Their defense has been smothering, despite missing injured players and breaking in new varsity starters as well. Their offense may be potentially more prolific than last season, led by a quarterback who is not just productive but punishing as a runner in the open field. The special teams is still dazzling.
But it's a 2-0 squad which opened with a 34-6 rout of the McCluer Comets and last Saturday afternoon rolled by the Vashon Wolverines 42-6, that still believes the best is yet ahead.
"We're just not playing our best yet," said Career Academy Phoenix football coach Sorrell Harvey following the Vashon rout."It's just the small things that we should be doing better now. We're also making too many penalties. But we ran the ball extremely well today even with all the penalties"
Indeed, after rushing for a team total of only 117 yards on 20 carries in his club's win over McCluer, Career Academy more than tripled that with the one-two punch of quarterback Jaylen James and running back Marquis Stewart against Vashon: James rushed for 184 yards on 13 carries, including a 62-yard touchdown burst and Stewart rushed for 171 yards also on just 13 carries, which included touchdown runs of 9, 11 and 12 yards. The Phoenix offense also received an extra boost early when reserve quarterback Brandon Harris threw a 54-yard touchdown strike to Robert Lindsey. (Vashon's only score was a 10-yard reception from John Mitchell to Brandon Jones in the fourth quarter to prevent a shutout.)
"What can I can say," said Vashon's defensive coordinator Dorvus Woods. "It's a well-planned attack. They have nice talent. They have good coaching over there and everybody's on the same page."
But defensively, the Phoenix appeared 'on the same page' as well in stifling the Vashon offense and sacking quarterback Clifton Dickens five times, including two each by Elbert Dogan and Donovan Forrest, the latter who had eight tackles overall.
"We know we can get the job done we just have to stop playing undisciplined," said Forrest. "We had too many penalties. But once we started dominating it showed that's what happens when we play together."
The defense includes two starters who appear to be breakout stars in sophomore linebacker Joseph Stevenson and senior cornerback Kevin Galloway.
If that is not impressive enough, Career Academy continues to get special teams play from star safety/ receiver Travis Riley who returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown and two kickoff returns for a combined 119 yards. For good measure, he also caught a 20-yard reception for a touchdown in the opener.
But the Phoenix, who went 11-1 last season and came within minutes from advancing to the Missouri Class 4 state semifinals before losing 25-22 at Cape Girardeau Central, may get an early test when they take on the 2-0 Ritenour Huskies in a 7 p.m. kickoff Friday night. While Career Academy was advancing deeper into the Class 4 playoff field last year, the Huskies lost in the Class 6 playoffs to perennial power St. Louis University High 42-28.
From that playoff squad, the Huskies graduated multi-purpose quarterback Devin Alexander who passed for 1,783 yards and 13 touchdowns while rushing for 1,415 yards and 20 touchdowns and Alexander's top target in Chrishawn Torrey who caught 52 passes for 958 yards and seven touchdowns. This year the Huskies have their own version of a Travis Riley, the Phoenix's multiple threat as a receiver, defensive back and kick return and his name is Carl Garman.
Ricky McCoy has taken over as the club's signal-caller for Alexander.In the 32-14 win over Mehlville, McCoy rushed for 120 yards and passed for 126 yards. But another big threat in that game for Ritenour was the two-way play of Carl Garman who rushed for 179 yards on 18 carries on offense while getting two sacks and ten tackles on defense
Tyler Hearnes, a 6-2,250-pound lineman had three sacks in the game In the 31-7 win over Marquette, McCoy rushed for 140 yards and threw for exactly 140 yards, including a 60-yard reception to Garman, who also had a 41-yard interception return for a score.
Huskies coach Gregory Hoyt is certainly expecting a challenge from the Phoenix if his club is to advance to 3-0.
"Miller is a very talented team," said Hoyt. "Coach (Sorrell) Harvey is doing a great job over there this year and in the past. This should be a great game between two teams that have a number of weapons. We are a young team starting seven or eight sophomores or juniors on both sides of the ball. Last year we were a power running team but this year we haven't found our identity on offense yet."
That may pose a problem against a Career Academy defense which has shown the ability to shut down its first two opponents despite a few bumps on the road. In the season-opener rout of McCluer , Phoenix were missing starters Keshawn Barnes, Rasheen Bolden, Stanley Green and Corey Muldrew, yet they still held the Comets to just one touchdown. New starting linebacker Joseph Stevenson had eight solo tackles, three assists and perhaps more importantly two interceptions , while new starting cornerback Kevin Galloway four tackles, two assists and played splendid pass coverage, which saved star safety Riley is normal work load.
"It was great," said Galloway afterwards. "I love getting tested. I felt like they were picking on me every time. But I can take a test."
A converted linebacker, Phoenix defensive coordinator Chris Cooper acknowledged that Galloway displayed the athleticism to handle the change.
"He (Galloway) showed he had the quickness and ability to play the position and with Stanley Green being out the first game, he was a natural fit," said Cooper.
But in addition to the aforementioned Ritenour stars, the Huskies also have gotten the big plays from other sources: Tre Hollins White returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown against Marquette and Le Twon Jackson rushed for 77 yards on just seven carries in that same game Suffice to say, it could come down to the team which generates the most big plays.
Anyone seeking additional information on the game should call Ritenour at 314-493-6105.