The results on the scoreboard during the first two years of Robin Tyra’s tenure at Ashford might not show it, but the coach believes the Yellow Jackets are heading in the right direction.
“I think we’re just in a situation where we’re trying to build a program, and part of building a program is getting that commitment, getting a belief and getting a love for the school and all of that kind of stuff,” Tyra said. “It’s a difficult situation, but it’s a fun situation for me because I’ve always enjoyed building up programs… trying to figure out those pieces and getting them right.
“Once that happens, the success comes along. Once that success is there, everyone wants to be a part of it.”
Ashford won two games when Tyra made the move from Abbeville to Ashford before the 2020 season and didn’t notch a win last season.
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However, Tyra is staying patient in trying to build a solid foundation at the school.
“We’re moving in the right direction, but it’s slower than anywhere I’ve ever been,” Tyra said. “A lot of us is not physical and it’s not strength and it’s definitely not because of speed. Now, it’s just getting them to believe.”
The Yellow Jackets do have some experience across the offensive front with three returning starters – Ethan Bonner, Jaylin Fields and Gabe Winter. Caleb Cook is also expected to start.
“Having that experience is good because that’s something you don’t really have to worry about,” Tyra said. “We’ve got kids that are physical enough to be on that front and play a certain way.
“I’ve got some guys who have played and gotten thrown in the fire the last couple of years and have had to learn the way I like for them to play, which is fast, physical and be athletic.”
Devontrez Blake will be counted on at running back. He’s coming off a knee injury suffered last season.
“He rehabbed and was able to play in the spring and looks good,” Tyra said. “You always are a little concerned of whether that thing (knee) is good, but just watching him play; he’s going to be back. Hopefully he has a really great senior year. He’s been one of the constant faces that has been at practice and constantly contacted me.”
The starting quarterback race appears to be between Will Hart Lawrence and Coy Paramore. Lawrence was in that role a year ago.
“Will has been very competitive and wants to be out front, but Coy is pushing him,” Tyra said. “It’s going to be very interesting. Coy is a very athletic and talented kid who I believe is going to have a high ceiling.
“I personally think we’re going to be in good shape with either one of them. “
Defensively, Fields, Bonner, Winter and Blake Enfinger lead the way across the front.
“Jaylin Fields has been right there in the thick of things and has made plays the last couple of years,” Tyra said. “Ethan Bonner, I brag on him because he’s one of those kids that you’ll lose sight of because he’s just doing his job and working his butt off and the next thing you know it’s been 48 minutes and he hasn’t come off the field
“He plays offense and defense. The joker just steps up and plays hard.”
Blake will be at linebacker, while Peyton McBride is a returner at defensive back. Also expected to start in the secondary is Emon Oliver, Braylon Bigham and Paramore.
“Peyton, Emon and Coy are track guys and they have just gotten so much better,” Tyra said. “I think we’re going to be able to do some things with them that’s going to help us.”
Tyra stresses that many of the players must be prepared to play on both sides of the football.
“Going back to the lack of numbers, one of the things I’m trying to drill in their heads is, ‘Now there’s nobody behind you. You’re going to have to suck it up and toughen up and grow up a lot in a hurry, because y’all are going to be the guys carrying the load,’” Tyra said.
YELLOW JACKETS AT A GLANCE
>> Head coach: Robin Tyra (3rd year at Ashford, 2-18; 15th as a head coach, 60-99)
>> 2021 record: 0-10 overall, 0-7 in Class 4A, Region 2
>> 2021 results: Rehobeth (L, 6-16); at Dale County # (L, 14-36); at Straughn # (L, 20-42); Geneva # (L, 6-40); at Houston County (L, 26-50); Alabama Christian # (L, 16-55); at Bullock County # (L, 26-46); at St. James # (L, 8-35); Booker T. Washington # (L, 14-26); Northside Methodist (L, 8-12)
>> Points scored/per game: 144/14.4
>> Points allowed/per game: 358/35.8
>> Returning offensive starters (4): OL Ethan Bonner (Sr.); OL Jaylin Fields (Sr.); OL Gabe Winter (Sr.); RB Devontrez Blake (Sr.)
>> Returning defensive starters (7): DL Ethan Bonner (Sr.); DL Jaylin Fields (Sr.); DL Gabe Winter (Sr.); LB Devontrez Blake (Sr.); DB Peyton McBride (So.0
Aug. 19 Rehobeth
Aug. 26 Providence Christian #
Sept. 2 at Pike County #
Sept. 9 Houston Academy #
Sept. 16 at Straughn #
Sept. 23 at Slocomb
Sept. 30 at Daleville #
Oct. 7 off
Oct. 14 at New Brockton #
Oct. 21 Northside Methodist #
Oct. 28 Opp #
# Denotes regional contests