South Greene picked as Watauga's best

By JEFF BIRCHFIELD
STAR Staff

   1. South Greene, 2. Happy Valley, 3. Chuckey-Doak, 4. Hampton, 5. West Greene.
   South 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.
   Chuckey-Doak
   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 there.
   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 Blevins.
   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."
   West Greene
   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 (210 lbs.).
   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."