Centenary football. That’s a word combination that has been dormant for over 80 years.
For decades it was a memory. For a few years, it was a concept, maybe far-fetched. Now, it’s becoming reality, with the Gentlemen preparing to tee it up this fall in a handful of scrimmages and exhibition contests before the official kickoff in 2024.
Head coach Byron Dawson and the Gents have trotted out a mantra – “Now We Go!”
There is a lot going on with the Gents’ program, which had its first signing class this winter under Dawson, the former Evangel and LSU star defensive lineman who returned to his alma mater as head coach and led the ECA Eagles to a state championship. He went on to college coaching and was hired last spring as Centenary’s first football coach since 1941.
Construction on new facilities and other less tangible steps to building a program from scratch are happening on a daily basis on campus. Meanwhile, Dawson is rounding out his coaching staff and adding players to prepare for the unofficial season this fall.
“We have two goals for this season. We want to master the fundamentals and play as a team,” said Dawson.
“What makes a team great is connecting — building unity, chemistry, and trust, which is earned daily. I can’t wait to start the growth process. We have recruited some high-character student-athletes that can play and are eager to play.
“Recruiting is a constant. We currently have around 75 student-athletes committed to play this fall. We are also hosting two football camps this summer and are currently offering 2024 student-athletes. Most recently, we completed our first ‘Junior Day’ and it was a great success.”
The payoff is competing against somebody else. Centenary will do so for the first time in forever just two months from now on Saturday, Aug. 19, at Jackson, Miss., in a scrimmage at Millsaps College.
The Gents will host Division III power East Texas Baptist in a scrimmage at home on Thursday, Aug. 24 at 6:30 p.m. when local fans can get their first glimpse of the Maroon and White at Mayo Field. Centenary will also play three games at Independence Stadium and a pair at Evangel.
The Gents will play four times at home in September, beginning with an exhibition contest against Community Christian College on Sept. 9 at Evangel. Centenary will follow with straight exhibition games at Independence Stadium – Sept. 16 against John Melvin at 6 p.m., Sept. 23 against the Memphis Gators (1 p.m.), and Sept. 30 against the Haywood Crushers (1 p.m.).
The Gents will play at John Melvin on Oct. 14, at home against TWA College on Oct. 18, at Lyon College on Oct. 22, face Texas Lutheran’s JV squad on Oct. 30 in Ft. Worth, Texas, and finish at Arkansas Baptist on Nov. 4. All dates and times are subject to change.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the reception from the local community,” said Dawson. “I can feel that everyone is excited about having college football in this great city. The time is getting close and the first game will be an historical event.”
Dawson said he expects to complete his coaching staff early next month.