits his first year as East Central Community College’s head football coach was a learning experience for him and his staff.

However, Karcher, whose first taste of Mississippi JUCO football resulted in a 1-8 season in 2013, stated the league was everything he expected.

“The league in general was everything that people told me it would be,” said the former NFL quarterback and NCAA Division I head coach. “It’s a very competitive league with great football players on every team, and it is fun being a part of this league. The first year was more of a learning curve for us…but we are very much excited about year two!”

Now with more than a year under his belt as Warrior head coach, Karcher has quickly attracted a lot of attention with the type program he plans to build on the Decatur campus. A successful
recruiting season coupled with the fact that 70-plus players reported to camp in hopes of making the 55-man roster are signs of anticipated success. But Karcher cautions that success takes time to accomplish.

“We are trying to build a successful program here but it will not happen overnight…there are no quick fixes,” he stated. “Hopefully each year we will get better, we will attract better players and more people will become interested in the program.”

Regarding the 2014 recruiting class, Karcher said he is “very encouraged” with the results.

“It’s early but we are very encouraged because of the little things we did not see the previous year,” Karcher stated. “We now have kids who are eager to be here, who understand the basis of work ethic, who understand football acumen and who do not have to be taught everything from square one. This is a very competitive group of freshmen who enjoy what they are doing and have fun doing it. They are also a very athletic group.”

Karcher gave credit to his assistant coaches for attracting such a quality group. In addition, anticipated new athletic facilities have generated a lot of excitement.

“Our coaches did a great job recruiting…we also have new facilities being built, which is especially exciting for the young athletes…so we are very excited about how the future looks for our football program.”

Success for the Warriors last year came with the lone victory - a thrilling 36-31 homecoming victory over Mississippi Delta Community College, which came in the final seconds of the non-division battle Oct. 12 at Bailey Stadium.

“When we started practice in August, I was not confident that we would win any games,” Karcher admitted. “But I thought our kids did a good job of trying to buy in for the most part to what we were doing, and when the season started they competed for 60 minutes every game even though they were out-manned.”

Karcher recalled how the victory provided a tremendous boost to the players and coaches as well.

“It was a big win and came at the right time – homecoming! There were a lot of people there and it was especially great seeing the kids with smiles on their faces having gone through a tough year.”

Expected to provide the “nucleus” for success this season, are sophomores JaDerrick Farrow, a 6’ 200-pound safety from Bleckley High School in Cochran, Georgia; Lamarcus Franks of State Line, a 5-7, 150-pound running back from Greene County High School in Leakesville; Jimmy Cockrell, a 5-10, 170-pound wide receiver from Columbus; Darryl Rogers, a 6-3, 215-pound defensive lineman from Laurel; Tyler Pace, a 6-2, 280-pound tight end from Newton; and Trent Haden, a 5-9, 190-pound long snapper from Sumrall.

Karcher said Farrow is attracting attention from several university programs and is expected to be the defensive leader.

Franks, who won a starting position about mid-season, is expected to be the offensive leader. Franks had his “banner day” as a Warrior in the win over MS Delta, as the speedster rushed for 211 yards on 28 carries and scored twice. He finished the season with 610 yards on 126 carries and three TDs.

“We are looking for big things from them as they lead our football team,” commented Karcher.

Karcher said Rogers and Pace will also play key roles on defense, and Cockrell is also expected to be a leader on offense.

Karcher chuckled when mentioning long-snapper Haden as a key returnee, but added, “It’s a position no one thinks about until the snap goes over a punter’s head! But Trent does a good job, too!”

Overall, Coach Karcher said he expects the Warriors to be “more physical” on offense, defense and special teams; a team that will be “fundamentally sound” with minimum mistakes; and a team that will be “exciting” for fans to watch.

The Warriors start the 2014 campaign by traveling to MS Delta for a 7 p.m. matchup Thursday, August 28 in Moorhead.

The home opener with MS Gulf Coast Community College is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 11, and will be played on the new synthetic turf.

Coach Karcher said the welcomed addition to Bailey Stadium will benefit more than just the football program.

“What the new turf brings is vision and hope for the future not only for our football team but for all the College’s sports programs,” Karcher stated. “It’s also great for the local community. I’ve noticed local folks looking at the new surface and we’ve had several coaches from local high schools and other campus visitors come see the new turf as well. Obviously the new surface will drastically affect football recruiting because the 18-year-old athlete is attracted to the best facilities, and our facilities will be as nice if not the nicest in the state. And next year we hope to start construction on the Football Operations Center, which will really make things happen and provide a tremendous boost to our program.”

Whether the top returnees, a talent-laden recruiting class or new facilities will result in wins this season remains to be seen.

But what is even more important to Coach Karcher, is the individual player.

“What is sometimes lost in any athletic program and is most important are the people playing the sport and the lives that are involved. Often we as fans make the mistake by looking at a player and just seeing his jersey number or name on the back and forget he is someone’s kid and a young person who may be going through a tough time. We like to believe that our football program, like many other programs, is a tool to touch lives of kids. Sure, we hope to win championships every year but realistically that will not happen…we may just win one or two games a year or none at all. But as I tell my players, we win every day at East Central football.”

Serving on Coach Karcher’s staff are Scott Brock, defensive coordinator and linebackers coach; Mickey Mays, defensive line coach and special teams coordinator; Charles Jones, defensive backs coach and head strength coach; Dennis Alexander, offensive line coach; Ben Cooper, tight ends and running backs coach; and Tylan Martin, wide receivers coach. Karcher also serves as offensive coordinator.