The Archer football program is entering its 10th year in existence and will once again be led by head coach Andy Dyer, who has led it since the inaugural season. Over the course of the program’s history, Dyer has created something from nothing, racking up 63 wins and leading the Tigers to three region titles. While the team has secured itself a spot at the top in little to no time at all, a state title has eluded the young powerhouse. Last year’s season looked as if it could make history, but the Tigers fell short after a 12-7 loss to future runner ups Colquitt County in the Class AAAAAAA quarterfinals, finishing 12-1. Now, the Tigers are looking to continue their success with different strategies and several different faces.
“There’s a hundred ways to win a football game, and a hundred ways to lose,” said Dyer. “Our focus going into the spring is the next man up. We’ll have to win in different ways than we did last year.”
Dyer’s approach to this season revolves around one word: ownership. With the losses of several major players, capable players are expected to step in to play on both sides of the ball.
“These are young men who are learning the great game,” Dyer said. “The lessons they learn while playing the game are things we want them to carry with them. Taking ownership, in the classroom and the weight room. They all do that. They have to take ownership over their roles. We do that, and we’ll put together a real good team. Got to get lined up right and do your job. Football doesn’t have to be a complicated game. Sometimes it’s made complicated by coaches. My job is to help develop them as players and as a team. Own your job.”
One player expected to step up with a bigger offensive role is senior cornerback/wide receiver Andrew Booth. His 59 solo tackles and four interceptions during his 2017 season were the second-highest on the team, while his 14 pass breakups led all Archer defenders. His 6-foot-1, 180-pound stature has proven to be an asset on defense and will be put to use at the wide receiver position.
Last year’s running duties were split between the lethal duo of Keegan Strickland and Semaje Banks. As a senior, Strickland rushed for 649 yards and four touchdowns on 133 carries. Now, the backfield belongs to Banks.
“I’m expecting a really good season from Semaje,” said Dyer. “We’ve got five or six guys on offense that can run really well. We hope they make us a little bit more explosive than we were last year.”
Last season, the junior back rushed for 664 yards and six touchdowns on 119 carries. With Strickland’s 133 attempts up for grabs, Dyer will look to his most productive running back to take full advantage, while using senior running back/outside linebacker Emmanuel Michel as a change-of-pace back. Michel, who led the team with 66 solo tackles last year, is expected to be one of several rotational backs in the Tigers offense.
Leading the offense will be three-year starting quarterback Carter Peevy. Heading into his junior year, Peevy has the experience needed to command a scoring offense.
“With another year under his belt, he’s getting better and better,” said Dyer. “Our goal obviously is, he needs to be the commander of the whole operation. The great thing is he got experience as a youngster. He’s seen a lot. When he sees stuff for the second time, it will slow down for him a bit. We’ll have a full offense behind him.”
Peevy ended the regular season in a win against Shiloh with 19-of-27 passing for 265 yards and four touchdowns. In their playoff loss to Colquitt County, Peevy tossed the only touchdown of the game, connecting with Taiyon Palmer for a 54-yard bomb. As a junior, he’ll look to continue his development.
Defensively, the Tigers will have to fill the shoes of defensive standouts like defensive lineman Will Choloh and defensive back Palmer. Palmer’s five interceptions led the team, while Choloh accumulated 43 solo tackles and 20 assists. Offensive lineman Josh Ezeudu moved on to play at the University of North Carolina, a hard void to fill. While hard to replace, Dyer thinks the answer lies with Israel Mukwiza.
“We need him to come on in the spring and prove he’s ready to play,” said Dyer.
Mukwiza, a 6-2, 313-pound junior, spent his previous years on junior varsity but has shown enough improvement to have Dyer feeling confident in his abilities on the field.
This season marks the fifth-consecutive Corky Kell appearance for the Tigers, and with two wins and two losses in the event, they’ll be looking to make it a winning record.
“Every year going into your first ball game, you think you know what you have, but you don’t really know what you have until you play,” Dyer said. “It’s fun. Playing a great opponent like Milton down at a great stadium is awesome for our kids. It forces them to step their game up and puts them at a high level of concentration.
“That first game sets the tone, lets you know your strengths and weaknesses. From there you just continue to build and put the pieces together. Football season is a long grind. They have to have the mentality to grind week in and week out throughout the season. The more they have invested, the harder it is to give it away.”
ARCHER’S 2018 SCHEDULE
8/17 Milton (Georgia State)
8/31 at Spartanburg
9/7 Mill Creek
9/14 at Norcross
10/12 at Grayson
10/19 at Rockdale County
10/26 South Gwinnett