Summer workouts aren’t necessarily the be all end all for a high school football team, but they can be a solid early indicator of how the upcoming season may go.
And few coaches understand that better than Meadowcreek’s Jason Carrera.
After all, it was this time about two years again when, against any reason to believe from a program that had won just nine games over the previous 15 seasons, that he began to see something special in his Mustangs.
Two winning seasons — only the fourth and fifth in the program’s 32 previous campaigns — and a state playoff berth later, and Carrera’s vision were confirmed.
Now in the summer of 2019, he sees something different from his team, a by-product of that summer two years ago that led to historic accomplishments.
“I think so, and that’s the great thing about these kids. There’s really nobody that they don’t think that we can’t play with or that we can’t beat on a day-in and day-out basis now that we’ve gone and won some games,” Carrera said when asked if the Mustangs had changed over the past two years. “So it’s a good thing that they have that confidence. Obviously, as coaches, we try to keep them grounded, but you want them to have some sense of confidence as we go through the season. So it’s been a (matter) of just continuing to try to instill that winning culture and instill what it takes as a culture to maintain that.”
The key to that winning culture lies in veterans who have been through the transformation over the past two seasons, especially the rising senior class that has played a major role in it.
And while those seniors — such as quarterback Quincy Bonner and offensive linemen Harry Torp and Josh Green — have made a big difference on the field, they’ve made an even bigger difference in the locker room.
“I’ll say this about this group. The group we have this year, the quantity is probably not there and maybe even the athleticism is not there, but the quality of kid is so much better,” Carrera said. “That’s been a focus from us as a staff and myself, just trying to talk culture and change as much as we can … about what’s right and what’s wrong. We brought in some different people and did some different classes with them and stuff, the normal stuff that everybody does. But it’s really been a concentrated focus this year, to have guys, leaders on the team, weed out the bad guys.
“Those group of kids, maybe those kids don’t know losing at Meadowcreek,” Carrera said. “They know that they’ve started 6-0 (the last two seasons) and have (had two winning seasons) and been in some of these contests against teams that in the past have just been massacres. Guys like Harry Torp, who’s s three-year started on the offensive line, and Josh Green, who’s a three-year starter on the offensive line. Those are key guys up front that have been around and been through this. They’re trying to carry that on, and they’re really important in us having the type of leadership we need for these young guys because we’re going to be very young this year. Our senior class is small for Gwinnett County standards, and our junior class is really, really big for Meadowcreek standards. We’re going to have a lot of juniors on the field and a lot of guys on the field who haven’t played before and haven’t been thrown in the fire. That’s why the summer is so important for us, to really get these guys some game-type reps, whether it’s in 7-on-7 or defensive camps or going to West Georgia for camp or whatever it may be. It’s going to be very key to get these guys some under fire-type stuff.”
Bonner, like Torp and Green, is perhaps the biggest key after accounting for 2,137 yards of total offense and 19 total touchdowns.
More importantly, he his grown as a leader, which Carrera believes could pay dividends even beyond this upcoming season.
“You really can’t put a price on having a quarterback that knows what he’s doing and is good at what he does, and on top of that, a guy that’s going to be a three-year starter,” Carrera said. “He makes things tick, he makes things run. He hits guys in the right spot, teaches these younger guys to get where they’re supposed to be, things like that. All of that, you can’t put a price on thew value of having a kid like Quincy.
“He’s had a great spring, great summer. So I’m looking for good things out of him. Obviously, we’re going to do everything we can to keep him healthy. We look for really great things out of him.”
Exactly what impact veterans like Bonner, Torp and Green have in the short term will be known very soon, according to Carrera, with several possible bellwether moments upcoming within the next month.
“You ask about that season two years ago when I felt like I saw something during the summer, that was really when we went to the West Georgia camp,” Carrera said. “But we haven’t even gotten to that point yet (this summer). We’ve got a really big next three weeks for us. They’re really going to tell us about our summer the next three or four weeks. There’s a defensive camp next week. Several guys are coming in who get the opportunity for the first time ever to compete (on the varsity level). There’s the elite O-lineman camp, so I think that’s going to be very big. And then the week after that, we go to West Georgia. … It’s going to be interesting. So that four weeks, including the dead week, are going to be huge weeks for us to get up to speed.”