FORT VALLEY -- Chad Campbell can handle those trips down memory lane.
After all, Campbell’s record at Peach County was 68-11 after his first six seasons leading the Trojans, with a state championship and perfect record in 2009.
Then came 2013.
“It wasn’t good,” Campbell said in his regular deadpan tone. “It wasn’t fun.”
Granted, 8-4 isn’t so bad, but it was Peach County’s lowest winning percentage since it went 8-4 in 2002. And there were bigger margins of defeat than Peach County is used to, like a 33-point loss to Warner Robins, 35 to Carver-Columbus and 40 to Washington County.
That final one, in the second round of the playoffs, left a mark. And that’s fine with Campbell.
“They heard enough about it,” Campbell said. “The last time you step off the field and you’re 40 points below who you just played? That ought to give you a little incentive if you’ve got anything about you.”
Fortunately for Campbell, this August feels like a normal August in the field house at Anderson Stadium.
“Yeah, it does,” said Campbell, whose team gave up 35 points or more in four games and scored 35 or more in six. “I think the kids realize what we need to do to get back to where we need to be.”
First and foremost was some of those players simply had to get a year older, a year more experienced, especially on defense.
“We had so much inexperience, so young on defense,” Campbell said. “We just couldn’t stop the run. And we had no depth at all.”
Campbell expects that to change for a few reasons, one being the addition of David Shores as defensive coordinator. He brings a hefty resume to the Trojans, including a stint at Hoover in Alabama with then-head coach Rush Propst, assistant jobs at Opelika and Pelham Park high schools in Alabama, defensive intern at LSU under Nick Saban and head coach for two seasons each at Spain Park and Pell City, both also in Alabama.
And the Trojans have more bodies with experience on defense, led by defensive lineman and Duke commit Marquies Price. The Trojans have size up front, averaging about 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, but speed, as well.
There is some depth at linebacker and experience in the secondary, led by Malcolm Lowe and Shaun Freeman.
“We’re going to have a little more multiplicity,” Campbell said. “We won’t have to be so simplistic on defense this year.”
The Trojans will have a new quarterback, with junior Tyrique McGhee, a starter in the secondary who is already getting SEC inquiries.
But opposing defenses will get a heavy dose of Keyshawn Lowe running the ball. The senior is a superb runner and will be behind an offensive line that returns three starters and is athletic.
More than that, Campbell is keeping Lowe off of defense.
“I felt bad last year,” Campbell said. “He had to play both ways. He didn’t come off the field. That really hampered him offensively, but he’s a kid that doesn’t say nothing. He just works.”
Lowe cracked 1,100 yards as a sophomore but had only 869 last season, still a team high.
The line must replace Chavis Dickey and George Blease, but has some experience led by Bryce Mackey and Clifford Bouza.
Scoring wasn’t necessarily a problem last year and probably won’t be this season. But stopping people, especially when it counts, is likely to happen substantially more.
That the Trojans ended last season with a 56-16 loss is a solid reminder of what won’t do in Fort Valley.
“All those young guys have grown up a little bit, gotten bigger and stronger, and know what to expect,” Campbell said. “They know how to handle themselves.”
PEACH COUNTY IN 2014
Head coach: Chad Campbell (76-15 in seven seasons overall and at Peach County).
2013 record: 8-4.
2014 region: GHSA 2-AAA.
Returning starters: 7 on offense; 8 on defense.
Players to watch: Tyrique McGhee (5-10, 175, Jr., DB/QB/WR); Keyshawn Lowe (5-6, 185, Sr., RB); Marquies Price (6-6, 225, Sr. DE); Saire Davis (6-2, 188, Sr., WR); Kevin Nixon (6-2, 200, Soph., LB); Kyle Nixon (6-0, 190, Soph, LB); Clifford Bouza (5-8, 195, Sr., OL); Bryce Mackey (5-10, 320, Jr., OL); Ojuwuan Thomas (5-10, 320, Soph, OL); Keenan Dodson (6-3, 235, Jr., DL).
Aug. 29 at Warner Robins
Sept. 5 at Perry
Sept. 12 Southwest
Sept. 19 Spencer
Sept. 26 at Rutland
Oct. 3 Central
Oct. 10 at Kendrick
Oct. 17 Jackson
Oct. 24 at Jordan
Oct. 31 Westside