“Sacrifice”- James Clemens Football Team Culture
MADISON- Every high school football program builds character into each of its players. Each program has a main topic of inspiration to help instill into the team culture for success.
For the James Clemens Jets, the inspiring focus for the 2019 squad is “sacrifice.”
“We ask our players to have faith and trust in their teammates and to put others before yourself,” said Wade Waldrop in his seventh season as head coach. “We hope the experience of learning sacrifice will add to their lives as they grow to be men.”
The term sacrifice has been no more evident than for seniors Chase Starling and Collin Malone. Both athletes were transfers into the Jets’ program with their own personal expectations and each has given up their own agenda for the sake of the team.
“I feel like I sacrificed my season as a running back, as the coaches asked me to instead to be a defensive back for the team,” said Malone, who has 4.5 speed and came to the James Clemens program from Spring, Tex. located just outside Houston.
On the other hand, Starling and his family, which includes his younger brother, Chance, a junior linebacker, moved to Madison from Hazel Green in January. Starling was looking to be the starting quarterback and fought for the position with returning signal caller Connor Cantrell and a competitive struggle for the starting position occurred during spring and summer drills. Prior to the season, Cantrell was chosen the starter with Starling playing the backup role he was not used to.
“I’ve been a quarterback since I was four years old and I’ve spent a lot of time to be the best I can be at the position,” said Starling. “I wanted to play for James Clemens and contribute to the team so when Connor got the nod for starter I was disappointed, but I have no one to blame but me.”
The 5-foot-9, 195-pound Starling has been terrific in his backup role as quarterback and as running back where he’s second on the team in rushing with over 200 yards and several touchdowns.
“I was shocked when I was asked to move to defensive back to replace Jaylen Lewis who suffered an injury,” said Malone (5-10, 170). “I had only played that position in one game as a freshman in Texas. I’m proud of myself as I stood up and took the decision like a man as I did it for my team. It has worked out fine.”
Malone is one of the top performers on the defense that has given up less than 20 points per game while the team is 4-2 overall into the second half of the season. Going into the 2019 campaign he was in a tough fight with returning running back Dylan Blackburn for the most reps at that position. He has taken some snaps at the offensive spot and feels he can add to the team at that position should Blackburn is injured.
“I feel as though I’m our team’s secret weapon and I’m ready if needed,” added Malone.
Each day the team goes through a regimen of workouts in the school’s weight room. The word “sacrifice” is written on the wall within the confines of the area that can be seen from every spot in the room. The culture has been planted and the success has grown like a budding flower.
“We spent a lot of time on building this culture during the off-season and after losing our first two games of the season we have concentrated on being better, letting the younger players get some reps and sacrificing our own needs for that of the team,” said Starling.
For Starling, he’s been through a lot of sacrifices in his life, particularly when he was age seven and his mother was deployed to Iraq while in the U.S. Military. “Yeah, I feel like I sacrificed my mother for our country, but the experience I feel toughened me up in many ways,” added Starling. “In the case of switching position here at James Clemens, I feel I gave up my childhood dream of being a quarterback. If Connor goes down, I’ll be ready to go. I have a lot of experience under my belt.”
“Our team thoughts are simple- we instead of me,” said Malone. “I’ve executed exactly what this team wanted me to do.”