South Greene picked as Watauga's best
By JEFF BIRCHFIELD
1. South Greene, 2. Happy Valley, 3. Chuckey-Doak,
4. Hampton, 5. West Greene.
As one rival coach put it, South Greene is "The
Cream of the Crop".
Coming off the 2000 season where they boasted
a league record of 7-1 with their only blemish a 30-14 loss
to Cloudland in the nine-team Watauga Conference, the Rebels
are the unanimous favorite among league coaches to win this
year's five-team conference.
Neal Ricker (5-10, 235) returns as the leading
runner in the Rebels' smashmouth grind-it-out offensive gameplan.
On those few occasions that South Greene opens up the passing
lanes, the connection between Adam Hansel and Wesley Parkins
could prove lethal to the opposition. Phillip Waddell should
provide solid play as the other wide receiver.
The line lost 275-pounder Shawn Johnson to graduation,
but, return sophomore sensation Boone Fletcher.
Defensively, Larry Ricker's Rebels should continue
to shut down ballcarriers with a sudden thud. If they break
past David Sauceman's first line of defense, linebacker Jeremy
Sauceman (5-8, 192) is usually waiting to clean up.
The Black Knights slipped past conference rivals
Happy Valley and Hampton in 2000 for the final Region 1 spot
in the TSSAA playoffs. Waiting on them, was mighty Alcoa who
trashed C-D in the first round.
This season, odds are good that the Knights (5-5
overall last season) will return to post-season action. One
of their main goals is to get a better seed once they get
Adan Blevins, who returned a punt against Happy
Valley for a touchdown, will be one of the most athletic players
for C-D at wide receiver and defensive back. Tailback Brent
Price, who scored on the opening play against Johnson County,
is the other half of an explosive tandem sure to strike fear
in the hearts of rivals.
The line will be lead by Matt Randle and Brandon
Ward. On the defensive line, end Lee Fletcher and Brian Williams
are picked as standouts.
Jason Johnson looks to be the star of the linebacking
squad and also handling punting duties. The achilles heel
looks to be the remainder of the defensive backfield excluding
The youth of the backfield is one of the biggest
concerns of head coach George Frye. "We're quite young with
only six seniors," said Frye. "But, we have a good group of
sophomores and juniors, so experience wise, we should be OK."
The Buffaloes look to improve on last season's
(0-8 conference, 1-9 overall mark) behind two quarterbacks
with different styles of play. Josh Dearinger is more of the
drop-back passer who started several games last season. Jonathan
Greenlee is the backup when a thumb injury heals, as well
as a starting defensive back.
Senior Josh Jones, Frankie Ottinger, Joey Slayton
and Michael Franklin at the receiver slots should give the
QB's plenty of targets to hit. Running backs to take the load
of the passing game will Justin Wheeler, a junior, Courtney
Cottoner and Josh Story.
Protection up front for these skill positions
will come in the form of senior Matthew Tipton (6-4, 286),
junior Clay Wilkerson (6-4, 230), sophomore Phillip Gentry
(260 lbs.), juniors Josh Sauceman (215 lbs.) and Killian Ford
Defensively, coach Barry Carter plans on going
with a smaller line-up based on speed. Sophomore Billy Gregg
at 175 pounds and Jonathan Knowes at 155 pounds will be expected
to stop up the middle.
Positions at the backside of the defense are
still up for grabs with West Greene being the rare team that
the offense is ahead of the defense.
Special teams could be a bright spot with Josh
Jones punting and Cottoner returning kicks. Overall Carter
faces the same problem felt throughout the area.
"We're very thin number-wise," said Carter. "That's
an apparent problem everywhere. They are a good bunch of kids
enjoyable to coach. We have to step up our intensity and aggression,
but I'm anxious to get the season started."