Taking over a football program isn't a simple task in a normal year. The start of the 2020 season for the Jefferson City Jays has been nothing short of unusual.
Back in early June, the Jays were without a head coach after Terry Walker resigned after two years at his alma mater.
It didn't take long for Jefferson City to find a replacement. Of course, time was not on its side with the season just a little more than two months away.
Scott Bailey decided to leave his alma mater Lamar after seven state championships in 14 seasons to lead the Jays.
The Tigers won 151 games in those 14 seasons. Bailey is now coaching a program that has won nine games in the past three seasons.
"The football part has been really enjoyable," Bailey said of his first couple months on the job. "Most days kids bring a really good attitude. And for the most part they're accountable and attendance is really good."
The Jays have already had to adjust their schedule because of COVID-19.
Jefferson City's originally scheduled Week 1 opponent, Chaminade, got a late start to preseason practices, so the Jays replaced the Red Devils with the Wentzville: Holt Indians.
For Week 2, Jefferson City's scheduled home game against Hannibal was canceled when the Hannibal School District pushed back the start date for classes to Sept. 8. The school board then voted to allow athletics to resume, which means that game is back on as scheduled.
THE JAYS ARE replacing several key players on the offensive side of the ball this season.
There are two players working at quarterback: sophomore Zane Wings and junior Seth Brooks.
"Both of them from Day 1 started learning a new offense and have just been building on it since then," Bailey said.
Whoever is taking the snaps will be one of the primary ball carriers in Bailey's run-heavy approach.
Returning at running back is junior David Bethune, who gained a team-high 506 yards and ran for four scores last season.
"He is a hard-working young man," Bailey said. "He's physically strong in the weight room and he's a guy that comes to practice and gives 100 percent effort all the time. He's just one of those kids that coaches magnetize to."
Also working in at running back will be junior Kevion Pendelton, who'll have several roles with the team this season.
"Everything I've seen has been positive," Bailey said. "He'll start for us in the secondary on defense, he's gonna rotate in on offense, he's going to play on special teams."
One of the Jays' top offensive weapons from last season, Devin White, returns to his starting receiver spot as a senior.
White came close to reaching 1,000 yards last season, as he led the team with 52 receptions for 924 yards.
Opposite White will be senior Marshaun Dye. Fellow senior Steveon Dove will also be in the rotation at receiver.
Much of the offensive line will be new for the Jays. Isaac Enloe, a junior tackle, is one of two returning starters.
Possible starters at the other tackle spot are senior Jamari Todd and sophomore Jaden Schlotter. The guards will be seniors Fred Wilson and Baylen Farmer.
"I think probably the No. 1 thing is eliminating confusion," Bailey said. "A confused lineman is a slow lineman. I know just from my playing days 100 years ago when I could just not have to worry so much about alignment and assignment and just go play football I enjoyed it better."
Snapping the ball will be returning starter Brady Connell, a senior.
Bailey said he has already built a strong and fun connection with the offensive line and defensive line.
"They're the position group that I've enjoyed coaching the most," he said. "The individual time that we have when I'm just working with the offensive and definitive line is probably some of my most enjoyable time at practice. A lot of those guys, we just seem to make a connection."
STOPPING OPPOSING OFFENSES on a consistent basis was a weakness for Jefferson City last season.
After allowing a combined 20 points to Hannibal and Hickman, the Jays were gashed for at least 35 points for seven straight weeks, including a 68-16 defeat against Joplin in the opening round of district play. The Eagles made it to the Class 6 championship game, falling to De Smet 35-20.
But the Jays do have a lot of experience on the back end of the defensive unit, and Bailey has been pleased so far.
"It's all relative because you're gonna line up against some really good athletes in Class 5 and 6, but that defense that I look at out there on the field can flat out play," Bailey said. "There's times that I watch our defense get out of position and I think our offense is going to gash them, and it closes out pretty quick.
"Even though they got out of position, we still didn't score. And that's happened multiple times when we've playing against each other because I think that they just run well, they've got some experience at all three levels."
Dye and White will lock up the outside corner spots. Bethune can also play cornerback if needed.
Nick Williams, a senior, will play free safety, while Pendelton will be the strong safety.
"Nick Williams comes down hill, hits people really hard," Bailey said. "Kevion's an outstanding athlete back there and you know what you've got with Marshaun and Devin out there at corner."
Backing up the secondary positions will be juniors Ian and Isaac Jones, and senior Ethan Walling.
"There's some really talented football players in our level three," Bailey said. "I don't know if anybody would argue that. When you see them run, they are really, really good football players in the secondary."
Jefferson City will have two returners at the second level with senior Jacob Duke and junior Will Berendzen back at linebacker.
Duke will play the middle spot in the 4-3 alignment with sophomore Ethan Garnett backing him up.
Josh Copeland, a senior, will play outside linebacker with senior Connor Kimsey serving as a backup.
"I think if you just looked at the group as a whole, they just have a really good understanding of football," Bailey said. "When you're trying to install something or you're trying to teach something it seems like those guys pick up football pretty quick."
Farmer and senior Kent Walker are the starting defensive tackles.
"A lot of our offensive linemen will rotate in there to try to keep the D-line fresh," Bailey said.
Frank Gillmore, a senior, and Wilson are slotted as the starting defensive ends. Backing them up will be senior Bryson Briggs and Todd.
"Especially when you're chasing the quarterback pretty much every play, you have to have two deep on your D-line to be able to play fresh into the second half," Bailey said.
KICKING AND PUNTING have been strengths for the Jays for the past several years, and Bailey said he thinks that can continue into 2020.
Helias ready to deal with what comes this seasonRead more
Booting the field goals and PATs will be Bassil Ahmed, who decided to join the team as a senior. Ahmed is a starting forward for the Jays soccer team.
"There's something about a soccer player that you just don't have to teach them how to strike a ball," Bailey said. " Kicking game looks pretty good with those guys out there."
Joe Kuster, a sophomore, will also play football and soccer. Kickoffs will be Kuster's main duty.
Brooks will be the team's punter.
Taking over the long snapping job will be Berendzen.
"I've had some pretty good long snappers," Bailey said. "I've had long snappers go to college on scholarship and Will's as good as any of them. And those kickers, I've had kickers go to college on scholarship and they're as good as those guys."
THE JAYS ARE scheduled to begin the season Saturday as they host Holt at Adkins Stadium. Kickoff is at 5 p.m.
The Indians went 6-4 last season, with a 42-13 defeat to Blue Springs South in the opening round of play in Class 6 District 2.
"The team that can adjust and not get upset and the team that handles adversity and the team that just does basic stuff right is going to have a big advantage in this game," Bailey said.