He’s heard some chatter that his team won’t be as good as it was last year, that his roster lost too many top players to be competitive…and Demarcus Simons loves it.
“I hear some naysayers,” the Great Falls head football coach said. “There are people who are doubting us. I love that. I want people to count us out and overlook us.”
Great Falls is coming off one of its most successful seasons of the past decade. After struggling in terms of wins and losses for many years, which included a two-plus-season-long losing streak, the Red Devils not only had a winning record in 2021, they won a playoff game for the first time in eight years. After going through four head coaches in five seasons, Great Falls also has stability and continuity now, with Simons entering his third year at the helm of the program. So, the arrow certainly seems to be pointing up, but Simons said some people don’t seem convinced.
“We did lose some studs,” he conceded.
Among those who graduated from last year’s team was a pair of players (quarterback Xavier Brown and running back/receiver Foxx Moore) that combined for 36 touchdowns. Each also ended the year with more than 2,000 all-purpose yards. Those two and 6-foot-7 tight end Will Manning signed to play at the college level. While those three and all the team’s other graduates will certainly be missed, Simons said his squad has plenty of talent remaining on hand.
“A strength for us is that we have most of our offensive line coming back. We’ll be strong up front. On defense, we were young last year and have a lot of guys who are back. Our front seven should be pretty tough and the back end is where our seniors are. Defense could be a strength for us this year,” Simons said.
Great Falls hit the practice field for the first time on Monday. Simons said that came on the heels of a productive summer. Some experience back at key spots, players that will “run through a wall for me” and a year of maturation all figure to make a difference. There is also the overall aspect of program building. After having to adjust to new philosophies and systems for several years, players now know what is expected of them and how Simons and his staff operate. Upperclassmen have been in the system for three years, they can help younger players along and those underclassmen are coming into an environment where they can thrive.
The offense will look a bit different this year minus some of last year’s dynamic playmakers, but Simons believes that junior Jacob Bair is ready to assume a leadership role under center. Jordan Holmes averaged more than 30 yards-per-catch last season while hauling in four scoring grabs.
He’ll still be a go-to guy at receiver but Simons will also put him at quarterback at times to take advantage of his athletic ability and give opponents one more thing to prep for.
Jaylan Sanders was a big, physical compliment to Moore at running back last year and is in line for more touches in 2022. He’s a bit lighter and faster now and Simons said he’s another player in line for a big year.
Again, he’s counting on his line taking a big step forward, which will ease the transition of the new skill position players.
The Red Devils have a scrimmage at Eau Claire on August 8 at 8 a.m. Simons said he likes to see his team “compete against someone in a different-colored jersey” but doesn’t put a huge amount of stock in scrimmages.
“You just want to see guys compete, line up correctly and execute. It’s really just a practice,” he said.
Then the team gets Blacksburg in next Friday’s Chester County Football jamboree before preparing for the opening game against Heathwood Hall. That’s when the real opportunity arrives to prove naysayers wrong.
“People didn’t think we’d achieve what we did last year either,” he said.