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Carroll transitioned from a two-win team to the No. 10 team in a crowded Class 3A playoffs in 2019. The Bulldogs made such a leap in Tank Washington’s second season as Carroll’s head coach.

Last Monday, Washington gave a lot of credit to former strength and conditioning coach Osaro Kyles, who died at the age of 37 last December, for that transition. Kyles was instrumental in changing the culture at Carroll High School, and Washington wants everyone to know it.

“He set the example,” Washington said. “He set the standard. From day one, we knew we had to get stronger and he focused on that wholeheartedly. Everything we did was weight-room oriented. You could tell the difference last summer. The kids, they looked like they were in better shape than the other kids we faced in 7-on-7’s.”

Washington said the team planned on having some sort of tribute for their fallen coach this fall during the football season, but that’s if a season is granted by the decision makers down south. Carroll, like every other high school in the state, is currently working out in Phase II through the month of July.

“Right now, we’re just trying to figure out if we’re going to play or not,” Washington said. “The kids are coming to work out. We don’t have that problem here. We’ve had about 65 kids turn out, and for the most part, we don’t have a couple of our young guys. But we’ve been going at it outside.”

Carroll brought weights outside and set up platforms for players to cycle through. The Bulldogs have had three groups rotating between weights, agility and conditioning.

Washington feels good about the mental makeup of his squad, but he also understands he’ll have numerous new starters on both sides of the ball. One good thing, though, is that quarterback Antonio Hollins will be one of two returning starters on offense, while linebacker Derrick Conner returns to lead a defense.

“We have to replace both lines on both sides of the ball,” Washington said. “I know it’s a big help to have Antonio back because there are a lot of teams we play that lost their quarterback. We’ve been doing footwork drills and have been working on the board to try and (develop the offensive line).”

Another thing aiding the Bulldogs this fall is the implementation of junior varsity ball. Washington made it a priority when he was hired to bring JV football back, so younger guys could get experience working in the same system.

“We haven’t had that here at Carroll, and we got to play eight JV games last year,” Washington said.

Washington, along with football fans across Northeast Louisiana, continues to try and remain optimistic there will be football in a couple of months.

Award-winning sports writer for columns and features since joining the field in 2013. As the first-ever featured columnist of the month at Bleacher Report, Martin cut his teeth with online media before joining the newspaper business in 2014.

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