Cardinal Hayes took its lumps in its first season in the CHSFL’s AAA division in more than two decades. It has reloaded with talent from an undefeated junior varsity, made some changes and plans on delivering a little hurt of its own this time around with a deep roster.
“There was a lot of learning curve, but we are one of the only schools in an intercity program that is playing on this level,” Cardinals coach C.J. O’Neil said. “So we must be doing something right around here. We licked our wounds, figured out what we wanted to do better and we are trying to do it better this year.”
The biggest change made is the idea that less is more. The Cardinals, who went 3–7 overall last year, have trimmed their roster down to around 35 kids and have simplified its schemes on both sides of the ball. O’Neil knows he has playmakers. Being that is all he wants them to be concerned with.
“He has made things easier for us to move at a high speed without thinking so much,” senior two-way starter Timothy Poindexter said.
He too is looking to rebound after a shoulder injury got him off to a slow start last year. Poindexter will be asked to play receiver, safety, a little running back and return kicks. O’Neil said outside of kicking there isn’t much else he can ask him of him. Poindexter is eager to show people what he can do at full strength.
“Words can’t explain how much I am looking forward to this season,” he said.
One thing he won’t be asked to be is the workhorse running back. Senior Justin Covington earned the job with big junior year. He rushed for 692 yards and six touchdowns on 121 carries. The 16-year-old also gained 15 pounds for this season.
He is the total package,” O’Neil said.
Both will have the advantage of working behind a big offensive line anchored by senior Reggie Williams (6-foot-4, 310 pounds) and sophomore Qadir White (6-foot-7, 330 pounds). Athletic sophomore Lucas Nunez, junior Shameen Jones and senor Brandon Rodriguez will be at receiver.
Carlos Fernandez is the speed back to complement Covington’s power running style. Brian Viga and Christian Anderson are competing for the stating quarterback job. All the new additions have impressed Covington.
“Coming up from the undefeated season really helped them a lot,” he said. “They definitely picked it up and are stepping up.”
O’Neil expects to field a physical defense led by the hard-hitting Poindexter and Dante Rodriguez safety. Senior Juwan DeVone returns on the defensive line and Ibrahim Kante at linebacker. Jones, Nunez and Dante Rodriguez will also see time in the secondary.
The talented group has Hayes not only thinking about competing with the top CHSLF AAA teams, but making a push to be the best of the bunch.
“We are trying to win a championship,” O’Neil said. “We have a lot of respect for all those programs. Maybe we are still the new kids on the block, but we are going to go out and try to beat everybody in our practices and go out on Saturday and let it go on autopilot.”