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Jacoby Putman (16)

Central's Jacoby Putman (16) picks up the ball after slipping from his hands during a kickoff return last season.

CENTRAL - For Central High senior Jacoby Putman, the coming football season is a chance for him to provide leadership on the field and off.

It’s a natural extension of a learning process for Putman, who looks to help the Wildcats improve on last season’s first-round exit from the Class 5A playoffs.

Early in his high school career, Putman soaked up knowledge from coaches and older teammates. Last season, his hard work paid off in the form of a significant role on both offense and defense.

Whether that role is picking up a key first down as a running back, or breaking up a pass as a defensive back, Putman comes into his final season at Central prepared.

“Everybody has worked really hard to improve their game,” Putman said of the team as a whole. “We have to trust the process that the coaches are putting us through.”

Central coach Sid Edwards praises Putman’s development as a football player, and as a person.

“He’s a hard worker and he’s really grown,” said Edwards, who believed in Putman enough to insert him as a starting cornerback last season. “He’s one of those kids that, as a freshman or a sophomore, he wasn’t an all-star, but he’s worked his way up.

“He’s grown tremendously from the stand point of maturity and becoming a man first. And, he’s developed into a really good football player.”

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Sid Edwards

Central football coach Sid Edwards.

As part of its annual preseason preparation, Central will start its fall practice with a three-day retreat of sorts. The team will have practice sessions, and lots of extra time for players to bond.

Putman notes that it’s a time for upper classmen to make an

impression.

“Since my freshman year, I’ve looked up to the seniors, and I’ve been learning from them – what to do, fixing mistakes so that I’ll be a better player,” said Putman, a versatile athlete who also plays basketball and is a jumper for the track squad. “I’ve been improving my game since my freshman year.”

Central had an up-and-down season a year ago. After a 1-3 start, the Wildcats reeled off three straight wins as they set their sights on a playoff berth.

Putman recalls contributions on offense and defense during the run.

“We needed a first down, and there were only a few seconds left on the clock. I got the first down for my team,” Putman said of Central’s win over Live Oak.

The Wildcats closed with three straight losses, including a 21-0 loss to eventual Class 5A state champion Zachary in a game that was closer than the final score indicated. Through it all, with Putman doing his part at cornerback, the Wildcats held opposing offenses to less than 50 percent on the season for pass completions.

It was enough to give Putman complete confidence in his teammates.

“If all of us play together and play to our potential, I feel like we can go all the way,” Putman said.

Regardless of how close Central comes to reaching that goal, Edwards is confident Putman will be one of the leaders.

“He’s been through the process,” Edwards said. “Now it’s his time, and I’m proud of him. I think he’s going to do really well.”