HEAD COACH: Morgan Cruce (1st season)
LAST YEAR: 6-5, lost to Springfield in first round of 5A playoffs
RETURNING STARTERS: 6 offense, 6 defense
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: OL Jayvon Lee, RB Ty Stark, QB Cade Crowson, OL Matthew Cooper, OL Will Comer, CB Keagan Jarmon
KEY PLAYERS LOST: QB Nick Harvell, LB/WR Derrion Lewis, RB Braxton Sharp, DE Jacob Rodriquez, OL Harrison Moore, OL Luke Hayes
When taking a cursory look at the 2022 Brighton Cardinal football and comparing it to the 2021 version, three things stand out.
Number one: A huge chunk of the team’s prolific offense from last year is gone. Quarterback Nick Harvell, who rushed for 1,031 yards and 22 touchdowns, graduated. Braxton Sharp, who ran for 1,179 yards and 15 touchdowns, transferred to Munford.
Number two: It’s hard to imagine the defense being any worse. Last year’s team gave up 40.5 points per game, which included four games in which the team allowed 57 or more.
Number three: There’s a new sheriff in town. Head coach Mike David resigned after three seasons and Morgan Cruce was hired last December to replace him.
Concerning the first matter, the good news is that junior running back Ty Stark is back, and he was really good last year. As a backup to Sharp, he rushed for 1,031 yards and six touchdowns. He will certainly be a much bigger factor this season.
Stark is certainly fast, but he’s more known for his power. Cruce hasn’t seen Stark in a game yet, but he’s watched enough film to know what kind of running back he is inheriting.
“Ty has a downhill, physical style of running,” said Cruce. “If you stand on the tracks he’s going to knock you off the tracks. Although he may be 155 pounds or so, he’s gonna try and run you over like a 215-pound fullback. He’s really worked on his patience and his vision in the offseason. I think that’s giving him another skill set that’s going to make him even more of a dynamic weapon this season.”
Junior Cade Crowson, this season’s new starting quarterback, has the same opinion as his head coach.
“When Ty’s running, you better get out of the way. He’s going to run you over. He can get around you, too. He’s also probably faster than most people out there. Either way, you better get out of the way.”
Stark is aware he will have a new role this year.
“I’m trying to step up and be a leader this year,” he said.
As for Crowson, he’ll take his first snap as the starting varsity quarterback in the season opener. Nevertheless, Cruce believes he’s up for the task.
“Cade is a dynamic thrower with a great head on his shoulders and a high football IQ,” Cruce said. He said the fact that Kade’s dad, BHS principal Brian Crowson, is a former football coach means he has above average football acumen.
Cade is not the kind of runner Harvell was but brings a different skill set to the position.
“He has a lot of moxie,” Cruce said. “He has good arm strength and he understands where to place the ball. He’s very solid with that.”
“I’m learning the new system,” Crowson said. “He (Cruce) eased me into it. Everybody knows the system really well now I think we’re going to be really good this year.”
Matthew Parker, who is, along with Jayvon Lee and Cooper Craig, part of a very experienced offensive line, said, “He has a good arm.”
Other skills players expected to make a difference on the offensive side of the ball include Jalen Terry, Case Maxwell, John Carson, John Carson, Drew Wilson and Taylor Carpenter.
As for the defense, Cruce knew exactly what he was getting into when he took the job as Brighton’s head coach. It does not take a ton of research. All you have to do is look at last year’s game results. In week two the Cardinals gave up 69 points to Northpoint and there was no overtime. (Brighton actually won, 74-69). In consecutive losses to Memphis Central and Covington, the Cardinals allowed a combined 115 points. In week nine, Dyer County put up 61 points on the Cardinals. Finally, in a playoff loss to Springfield, the Cardinals allowed 56 points.
Cruce says he has taken, and is taking, several steps to fix this problem. Although he’s known more as an offensive-minded coach, Cruce said he is taking a much more active role on the defensive side of the ball this year.
“When I came in I knew the weak spot of the Brighton football program was defense,” Cruce said. “They could score points, and could always score points, but they haven’t had that defensive mentality so I wanted to take it on myself … I never want to speak ill of previous coaches, but if you turn on the film there was not typically that physical style of football. I’m trying to bring the idea that football is a violent and physical game and that’s the way we’ve gotta play it.”
Lee, who also plays on the defensive side of the ball, said, “This year we’re switching it up a little bit on defense. We’re going to attack it different this year.”
Keagan Jarmon, a starter at cornerback, said, “The defense has been looking better. We’re working more on situational stuff.”
Cruce added that having the team’s best players on defense will be another key thing for him.
“At the end of the day, you want to put your best 11 guys on defense because you can easily get outscored by not having your speed guys, your skill guys on defense.”