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Junction City excited about future

by Jason Avery | November 25, 2022 at 12:00 a.m.

The 2022 season saw Junction City take some lumps and endure some growing pains on a team that had only four seniors on it.

And while Junction City finished with a 4-6 record, there are signs that the Dragons are ready to reverse their fortunes.

The Dragons moved up 15 freshmen that got ample playing time in the final three games of the regular season as well as the playoff clash at Booneville, and Junction City coach David Carpenter is already busy with getting offseason plans started.

“That’s the promising thing about this whole season,” Carpenter said of his team’s improvement down the stretch. “We didn’t have but four seniors, and those guys continued to work and led the team. There was a stretch where things were really going bad for us, but those guys continued to work hard and push the other guys, the younger ones that didn’t know exactly what the heck was going on. Right now, we’re going back over each week starting from our scrimmage and trying to grade up on our improvements that we had made throughout the year.”

Although the Dragons had only four seniors, Carpenter said they were instrumental in keeping the Dragons focused when they were off to a 1-5 start.

“Things went bad and then all of a sudden, we had a good stretch in there,” Carpenter said. “We didn’t have the best finish, but we played a good ballclub and they do what they do. They had us outnumbered on what they were doing. They did a good job, but the improvement that we made through the year, you sit there and go, ‘OK, this sophomore here went from a zero to a six.’ Then you’ve got your freshmen that we wound up starting that moved from a zero to a three or a four ahead of schedule of where they will be next year.

“The juniors, a bunch of those of guys got a lot steadier as we went along. We were very happy with the improvement that we made. We would’ve loved to have won a lot more ballgames, that’s just what we try to do down here. From the outside looking in, you go, ‘Whoa.’ But then from the inside looking at everything, we go, ‘Yes, there’s a lot of marked improvement on things that we were able to do.’

“We had moved to a point later in the season where we were able to add a few more things that helped us out. Normally, this set of plays and things that we were doing, we would have them in by Week 3, but we didn’t get to put them in until Week 7, so that type of improvement was tough, but at least we were able to do that, which changed a lot of things for us. It was the same on the offensive side and the defensive side. A lot of improvement, but there’s still a long way to go.”

In the loss to Booneville, Junction City’s freshmen played in the second half with Ja’Kameron Flowers scoring a touchdown for the Dragons, and that experience will be a big benefit going into 2023.

“In the fourth quarter the other night, we put the freshman offense and defense out there on the field and said, ‘Hey guys, lets learn,’” Carpenter said. “They did us a real good job of doing things. That’s 15 guys right there that got playoff experience that normally wouldn’t get it. That helps. Playing in the other games, all of those things are great pluses for us that’s going to pay off for us at the start of next year because now they see where they have to be. They know now instead of coming into it blindly.”

Carpenter said he likes to move the freshmen up to the varsity roster after the junior high season ends for several reasons.

“Whenever the junior high season is over with, we move up,” Carpenter said. “We move as many of the ninth-graders up that want to move because we want them practicing with the senior high. It’s like this year’s bunch and in years past, they all sit there and think they’re as good or better than the senior high, but once they move up, they see the speed of the game, the strength of the game, and they go, ‘Oh shoot.’

“That’s one of the reasons why we’ve always done it and also to get them used to the different practice schedule. With junior high, we only have X amount of time during the day to get things done with them. With the senior high schedule, we do a lot more during the practice period and it’s structured totally different just because we have the time to do all of these things. They got to see and be right in the middle of it. It changed a lot of their attitudes and you can already tell just a week after getting into offseason.”

One area that seems to be emerging as a strength for the Dragons is their numbers.

After moving a sizable freshman class  up this year, the class of freshmen for next year has similar numbers.

“Our numbers are back up,” Carpenter said. “We had 25 seventh-graders, and we’ve very rarely ever had that many. The numbers are moving back up again.”

When asked what goal he had before spring practice starts, Carpenter had one.

“Get stronger. We’ve got to be much stronger,” Carpenter said.

One key area the Dragons will have to resolve is at quarterback with Decoreon Dubose graduating.

Taylen Owens served as the backup on the varsity while Dakorey Larry was the starter on the junior high squad, and Carpenter said both will get plenty of work when summer arrives.

“When you lose a senior at a spot that has been playing there for a couple of years, that’s a tough spot to fill,” Carpenter said. “We’ve got Taylen Owens, that was the backup for us this year, and Dakorey Larry, our junior high quarterback, and he got a lot of time in the playoffs and during the regular season with the freshman group.

“We’ve got two guys that are going to be able to try to do some battling. The bad thing for us in football is both play basketball and baseball. The good thing for us in the football sense is they both play basketball and baseball. It’s the good and the bad.

“A school our size, you want all of your kids to play everything that they can. We won’t get a lot of short drill time in there with them, but we’ll make up for all of that during the summer.” 


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