Red Devils’ focus + intensity = high expectations

by Benita Fuzzell

Head Football Coach for the 2023 South Fulton High School Red Devils’ team sees in his players this season, a different mentality.
While most of the players on the field this year are familiar faces in the Red Devil program, Coach Knott says there is definitely more focus, more intensity and higher expectations.
While he prefers to not single out any one individual, regarding “key player” designation, as he sees each team member as intricate to the team’s success as a whole, Coach Knott considers worth noting, is the offensive and defensive lines.

“Luke Morris, Tim Davis, Joseph Mathias, James Pergande, Garet Gilland, and Dylan Bynum all must play up and beyond their years when they are in the game in order for us to reach our maximum potential,” he said.
Other stand outs to consider are Brady McFarland, Dallas Whitehead, Will Clapper, Dane Cirkles, Connor O’Neal, Harley Nagel and Jonathan Doss.
Coach Knott said he would then have to add the fearless attitudes and athleticism of Josh McKnight and Kaedyn Haynes into the mix.

“And that adds up to us being fun to watch on offense. All of these guys are sudden, twitchy, and athletic. When these guys do their thing, then we are extremely diverse and dynamic offensively,” he said.
Defensively, Knott wants to see his Red Devils play with more confidence and energy .

“The leader of that group is Will Clapper. He is intelligent and physical. He understands the game and how our defense fits the game,” he said.

Coach Knott will go as far as saying none of the team’s starters on defense would be considered a liability.

“All of them know their job, all of them do their job and all of them are integral to our success,” he said.

He is banking on “every player on defense”, including Connor Lawrence, Tim Davis, Quadyn Morefield, Dallas Whitehead, Luke Morris, Joseph Mathias, Connor O’Neal, Dane Cirkles and Brady McFarland to all play with intense focus.

“I don’t think a player can be “key” unless he is unselfish. I don’t think a player can be part of a “team” unless he is unselfish. “Key” players understand that if WE are successful, then “I” was successful,” Knott said.

He is looking to Luke Morris and Will Clapper to be the leaders of this year’s team, citing both are encouragers and have the strength to correct others when they are wrong and also to admit fault in themselves.
But, the Head Coach also is quick to say he has witnessed each player lead in his own way.
“If they make a mistake, they own up to it and they fix. If they are wrong, then they admit and they fix it. If someone does something good, then they acknowledge that and celebrate it. This is a fun group to coach,” Knott said.
Offensively, McFarland will be at Quarterback, with Whitehead and Clapper at Running Back.

Josh McKnight and Kaedyn Haynes will be in the Slot, Cirkles and Harley Nagel at wide receiver, as will Conner O’Neal. Half back position will be filled by Jonathan Doss and Connor Lawrence, with James Pergande at right tackle, Garet Gilliland at right guard ad Joseph Mathias at Center.

Luke Morris is at left guard, Tim Davis at left tackle, and swing lineman, who can play every position, is Dylan Bynum.

On Defense, at “Bandit”, Mathias and Bynum will fill in, with Davis and Gilliland at nose guard, Morris and Pergande at End, Dallas Whitehead at strong side linebacker, with Quadyn Morefield at linebacker, and Gavin Lovell, Swing inside line backer.

Outside linebacker will be filled by Jonathan Doss, Harley Nagel, Connor Lawrence and Josh McKnight.

Safety position will be filled by Will Clapper, Connor O’neal, Kaedyn Haynes and Mason Parrish.

Corner back is set for Dane Cirkles/Brady McFarland/Trevor Stunson/Anthony Ross.

Charlie Mike Mulcahy is the team kicker, and according to Knott, has “finally given us a kicking game.”

Dane Cirkles and Mulcahy will share the punter role.

With only five seniors on this year’s Red Devil team, youth and lack of depth will create a challenge, but experience on the field, leadership and overall athletic ability will be strengths.

When asked about his goals for this season, Coach Knott said goal setting is not something he has seen as beneficial.

“We don’t set goals. I don’t believe in them. Once you achieve a goal, then there is an inevitable let down following. It is just human nature to cruise after you hit a goal. So we set expectations on how we practice, how we prepare, and how we play. We go to work each practice with a growth mindset. We talk about consistency and focus and working to be 1% better than we were the previous day. If we can do that then the results take care of themselves. So I don’t talk about wins and losses, that is out of our control. The only thing we can control is how we prepare, because how you prepare is how you are going to play,” Knott said.

Some new faces to watch for the 2023 Red Devils are Garet Gilliand, a senior, but new to the team.
As to Gilliland, Knott said it has been many moons since he has stepped foot on a field, but his physical nature and intelligence have earned him a starting spot on the offensive line.
Kaedyn Haynes is also a new face to keep an eye one.
“Haynes has great hands and is tough as nails,” Knott said.

Two freshmen that could see significant time on defense are Trevor Stunson and Anthony Ross, each growing into excellent CBs and both of whom have shown “zero” fear when it comes to the physicality of the game.
Of the 31 players on the roster, 18 played for South Fulton last year.
“Those 18 set the expectations for the other to carry themselves in school, how to work in the weight room, how to focus and give effort on the practice field, how to earn the trust and respect of the team,” Knott said.

With the region having changed significantly since last year, three teams that have won state titles in recent years, Lake County, Dresden and Union City, have to be marked as the schedule’s tough opponents.

But the rest of the region is tough, according to Knott, as he sees Greenfield and Gleason as rival games with well coached student athletes who play hard.

“Then you slide over to Humboldt, and you are playing against a super athletic team that also has a D1 prospect on the team. Halls has a new coach in Blake Stigall, and they always have great athletes. So never a week off and never a dull moment. Should be fun,” Coach Knott said.

His outlook on what he has seen thus far fell a little short in expectations.

“Our first scrimmage was less than spectacular. The players understood that they didn’t play well, and I understood that I had not prepared them well. Each of us went to work to fix that and we did. Our second scrimmage was much better all the way around. I was proud of how Coach Vaughn and Coach Garmon got their guys ready to play and I was proud of how receptive the kids were to their coaching. We are on the right track,” he said.