Avoiding injuries big key for TAD

By Ivan Sanders
Coming into a new season, coach John Oakley has a couple of reasons to believe that his 2003 T.A. Dugger Jr. Cyclones have the opportunity to be a solid squad.
First, the bulk of the returning players are coming off an unbeaten seventh-grade season, with a 6-0 slate, and secondly, he has a team of mainly straight-A students that know how to use their heads when they put on the orange and black.
The only problem for Oakley, who is entering his 12th season as part of the Jr. Cyclone program, will be to maintain the well being of his team, and hopefully elude multiple injuries as only 25 players are dressing this season.
"We should be a pretty good team if we can stay healthy," said Oakley. "We have good people, but we only have roughly seven subs, which means a lot of the kids will be staying on the field for a long time."
Offensively, the Jr. Cyclones will look to quarterback Wes Anderson to turn the experience he gained last season in starting the last three games into a positive beginning for this season. According to Oakley, Anderson is a smart player that continuously wants to learn, and is a very accurate passer.
Behind Anderson, expect to see tailbacks Jake Peters and Justin Fuqua following big halfback Jordan Coleman through the line and into open daylight. Watching the tailbacks will be like a revolving door as Peters and Fuqua are quality backs, with Peters bringing the size and speed while Fuqua adds patience and a great field of vision to his game.
Coleman will get the tough four yards when needed and will be getting help from Bo Carter, who can also break it long if the opportunity to do so presents itself. Carter will be swapping back and forth between tight end with C.J. Campbell, who will be helping on the line as well.
The receiving group is talented and will be led by wide receiver Mark Bailey and split end Justin Peters. Each player brings soft hands and will be working to give Anderson a good target to hit.
Throw into the mix Wendall Loving, and the receivers will be as good as any trio in the conference.
An important part of the team that is often overlooked is the linemen, and TAD has a strong unit to put on the field for the season. Led by left tackle Evan Ellis, who lost weight, grew taller and improved his speed over the summer, Anderson should get plenty of protection while the back field will have numerous holes to gallop through.
Jesse Potter will man the right guard position, with a dogfight between Wyatt Penrod and T.J. Avery in process to gain the left guard slot. David Martin returns to play center, along with Ryan Birchfield switching over to fill the right tackle position after playing tight end last season.
For the most part, the same names will be flipping over to play the defensive side of the ball. A couple of names that will be seeing playing time on defense at the down tackle position will be Joey Johnson and A.J. Bailey.
Thomas Roddy is another player that is showing promise at the outside linebacker slot. Roddy, according to Oakley, is a player who hasn't played much football but can surprise you with the way he hits.
Oakley sees the conference playing out much the same way as always, with John Sevier, which has lost only six conference games in 10 years, Vance and Science Hill being the cream of the crop. TAD is the only team, though, that has had success against Sevier, handing it five of the six losses.
Overall, the Jr. Cyclone coach feels confident about his team's chances in 2003.
"Everybody will be a little down this season in the conference, and we do know how to win," said Oakley. "These kids play with a lot of heart and will listen and do anything you tell them to."
Oakley will lean on Scott McIntosh, entering his 11th season as an assistant coach, and James Jacobs for coaching support to get the Jr. Cyclones into a competitive position in the conference. The first game will be on Sept. 2 against Kingsport's Robinson at Brown-Childress Stadium. A game scheduled for today against Boones Creek has been rescheduled to Sept. 11.