published Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Silverdale Baptist Academy has eye on prize

Silverdale Baptist's head coach Al Rogers watches his team practice in this August 1, 2014, photo.
Silverdale Baptist's head coach Al Rogers watches his team practice in this August 1, 2014, photo.
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

DISTRICT 5-A AT A GLANCE

• Team on the rise: Perhaps program on the rise is the term that best describes Silverdale Baptist Academy. The Seahawks combined to go 28-44 their first seven seasons, including an 0-3 state-playoff record. The last two years they're a combined 21-4 with a 3-2 playoff record. This year's team is younger overall than last year's, but the current players are accustomed to having success.

Silverdale Baptist Academy's program has experienced many firsts since fielding its first high school football team in 2005. But one thing missing from the Seahawks' checklist is a championship.

Could 2014 be the year they win their first?

"If I didn't believe we could, then I need to quit," Silverdale coach Al Rogers said. "This group has a legitimate chance to win the district. We've just got to continue to refuse to lose."

The SBA program has been on a steady climb since that first season, which is when the Seahawks won their first game (they were 1-9). Silverdale's first winning season and first state-playoff berth came in 2007 when it finished 7-4 after losing at Gordonsville in the first round.

The Seahawks' first playoff victory was 41-8 at Hampton on Nov. 2, 2012. They lost 28-0 at Grace Christian the next week and finished that season 10-2.

Last year was the first time they hosted a playoff game, which they won 34-18 over Rockwood. Again came a win at Hampton before a loss at Grace Christian and the result was an 11-2 year.

But no title.

Fourteen seniors had their sights set on winning the 2013 District 5-A championship. It came down to the last game of the season between Silverdale and four-time defending champion Boyd-Buchanan.

The game at Boyd-Buchanan went to overtime. Silverdale led 21-14 when on fourth down from the 9 the Buccaneers scored. Then their gamble to pass for the conversion worked.

Never mind that the Seahawks went farther in the playoffs than the Bucs. And they ended up winning seven more games than Boyd-Buchanan.

"There's still a hole there for all of us," said current senior guard and defensive lineman Jonathan Sanders said. "That was supposed to be our year. It was a big disappointment."

Boyd-Buchanan returns more starters than Silverdale this season, but gone is four-year starting quarterback Jim Cardwell. Quarterback is not the Seahawks' main concern with two capable signal-callers returning in seniors Nathan Keylon and Tanner Webb.

Of greater concern for Rogers is the loss of talent and leadership in other areas that graduation caused.

"We've got a lot of roles to fill," junior linebacker and running back Hunter Arnold said. "But we've got some smart young freshmen and sophomores to step in this year.

"We're really going to have to teach the young guys, but they're smart. They'll catch on."

Both Copper Basin and Grace Academy had losing records a year ago, but could have some say in which team comes out on top in this year's district race. Boyd-Buchanan just got pasts

"We want it bad, like any team," Arnold said. "They say you're supposed to do this for fun. Well, to have fun, winning's fun."

Contact Kelley Smiddie at ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.

about Kelley Smiddie...

Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com.

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