Pace has made the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) state playoffs in each of the past five years and earned a state title in 2015.
The Knights are back on the field looking to advance past the first round of the postseason for the first time since their championship campaign.
"Summer workouts were good,” Pace coach Chris Slade said. “You always want 100% and the guys have been engaged doing what they’re supposed to do. I was pleased with our participation. We’re good health-wise.”
The Knights are taking a practical and methodical approach entering this season.
“We’re going to try to get better every day,” Slade said. “I know it's the company line, but we’re trying to improve. We want to find our weaknesses so we can coach better and our players can play better. We have to figure out a way to win close games down the stretch and improve.”
The Knights will have to replace graduated seniors in quarterback Jared Rayman, who had 14 total touchdowns, and running back Keashawn Perryman, who rushed for a team-high nine TDs.
“(Quarterbacks) Evan Smith-Rooks and Quantaves Gaskins are competing for the starting spot and one will rise to the top,” Slade said.
The main throwing target will be junior Jayden Thomas, who had a team-high 696 receiving yards and five touchdowns last season.
“Jayden is a really good football player and a big threat for us on offense,” Slade said.
Senior captain Mbiti Williams, a United States Naval Academy commit, will be a starter at wide receiver and cornerback for the Knights.
“This offseason was good,” Williams said. “We have a lot of young players coming in, so we’re trying to build them up so they can gain confidence. I think we’ll be ready and this can be a big year. We have to work hard and stay focused.”
Sophomore running back Lawrence Jordan, who rushed for 619 yards and six touchdowns last season, will see increased production, as well as junior Justin Johnson, who also had six rushing TDs.
“Both guys are really good players,” Slade said. “Justin is more of a power back while Lawrence is a scatback who’s really fast. We have the luxury of having both guys for a few years.”
Pace will have youth on both lines of play. “We’ll be young on the line, which can be a good thing and bad thing,” Slade said. “They have learning to do but also upside and potential. In a few years the lines can be as good as the ones we had that won the state championship, if they continue to work and keep preparing.”
The rest of the defense will include standouts such as senior linebackers Sam Harris and Ben Caldwell.
“They’re experienced and ready to play,” Slade said.
Seniors Jimbo Smith, Evan Duncan and Williams will lead the defensive secondary. Williams had 22 tackles and team-high four interceptions last year.
“Good quarterback play, protect the football, running the football and stopping the run gives you a chance to win,” Slade said.
Aug. 23: at New Manchester
Aug. 30: at Eagle's Landing Christian
Sept. 6: at Monroe Area
Sept.13: Charlotte Christian
Sept. 27: at Redan
Oct. 4: Stone Mountain
Oct. 11: at Westminster
Oct. 18: Lovett
Oct. 25: at Cedar Grove
Nov. 1: Towers
Pace Academy seeks continuation of postseason play