Tabernacle Christian has reached the Christian Football Association championship game in three of the last four seasons, but longtime head coach Keith Dabbs has seen a dip in numbers that could make a return trip to Tuscaloosa look like wishful thinking.
Dabbs says many of his preseason practices have taken place with 10 or 11 players (barely enough to take formation on one side of the football in the eight-man game) on the field. He expects to have about 15 players on his roster when the Torches host Ezekiel Academy on Aug. 16 at Moncrief Park in Gardendale.
“We really are thin,” said Dabbs.
However, if he can get a couple guys healthy and avoid major injuries throughout the season, Dabbs sees a Tabernacle offense capable of hanging large numbers on the scoreboard. Rising junior quarterback Drew Peters, who split time under center last year with then-senior Carson Starkey, is expected to take over a full-time workload.
He completed 51 of his 68 attempts (75%) for 1,016 yards, 16 touchdowns and three interceptions last season. The team’s leading rusher, Tony Galbraith, also returns to the huddle this fall. Last year as a junior, Galbraith ran the ball 168 times for 1,004 yards (6 yards per carry) and 20 touchdowns.
Fellow senior Josiah Davis, who finished second on the team in rushing last season with 470 yards on 88 calls, is expected to take on more responsibility this time around.
“If everyone gets healthy, we’re going to go with Drew [Peters] under center with Josiah Davis and Tony Galbraith in the backfield to give us two legitimate runners in the backfield so that we can run between the tackles and try to control the game,” said Dabbs.
Senior lineman Elijah McPherson will lead the Torches up front on both sides of the ball. He’s part of a 2020 class which also includes Galbraith, Davis, Austin Sutterlin, Tony Pedraza and Caleb Box.
The small roster reminds Dabbs of last year’s group, which reached the CFA finals and eventually lost to Russell Christian Academy in Tuscaloosa.
“That team overachieved and this team can be the same way,” said Dabbs during a recent practice session.