MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Montgomery Catholic Knights are on a mission in 2018 after coming so close in 2017. As the Aug. 24 season opener slowly approaches, the Knights were on the football field Monday working towards another successful season.
"Finally, we get a chance to go out here and work a little bit in the heat and our guys are excited. We've had a great summer and it's a great time here at Catholic," said head football coach Aubrey Blackwell.
It's an exciting time indeed, because though it will be tough, Catholic is looking to improve upon what was an impressive 2017 campaign that resulted in a 10-2 record and 4A region championship.
"Every year we talk about raising the bar, raising the standard. Last year we were fortunate enough to win a region championship, we're fighting for that again," said Blackwell.
Catholic's season was cut short by eventual Class 4A champion UMS-Wright. This year it's about taking that extra step.
"We want to get past the second round. We want to make a run at this thing, we have worked for that, we've fought for that," coach Blackwell said.
That next step will come with a relatively young team, coach Blackwell said. The Knights only have seven seniors on the roster, but many of his young guys were on the team last year, and they weren't just on the team, they saw some action and Blackwell said they're hungry.
"We're going to be young, we have a lot of new guys, we only have seven returning starters. We've got a lot of young hungry players that are looking forward to some opportunities," said Blackwell. "We're just excited to see them do that. We have a lot of senior leadership on both sides up front on both offense and defense. We're just looking forward to getting those guys ready both mentally and physically."
One of those seniors is linebacker Drew Smith, who says to be successful, the team just has to not listen to all the hype.
"It's important for our team to stay outta the hype. I mean everyone expects us to do big things, and that's what we expect ourselves is to win, but not get caught up in the hype and just do our team stuff," said Smith.
Some of what is fueling the Catholic Knights, especially Blackwell's coaching staff, are the doubters. The people who think - and thought - Blackwell couldn't be successful at Catholic.
"We've been set out ever since we got here to prove everybody wrong. Me and a couple other coaches were told we couldn't win here and that was the first thing we tried to instill in our guys that, 'People don't believe in you,' and we want people to believe in us and understand what we're trying to do," said Blackwell.
"We want to put this program on the map. That is the next step," Blackwell said. "The motivation is we were so close, those guys [UMS-Wright] went on to win it. I don't think we understood how close we really were to winning a state championship."
All of that continues to fuel Blackwell's football team on the field and Smith just says it's about the week-by-week process to ensure things go as well as planned.
Everyone on the team from last year remembers the loss to UMS as a "terrible feeling" or a loss that left a bad taste in the team's mouth. Blackwell believes in the product he's putting on the field, because he's teaching them how to be leaders off of it.
"The thing that we want to do is build young men, build young character and I'm a big believer that if we put a product out there of teaching guys how to love each other, how to play hard, how to fight for their community and their families, that winning's going to come on the football field," Blackwell said.
Catholic's season opens at 7 p.m. Aug. 24 on the road at Tallassee.