The Bulldogs established themselves as a perennial power in the early to mid-2000s, winning four regional titles from 2000-2005. Before taking over at Wadley in 2011, Roach was an assistant head coach on a Cleveland High team that went 9-3 and reached the second-round of the state playoffs.
There were a couple of games the Bulldogs let slip away that could’ve contributed to their record being closer to .500, Roach said, but his team’s biggest problem was right in front them.
“We didn’t get any push up front,” he said. “We had big kids. But they weren’t strong, and you can’t compete in the game of football if you’re not strong.”
Roach said he pushed his team especially hard in the weight room this offseason. Once they stepped foot into the facility, he held them accountable. If you were in the building, you had better believe you were putting in work.
It’s the type of control Roach has been able to gain over the team with a full offseason under his belt.
Along with inheriting a team with physical shortcomings last year, Roach, who was brought in weeks before the season-opener, also wasn’t as familiar with his personnel as he is now. A week prior to the fall jamboree last season, Roach said, he still had players wearing tape on the back of their helmets, so he could know who everyone was.
“When you don’t know a kid’s character, you don’t know what to expect from him in a game.”
This season, Roach seems primed to begin working toward restoring Wadley to its former glory.
On offense, they’ll run the spread that has become all the rage at both the high school and collegiate levels in recent years.
Senior T.L. Heard and Caleb Calhoun are competing for the starting position at quarterback with the departure of former standout Ryan Siskey. Roach said the two are running fairly even but added if the Bulldogs had to suit up today; Heard would likely be the starter.
Developing talent and confidence in that position was the primary factor for their rigorous camp and 7-on-7 slate this summer which included trips to Susan Moore, Oxford and Lithia Springs, Ga.
The offensive line will be anchored by 6-foot-5, 260-pound Corey Ray McGill. Backs such as Adrian Marable and Chandler McClain should also be viable weapons.
Kamaury Avery might be one of the best freshman running backs in the state. The 5-foot-11, 225-pounder started last year and has 4.8 speed in the 40-yard dash, a promising clip for a player his size and age. Roach said Auburn invited the promising specimen down for camp.
Marable should be a mainstay from his safety slot on defense. Roach said the Bulldogs will play a base 3-4 but will switch up the looks, depending upon the formations they see from offenses.
Wadley opens the season at Horseshoe Bend on Aug. 31.
Judging from where the team was a year ago, Roach said his team is headed in the right direction.
“I feel like we’ve grown and we’ve gotten to know each other.”
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.