Players of the Pine Belt: Sylva-Bay Academy's Logan Blackwell

Players of the Pine Belt: Sylva-Bay Academy's Logan Blackwell

BAY SPRINGS, MS (WDAM) - When Terry Underwood took the coaching reins at Sylva-Bay Academy, he put his players through a few physical tests to gauge strength, speed, athleticism and skills.

As it turned, one of the strongest players on the team also was one of the fastest, and that's how senior Logan Blackwell went from the offensive line blocking for the guy with the football to being the guy with the football.

"Last year, I think he played other positions, up in the offensive and defensive lines, and when I got here, we timed everybody, and he has good speed," Underwood said. "In the style of offense we want to run, he's a good fit. He has good size, good speed, and he adds some good assets to us running up between the tackles."

Blackwell says the shift to fullback suits him just fine.

"It's a pretty good spot to have on the field," Blackwell said. "You get to lead up into the hole before the running back."

Underwood said he is expecting much from Blackwell this fall.

"He could have a good year," Underwood said. "He's a fine young man, and just a really good football player.

"We'll do a lot of different things, and the fullback is a big part of what we're doing. When we're in shotgun or something like that, he'll be the one back. But it's very important that we establish some kind of run game in the A, B and C gaps, and he's one of our bigger, stronger backfield guys, so we need him to show a presence in that area."

Blackwell is one of five seniors on the 19-man varsity roster for the Saints, who will play in Mississippi Association of Independent Schools' Class AA-District 3 this season. Another 18 players comprise the junior varsity.

The relatively small squad size means Blackwell and many of his teammates will be playing both offense and defense.

Blackwell will also play linebacker, as will the two players competing at quarterback, Hunter Sykes and Tanner Cotton.

Phillip Anderson, the fastest player on the team, will be in the backfield or at receiver, while playing in the defensive backfield as well, as will Cade Blackwell.

Keegan Tumblin, Josh Knotts, Campbell Graves and Will Hendley are expected to play on both the offensive and defensive lines, while Chris Fries is slotted at tight end/defensive end and Caleb McDevitt at tight end/linebacker.

Logan Blackwell said the Saints are hoping to improve on 2016's three-win season.

We're way better as a team," Blackwell said. "Coach Underwood, he's a good coach. He'll sit there and push you to hustle and try harder."

Sylva-Bay will open its season Friday night by hosting Class AA-Division 2 Tri-State Academy.

"We got a good group of kids and they want to be good, I know that," Underwood said. "So, number one, the kids want to be good, and, number two, their work ethic is good. What our talent level is compared to everybody else is right now, I can't say, but I know they have a good attitude and have been working hard.

"I say it to them all the time, 'You don't stay the same. You either get better or you get worse.' Our goal is to get better each and every day at the little things. You take care of the little things and the big things take care of themselves."