ABBEVILLE, Ala. (WDHN) — The Abbeville Yellow Jackets are gearing up for a season of redemption as they enter Coach LaBrian Stewart’s fourth year at the helm. The team, which reached the 2A State Championship in Stewart’s debut season in 2020, setting records for scoring and wins, has had a bit of a hangover going a combined 5-14 over the past two years. However, with renewed determination, Coach Stewart is confident that this season will mark a return to their former glory.

Coach Stewart attributes the contrasting performance of the 2020 team and the subsequent seasons to a shift in leadership dynamics. “The biggest difference in that 2020 team and the teams since has been leadership,” Coach Stewart noted. With an emphasis on cultivating strong leaders, the team aims to turn the tide in their favor. “If they don’t see me trying to become a better leader, how can I expect them to become better leaders?” Coach Stewart questioned. “And if they don’t see me leading the coaches, how can I expect them to lead the players? That’s one of those things I tell them: family over everything. Now, we don’t really have a team; we have a family.”

One player leading by example is Matthew Wilfork, a three-year captain and offensive lineman. Wilfork, who topped the charts in pancake blocks last year, embodies the leadership Coach Stewart is striving to instill.

Another big presence on the offensive line will be Daniel Austin, who says the team has a pretty cut and dry attitude in getting prepared for the season. “Shut up and work for real, for real, you know what I’m saying? We’re just getting everything done; we’re building chemistry over the summer and over the spring. So, family is one thing that we’re like,” stated Austin.

In a similar vein, Cameron Jones, the quarterback and free safety, echoed the sentiment of building a team that mirrors the successful leadership from 2020. “I feel like we have some leaders like we had on that team. I feel like our guys are stepping up like those guys did,” Jones affirmed.

As Abbeville Yellow Jackets prepare to kick off their season on August 25th against the Beaulah Bobcats, the team is poised to showcase their newfound leadership and unity.