By James Butler
LOCUST GROVE, Ga. – Months after taking over the helm of the Our Lady of Mercy football program, head coach Jarrett Laws (seated ) knew exactly what he wanted the most out of his team when they opened play at the Georgia North Tournament in the Adidas Airo 7v7 Georgia Regional on Tuesday at Warren Holder Park.
“We need to play,” Laws said. “We need competitive situations, so that we can learn how to compete. We’re in a big transition. Coach [Mike] Earwood, a legendary coach, has been doing things one way. From a discipline standpoint, we’re carrying over what he was doing, but from a philosophical standpoint, we’re on diametrical ends of the spectrum.”
Laws came to the Fayetteville Class A Private school after stops at Griffin, Drew, and Mount Zion, where he led all three teams to the playoffs. Mercy has only two playoff trips in its 15-year history, but both came under Earwood.
The Bobcats went 4-6 last season, but Laws sees the challenge ahead of him and his team as a prominent one because of the change in philosophy.
“They’re trying to learn what it means to play up tempo ball in a spread format, and it’s different for the kids,” Laws said. “This is their first 7-on-7 they’ve ever been to. […] They were more of an 80/20 run-pass ratio, whereas now we’re 60/40 run to pass, pass to run, depending on what we can get.
“Being in [7-on-7], having to do these multiple things, it’s a different struggle for them. They’re trying to up their learning curve, and it’s hard. The first thing we admit it’s hard. For us, it’s just important to put the kids in competitive situations where they can just compete against different looks and learn on the fly.”
Laws likened the challenge he and his coaching staff is facing in trying to get the players up to speed as similar to when he started Drew’s football program.
“We had ninth and 10th graders, and we had to play a varsity schedule,” Laws said. “This is probably the closest comparative measure I can say to it because we’re really starting with our kids at a basal level as far as what we’re trying to do, but that being said, the kids are very enthusiastic. For me, I just think it’s refreshing to see them every day, and to see that they want to get better.”
Defensively, Mercy has some players who have impressed Laws and his staff early on. Senior cornerback, Victor Cross, sophomore linebacker Garrett Keever, and junior defensive back Cameron Browning are all expected to contribute greatly, with Cross also getting some looks at wide receiver.
“[Cross] has been a mainstay within in the Mercy program, doing good things at the cornerback position,” Laws said. “We’re going to ask him to play on both sides of the ball.”
Keever is already turning heads with how he has picked up the Bobcats system.
“Smart as a whip, and catches on to everything we’re talking about,” Laws said. “With what we do, we always got to have a good quarterback on the defense, so he seems to be falling into that mold.”
Laws has also seen potential in Browning.
“He’s going to have an opportunity to be pretty good for us as well,” he said.
Overall, Laws feels Earwood left him in a good position, the players just need to adapt to the new systems.
“You can tell they’ve been well-coached in the past,” Laws said. “You can tell that they have a desire to get better. Every day is a learning experience, both for me, and for them. We’re having fun.
“If the kids can catch the learning curve, and sort of pick up the things we’re doing from a situational standpoint, we ought to be able to compete.”