Windsor is riding a wave of momentum in the football program and the athletics department as a whole as the Knights enter the 2015 season.
After winning just one game total the previous two years, Windsor tallied five to finish at .500 in head coach Jimmy Watts’ third campaign at the helm last year.
“(Coach Watts) has taken us a long way,” senior Josh Brooks said. “My freshman year we were 1-9, sophomore year we were 0-10, and then last season we were 5-5. It’s been a long process, but it wouldn’t have happened without (Watts).”
Many of the same players who helped fuel Windsor’s turnaround on the football field led the Knights to the GISA Class AA championship in basketball and a runner-up finish in baseball.
“Our kids went from trying to survive to competing and playing for championships,” Watts said.
“The athletic program is exploding at Windsor Academy, and it probably caught everybody by surprise,” Brooks said. “It’s all because of hard work, and it’s evolved into something great around here, which no one was really used to. We’re finally on the map, and it’s just a good feeling.”
That can be seen in the football program’s numbers, which are up. Despite losing a large senior class, the Knights return at least six starters on both sides of the ball and boast a roster of 27 players, up from 18 just two years ago.
Longtime Warner Robins assistant Bill Beatty has joined the program to lead the offense, and he has installed a Flex-I system that mimics Auburn’s system under head coach Gus Malzahn.
The starting fullback from a year ago, Jonathan Osborn, has moved to quarterback and will give Windsor a physical complement in the backfield to leading returning rusher Brooks, who totaled 1,265 yards last season and set a single-game program record with 350 against Holy Spirit Prep.
Leading receiver Marquise Jackson also returns after accumulating 800 yards last year as a sophomore.
“We’re going to be a tempo team,” Watts said. “We run some no-huddle, and we want to control the tempo of the game. We’ve got a wide variety of kids we want to get the ball to, and our number one goal is to get positive yards on every play and put points on the board.”
Change also has come to the defensive side of the ball where Windsor has moved to a 3-5 setup, in part to better utilize nose guard Tavis Malakius and take advantage of an abundance of linebackers.
“We graduated several linemen last year, and we noticed that teams were running away from Tavis, so I wanted to put him at nose where he’s clogging up the middle and trying to force teams outside,” Watts said. “For a big guy, he’s got pretty good wheels, and he plays low and hard.”
Malakius is a college prospect and the key anchor along both lines of scrimmage for the Knights at 6-foot-2 and 320 pounds. He will look to help lead the next step in the rebuilding process, and that is to take his team to the postseason.
Windsor won four of its first five contests in 2014 by no fewer than 30 points, but the Knights struggled down the stretch when region play began. Windsor didn’t earn a region victory, losing all three contests by at least three touchdowns.
If the Knights are to continue the momentum in the program, they have to find a way to be more competitive in region play. All three region contests this season come during a crucial three-week stretch in October. A trip to Briarwood is sandwiched by home games against Brentwood and Monsignor Donovan.
“With the kids that we’ve got this year and the experience that we’ve got along with some of the new kids that we’ve picked up, I’m really eyeballing a region championship and making the playoffs for the first time in five or six years,” Watts said.
“We went 5-5 with a good football team, but we want to be a great football team this year, and that’s what we’re all going for,” Brooks said.
ABOUT THE WINDSOR KNIGHTS
Head coach: Jimmy Watts (6-21 in three seasons overall and at Windsor).
Assistant coaches: Bill Beatty (offensive coordinator); Rick Prady (defensive coordinator); Michael Johnson, George Burch, Dewayne Fuller.
Offensive scheme: Flex-I.
Defensive scheme: 3-5.
2014 record: 5-5.
Region: GISA 4-AA.
Returning starters: Eight on offense; six on defense.
Players to watch: Josh Brooks (Sr., TB); Marquise Jackson (Jr., WR); Tavis Malakius (Sr., OL/DL); Jonathan Osborn (Jr., QB/MLB).
Aug. 21 Bethlehem Christian
Sept. 4 at Dominion Christian
Sept. 11 Dawson Street
Sept. 18 at David Emanuel
Sept. 25 Piedmont
Oct. 2 at Griffin Christian
Oct. 9 Brentwood
Oct. 16 at Briarwood
Oct. 23 Monsignor Donovan
Oct. 31 at Robert Toombs