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Bulldogs play nine new teams this season
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
JAMES PHILLIPS

After two straight undefeated regular seasons in Class 3A, Dora High School is preparing to jump to Class 4A this year.
But head coach Johnny Wright isn't too concerned.
"We are where we want to be at this point," Wright said. "Our guys have been in our system, and they've grown up around it. They know what we expect from them. We know it is going to be a challenge, but we are up for the challenge."
After struggling with numbers and wins before Wright's arrival four years ago, the Bulldogs have had more than 40 varsity players the last two seasons and will dress 58 for the season opener Saturday, Aug. 28 at Cordova.
Wright doesn't take credit for the turnaround. He credits his coaching staff, which had to take over the team for a short time last season after Wright collapsed during the Bulldogs opener with an undetermined heart problem.
"The only thing I can be credited with here is having a great coaching staff," Wright said. "I'm very fortunate for the staff I have. Last year, they didn't miss a beat without me."
A few days after the collapse, Wright had a small defibrillator surgically implanted into his chest. It is insurance to shock the heart if a similar incident occurs again.
"I'm feeling great (now)," Wright said.
Cordova isn't the only rival on the schedule this year. Dora will renew rivalries with Corner and Walker in 2004. In all, Dora will play nine new teams this season including Class 4A, Region 5 foes and perennial playoff teams Tarrant and Oak Grove. Both are also making the jump from 3A to 4A. Also on the schedule is Fayette County, a team that won the 4A state title in 1996.
"Two years ago, we had nine new teams on the schedule and we've got nine new teams this year," Wright said. "Cordova is the only one that's the same. We don't make our schedule. We have to play the teams (in our region). We can't worry about the teams we play. We've got to concentrate on our team. That's how we've always done it."
Wright probably isn't fazed by the new schedule thanks to a crop of returning skill position players who led the state in offense last season. Senior running backs Derrick Gardner, Chase Pierce and Eric Woods are all threats to break the 1,000-yard mark.
Quarterback Jorge Williams returns for his third year as a starter. Williams will be backed up for the third straight year by sophomore Marquis Chapel, who will also see time at running back and wide receiver.
Chapel and Gardner have proven to be a dangerous return tandem, finishing last season with a combined nine punt/kick returns for scores.
Dora had 5,404 total yards last season - an average of 450.3 yards per game - and scored a school-record 598 points (49.9 ppg). Williams passed for 1,391 yards completing 75-of-139 passes. He had 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Gardner rushed for 1,620 yards on 180 carries and had 16 total Tds. He and Chapel each returned a kickoff in the season-opening 53-29 win last season versus Cordova. Chapel finished his freshman season with four kickoffs and four punts returned for TDs.
With its core returning from the past two seasons, Wright said he expects the Bulldogs to compete despite the jump in classification.
"It is going to be an interesting year," Wright said.
"Our guys have been in our system, and they've grown up around it. They know what we expect from them. We know it is going to be a challenge, but we are up for the challenge."Johnny Wright Dora head football coach
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