Last season was a big year for the R.A. Hubbard Chiefs.
In head coach Mac Hampton’s second year, the Chiefs went from 2-8 to 8-3 with a home playoff berth.
Some feel as if the Chiefs might take a step back this year. After all, they did lose a solid senior class, including four college signees in Riely Evans Jr. (UNA), Jamel Robinson, Desmon Fennell and Malik Bynum (all signed with the Cumberlands).
“A lot of the dogs I had to get me to 8-3 are gone,” said Hampton. “Desmond Fennell, Jamel Robinson, Malik Bynum, Riely Evans Jr. All my playmakers that made big plays offensively and defensively. They’re tough to replace.”
Still, the Chiefs plan is to only move forward, and they plan on having just as good a year if not greater this year.
“We’re losing those guys but what you’re looking for is that to be a catalyst and motivation for these younger guys to step up.”
The work the departed seniors did will not go unnoticed, and the effects of that work will last on the Hubbard program for a while.
“It’s night and day coming off an 8-3 as opposed to a 2-8 season,” Hampton said. “It means a lot, the moral is better. You don’t have to prod guys when they see success because they know what happens when you do what’s right and you work hard.”
Despite last season’s success, the team is more fueled by the way it ended, an upset loss to Winterboro in the first round of the playoffs.
“It’s all the motivation. That’s all I’ve talked about in the offseason,” Hampton said. “I’ve never been satisfied with just making the playoffs. A lot of teams make it to the playoffs. I want to be apart of the select few that makes it deeper.”
Hampton doesn’t short his team’s success though.
“Granted, it’s been a long time since Hubbard has been in the playoffs and the guys should be commended for their work,” he said, “but just getting to the playoffs isn’t good enough for me.”
In order to take a step forward this season, the Chiefs will have to rely on some big players.
Chief among them (no pun intended) is soon to be senior defensive and offensive lineman Ca’Ni McCoy.
McCoy had a tremendous season last year, finishing as a first team All State defensive lineman (the only player from Lawrence County to be selected All State) and also earning the county defensive player of the year.
Still, as successful as last season was, having a 2019 season that’s not more successful will be a disappointment in his eyes.
“My mama had told me that you can’t let your junior be better than your senior year,” McCoy laughed. “So that means I have to work three times as hard.”
McCoy knows what he accomplished last year was a big milestone, especially considering the rich amount of talent that has come out of Courtland in the past.
“It was an honor because a lot of my kin folks from Courtland and Hazlewood made All State,” he said. “To make All State and be up there with them, it felt pretty good.”
Still, the only thing on McCoy’s mind is having a more successful 2019 than 2018, not just as a player, but as a team.
“Everyday is like someone is trying to take something from you and you’ve got to beat the other man,” McCoy said. “Everyday is a competition and everyday you have to get better. We can’t be satisfied with 8-3, because we’re trying to go 15-0.”