SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The Calvary Day School has a tradition that helps set the tone before football practice gets started each day.
“It’s like nervousness and then the adrenaline kicks in and you are good to go,” wide receiver Brooks Dawson explained. “You want to kill the dude. You love him, but you can’t kill him.”
Two players, informed it would be their turn well beforehand, get in the three-point stance and collide in a head-to-head battle of pure strength.
It brings the energy for the whole day,” sophomore Jake Merklinger added. “It’s toughness. You are going against your teammate and you really work to beat him.”
Merklinger isn’t allowed to put his hand in the turf for this drill. He’s the starting quarterback and keeping his special arm safe for the 2021 season is paramount.
“He’s a beast,” Dawson said with a smile. “He can launch the ball a mile or just throw the short game. He can get it all.”
Dawson isn’t the only veteran player that was impressed by Merklinger’s first season as the starting quarterback.
“He’s probably one of the hardest quarterbacks to read that I’ve ever played against,” senior defensive back and wide receiver Juwan Johnson added.
Luckily for Johnson, he only has to go up against Merklinger in practice. In just a few short days, Johnson and Merklinger will work together to try and deliver a 12th straight winning season to Calvary Day School.
“We have those seniors that have the veteran drive that want to get us there,” senior running back Garrhet Manning explained. “Then we have the younger players who have time to get there and we are going to take them there with the months we have left.”
Head coach Mark Stroud felt like the team created momentum at the tail end of the 2020 season and was proud of the way his players fought in the run to a GHSA Private 1A Final Four berth. He’s told WSAV there’s been no drop in the energy level from last season’s postseason push.
“We kind of feel like it’s spinning from the inside out,” Stroud said. “The team itself is creating that wave, creating that momentum and creating that vibe. Someone on the outside isn’t having to create it all the time. Usually, that’s a good sign.”
“Unity. That’s the thing Coach Stroud is focused on is unity,” Johnson added. “No one is bigger than the team, so we come in all as one and get the job done.”
Calvary Day opens up the season at home this Friday against powerhouse Prince Avenue Christian.