As Jamell Davis prepared for his first season coaching the Africentric football team, he was confident the Nubians could build on a 2020 season of setting their first winning record and winning two Division VI, Region 23 playoff games.
Fourth grader Linden McKinley trainer Eric Valentine had similar expectations about the steps his team might take.
The fact that both programs would emerge as contenders for the league title and the playoffs, however, was anything but predictable due to the events of recent years.
Linden was 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the City League-North Division before playing against Beechcroft on September 30, while Africentric was 4-1 overall and 2-0 in City-South in his matchup faced West on October 1st.
News: Drama, penalties in the City League soccer game between Beechcroft and Linden-McKinley
Africentric’s only five-game loss was 36-28 to Linden on August 27.
“We honestly thought we were going to be 5-0, but we had a slip against Linden,” said Davis. “We knew the talent was here. Last year I was (assistant) at Gahanna but the three years before that I was the offensive coordinator at East and we had practice with Africentric so I could see the talent that was there.
“Sometimes it was just about their (low) participation numbers or a full buy-in from the children. From a full buy-in standpoint, we’re still not there, but we’re getting there. We know the formula and teach children. ”
The Nubians, who were surpassed with 398-12 points during their first seven-game 2003 season, posted a 5-5 record in 2008 but failed to match that finish and left for the next 11 seasons before the 4–2 shortened season .
Clarence Daniels left Africentric after last season to take over as coach at Walnut Ridge, which lost to the Nubians 50:13 on September 24.
The Scots won the City Playoffs that took place last fall but were 0-4 before playing against Marion-Franklin on October 1st.
The Red Devils, who reached the playoffs 13 times from 2004-19, also started slowly, going into their game against Walnut Ridge with 2-4.
Eastmoor Academy, which fell to Walnut Ridge in the City title game last year, started the season with some of the highest numbers and the most experienced squad of any team, finishing 3-2 overall and 2-0 in the City. South before you face Briggs on October 1st.
South was 4-2 overall and 1-1 for City-South before taking on Independence on September 30th. One of the Bulldogs’ losses was a 14-12 setback against Africentric on September 10th.
With around 50 players, Africentric competes with Eastmoor in terms of attendance.
“We can do a whole lot of training and the programs I’ve been in will win you a few games if the scout team is competent,” said Davis. “We have more than enough people and it’s definitely an all-round team effort.”
In six games, the junior quarterback from Africentric, Antonie Moss, had thrown 753 yards and 13 touchdowns with only two interceptions and had also stormed for 239 yards. His top target was senior wide receiver Dan Wagner, who had 13 receptions for 338 yards and six touchdowns.
Linden, who has one of the region’s top Division IV quarterbacks in junior Chris Towns, attended last year’s postseason when every team was eligible but never qualified for the playoffs.
The Panthers – who lost 4-2 last season, including a 55-14 loss to Cambridge in the first round of the Region 15 playoffs – were 3-23 in Valentine’s first three seasons.
Linden’s only loss over six weeks was 31-20 on September 3 to Toledo Scott, which also started 5-1.
The Panthers didn’t play Beechcroft last season, but had lost to the Cougars in each of the past 17 seasons after the city switched to their current league alignment in 2003.
In Linden’s 40-6 win over Centennial on September 24, Towns tossed for 166 yards and four touchdowns. His older brother, LB Towns, had two touchdown catches while his other older brother, Londale Towns and Senior Malakhi Armistead had one each.
Another member of the Towns family, Philip Towns, sophomore, is an important wide receiver along with Senior LA Walker.
“The Towns family was obviously a standout trait for us, but another one that really stood out is LA Walker,” said Valentine. “He’s a senior and 4.0 student who came out and was a leader making big games for us at the right time.”
East got off to a 3-2 start that included a 46-7 win over Centennial on September 10, but consecutive games have been canceled and are expected to return to action on October 8 at Whetstone.
Beechcroft, which last won at least part of the City North title in 2017 but played 19 playoff games, was 3-3 overall and 2-0 in the league before September 30th.
The Cougars were led by senior running back / defensive back Diante Latham, senior wide receiver JJ Simmons and junior wide receiver Jayden Douglas.
“After last year’s COVID season, teams are looking forward to just getting back out of it,” said Cougars coach Humphrey Simmons, whose team was without Latham for part of September due to a concussion. “The motivation and the structure of the team chemistry, you had to be creative, make zoom calls, and that has helped many teams to get better because it’s not just about playing outside.”