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Youthful Southfield A&T team optimistic about 2017 season

By: Jeff Dullack, August 18, 2017, 2:30 pm

While this year’s Southfield A&T football team will have a much different look from last year’s team as the Warriors have just four returning starters from last year’s team after losing several players to graduation and transfers.

But with the 2017 season ready to kickoff in about a week, Southfield A&T is focused on its young team that is filled with players looking to prove themselves this fall.

Southfield A&T head coach Tim Conley said he’s been pleased with what he’s seen from his team early on in the fall and added he has a lot of young players looking to prove themselves this season.

“It’s a young team, I think three or four starters are back from last year’s team,” he said. “A lot of kids are looking for experience and to just improve every day – that’s the mindset and I think that’s a great mindset. There’s so much upside with these guys and we’ve seen a lot of improvement in the last few days.”

One of the key returners for the Warriors this fall will be quarterback John Darby, who had a breakout season in 2016 after an injury to starting quarterback Sam Johnson forced Darby into action.

In five games last year, Darby tallied 15 touchdowns and no interceptions and helped lead A&T to an 8-4 record and a regional final appearance.

Darby will be the full-time starting signal caller for the Warriors this fall after Johnson transferred to Walled Lake Western after last season.

“John is a really exciting football player,” Conley said of his senior quarterback. “His No. 1 stat is he averaged three touchdowns per game, he scored 15 touchdowns in five games. That’s pretty impressive.”

Darby said that the success that he had as a junior is something that has motivated him leading up to this season as he’s seen his recruitment pick up.

“It’s done a lot for me, it’s made me actually work a lot harder, because I know I’m being recruited now,” he said. “People are looking at me, they know my name and it’s opened a few eyes.”

Johnson was one of a handful of players who transferred out of A&T after 2016. Wide receiver Brandon Gray, running back Arthur ‘Lew’ Nichols and defensive end Andre Carter are now enrolled at Cass Tech. Running back Eric ‘Red’ McArn transferred to Detroit King, but has since returned to the Warriors and will be in the backfield rotation this fall.

McArn missed all of the 2016 season due to injury, but healthy once again, heading into his senior season. Along with Darby and McArn, who is committed to Central Michigan, the Warriors will have a pair of key returners in the secondary in safety Marcus Fuqua and Matthew Gilbert, who will contribute on both sides of the ball in 2017.

Playing receiver a season ago, Gilbert tallied 27 receptions and 334 yards receiving to go along with eight touchdowns, while Fuqua recorded 37 tackles and eight interceptions, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns, as a junior last year.

“It actually motivates everyone because other teams think they can come and push us around, because it’s what they hear, not what they know,” he said. “So we want to prove them wrong.”

Despite the losses due to graduation and transfers, the expectations for the Warriors in 2017 are the same they’ve been in any other year as Conley noted that his team will be a very talented one once again this fall.

“Even though it’s a young team, it’s a very talented team,” he said. “We have a lot of very hungry kids who want to work hard and they want to prove themselves and they want that high school football experience. They want to gel as a team and they want to have something that’s very special to remember and that’s a lot of the conversations that they’ve had. They want to have a year that they will remember for the rest of their lives.”