With a new coach and a core of talented players, things are looking promising for Pace.
Former NFL All-Pro Chris Slade steps in to replace Matt Hall, who stepped down after seven years at the helm.
Slade, who was the Knights’ defensive line coach last year, inherits a team that struggled to a 3-7 record in 2012 but shows the potential to turn things around with a talented lineup.
“So far, everything is shaping up real well,” Slade said. “We’re very excited. We have some new kids on the team who are going to be impact players for us. We have some returning kids who are good players as well, so we’ve got a good nucleus. We don’t have a lot of depth, but our first-team guys are really good players.”
Depth is indeed the biggest concern for Slade, who has about 40 players on the roster.
“We’re probably just a few inches away from a big drop-off,” he said. “Just keeping guys healthy, not beating them up too bad in training camp. Obviously they need a chance to hit, because it’s a part of the game. But we have to keep everybody healthy and everybody rested. It’s going to be a long season and I want to make sure that we keep as many guys as well can on the field and off the sideline.”
Pace is particularly potent on offense, where senior running back Denzel Franklin — a Stanford commitment — and junior quarterback Kevin Johnson — himself a major NCAA Division I prospect — lead the way.
Senior wide receiver Kameron Uter and sophomore fullback Malik Staples — a transfer from Peachtree Ridge — also add some punch to the Knights’ attack.
“Our offense can really score some points and move the football,” Slade said. “Offensively, I’m real satisfied and pleased with our skill guys.”
Slade said the Knights are also bigger and stronger on the offensive line than they were last year.
“We have some guys who have good size across the board,” he said. “[We average] about 220 [pounds], which is good for us.”
The Knights are also strong defensively, with Franklin, sophomore Mick Assaf and freshman Deon Jackson at cornerback, Staples at safety and freshman De’Andre Byrd at defensive tackle.
With its talented core on both sides of the ball, Pace appears to be poised to contend for a state playoff spot in the Class A private-school division.
“I am very optimistic,” Slade said. “I think if we can stay healthy and just continue to work hard, just stay focused, we can have a good year. I tell my guys all the time that we have enough players to compete.”
Aug. 30 at Whitefield
Sept. 6 Athens Academy
Sept. 13 King’s Ridge
Sept. 20 at First Presbyterian
Sept. 27 at Our Lady of Mercy*
Oct. 4 Strong Rock Christian*
Oct. 18 at Landmark Christian*
Oct. 25 Holy Innocents’*
Nov. 1 at Eagle’s Landing Christian*
Nov. 8 Mount Vernon*
*denotes region game