Coach Al Pogue took the head coaching position at George Washington Carver (Montgomery) this spring after a two-year stint at St. Jude. The school has always produced very good players, several NFL players, but they haven’t always had the record to go with the talent. That has changed with the 2008 season.
The former Alabama State standout, Birmingham Steeldog and Williamson High School graduate took the position at St. Jude in 2006. He took the 2007 Pirates to their first playoff appearance since 1998 winning as many games in one year as the school had from 2002-2005 with a 9-3 record. They lost in the second round of the playoffs to eventual 1A undefeated state champion Sweet Water.
To say the season has been an historical one for the Wolverines is an understatement.
The 2008 team has produced the most wins in a season, the only 10-win season and they have scored the most points in a game with 71. That is also the largest margin of victory in their history, in the win over Monroe County.
Carver has scored a team record 546 points this season. That is just a sub-total since their season is still rolling along. The school is also riding their longest win streak with their 11 wins. Maybe their first state championship is not very far behind.
We asked Coach Pogue if he had any idea what he had to work with when he took the job in March of 2008.
“Yes Ma’am,” then the coach paused and said, “Well, our expectations were high because we have great talent here at Carver High School. We set our goals for 15 weeks, and we are on the verge of accomplishing it. We’re not going to be satisfied until we do so.”
“We have a wonderful set of kids over here. I don’t think people really realize that. When we came in, we were like salesmen. We weren’t selling them promises or any dreams. All we ask is for them to believe in us because we are going to believe in them, and this program is going to go as far as they take us.”
“We are just here to guide and direct them to where they need to be. The talent has always been here. We just needed to get them to believe in themselves and realize they can do this. I think motivation was the major key.”
Coach Pogue talked about the leaders of his undefeated team and the impressive stance the seniors have taken.
“Andrew Pitts (RB), Brandon Moore (OL), Edmond Davis (OL). We just have a great corp of leaders, senior leaders. Our younger kids too, but the senior leadership has been great for us. Terrence Walter (OL), Arthur Kelly (DL), there is just a whole list of guys I can go on with.”
“We were very fortunate to walk into a situation where we didn’t have to convince or get all the seniors out of the way. Those guys were ready to jump on board. We had some success during our passing leagues during the summer sessions, and man we’ve been rolling ever since.”
We asked Pogue if he thought his success as an all-conference defensive back made it an easier sell to the kids when he arrived.
“You can never take this thing for granted,” Pogue said. “We tell them you have a God-given talent, but they have got to realize that football is a privilege not a right. So every day that God gives you the opportunity to get up and come represent Him and yourself and your family you’ve got to take full advantage of that and just be excited about life. There are a lot of people who wouldn’t mind trading places with them.”
Carver had little trouble dismissing their first round opponent last week, John Carroll 53-15. They achieved the win without one of their stars, Brandon Moore. Moore transitioned this season from the defensive side of the ball to the offensive line where Pogue felt the 6-5, 320-pound senior could make a greater impact.
Things might get tougher for the Montgomery team this week as they host Briarwood Christian 9-2 (5-1), but Carver will have the services of Moore back after a two week hiatus due to an ankle injury he received in practice.
The highly coveted collegiate prospect will lead the way blocking for fellow senior and 1,600-yard rusher Andrew Pitts (5-10, 205).
Pogue says of Pitts, “He’s a great guy. Great leadership. Attention is starting to pour in late. Last year he stayed hurt so much and when they came by to see him in the spring he was still nursing some minor injuries. We held him out of spring practice intentionally, and now he is back healthy. He doesn’t have to try and win the game by himself.”
“He is virtually injury free now. The scouts are starting to come out and he is starting to turn some heads. Maybe he can be one of those next great prospects that come out of Carver High School.”
The injury question led us to ask about any changes to the offseason program.
“We made some changes,” Pogue said. “Coach (Larry) Ware did a good job of setting things up, but we wanted to come in and change some things. We focused more on the explosive type lifting and the sprinting.”
“We had a certified strength and conditioning coach come in and work with the kids during the summer. It’s paying off. We are sticking with the program.”
Carver has been the stomping ground for former standouts such as Auburn University’s All-SEC linebacker Aundray Bruce and the University of Alabama defensive lineman Byron Braggs who also found his way to All-Conference honors. Both went on to play in the NFL.
We asked Coach Pogue if he is seeing former players coming back around to support these younger guys on Friday nights.
“Oh yes, and we welcome those guys,” Pogue said. “We want them to come back because they are the kids’ peers. They have so much pride and tradition they set before. We want them to come back and be a part. The more these players can see their former teammates and those friends the better it is for Carver football.”
The future for Carver looks bright. The Wolverines have three talented sophomore linebackers in Robbie Mangum (6-1, 220), Jamie Barlow (6-0, 225) and Terry Curry Jr. (5-11, 210).
“You talk about stiff competition,” Pogue asserts. “Those guys do a great job of pushing each other and their coach Billy Gresham does a great job of having those guys prepared week in and week out.”
As much as talk is centered on Carver’s high powered offense, averaging 49 points per game, it is a potent defense holding opponents to 11 points per game. The Wolverines toughest test this season came from an expected source, former Coach Larry Ware’s 6A Robert E. Lee Generals.
The 5A squad eeked out a 22-15 victory in the fifth game of the season. They have really never been seriously challenged since, outscoring opponents 53 to 6.
The Wolverines might find themselves in a battle with the Lions this week.
“Wow what a challenge it is,” Pogue said. “It is the second part of the season. It is step two in our five-step process and it is a tall step, but we’re up for that.”
“Briarwood Christian has great tradition. They have a legacy there. Coach (Fred) Yancey has done an outstanding job there since 1990. We know those guys are going to be well prepared. They were in the state championship game last year. Most of these guys were juniors and sophomores and played in that championship game. Here they are right on the verge of trying to get back. They want to have that feeling again, unfinished business. It’s going to be a tough task for us both physically and mentally. We're going to be ready to play though.”
With such a bright young promising coach we would have been remiss not to ask him what his future held.
“Right now I see myself being as a Carver Wolverine as long as the good Lord wants me to be. I love it here. They have great fan support, and the kids are wonderful. I’m happy where I am, but who knows. Right now I’m a Carver Wolverine.”
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