By Gene Stanley/Messenger Sports Correspondent
There’s a big streak at stake on Shinbone Ridge this year, and no one is more aware of it than head coach Josh Averett.
Gaston has made the playoffs for the past 10 years in a row and a move to Class 2A, Region 7 isn’t going to make the extension any easier.
“We definitely want to make it for the 11th year,” Averett said. “But it’s going to be tough with the competition we have in the region.”
Besides the Bulldogs, the region includes West End, Westbrook, Fyffe, Sand Rock, North Sand Mountain, Section and Ider.
Gaston is moving up from 1A, where it has been since moving down in 2006.
“The biggest difference I’ve seen is that in 1A, most regions have a couple of top-tier teams while in 2A, the entire region is competitive with each other,” Averett said. “Top to bottom, the regions are most definitely fuller.”
The three non-region weeks aren’t powder puff games either, with contests against Randolph County, Wadley and Pleasant Valley.
Trying to help the Bulldogs achieve a Week 11 game is junior quarterback Shai Ogles, who has started since midway through his freshman year.
With his running ability, Ogles is well-suited to the option offense. Last season, he threw for 444 yards, mostly from a moving pocket.
“Shai’s gotten a lot better at throwing, too,” Averett said. “And he’s very good at making the necessary reads.”
If Ogles opts to pitch the ball, it’ll usually go to either junior Braxton Collins or senior Jackson Bogle. Both are big boys and both run the football hard. Collins last year rolled up 911 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
Averett said both also have good hands for catching passes.
Bogle will be the starting tight end, as well as sharing the running back duties with Collins.
At receiver, senior Destin Pollard has the hands to give his team first downs and both he and junior Trevion Rooks are downfield threats.
“They’re both pretty speedy,” Averett said. “Trevion hadn’t played the game in awhile until last year, so he should be even better for us this season.”
Senior Joey McClellan and junior Lee Corey, two three-year starters will anchor the offensive line, with juniors Lane Johnson, Allen Davidson and Jeremiah Strawderman helping.
Running the 4-3 defense, Collins and Corey will start with junior Tyler Jennings earning the third spot. Collins had 47 tackles in 2011, while Corey had 83.
Ogles, Pollard, Rooks and sophomore Albert Douglas will start in the defensive backfield.
Only Douglas didn’t start last season.
Bogle, McClellan, sophomore Dakota Johnson and junior Tyler Pankey will be on the offensive line. Pankey played a lot last year as the first sub.
Bogle will do all of the kicking.
“Jackson’s a big, strong boy with a very strong leg,” Averett said.
Gaston lost only five seniors from last year but there have been a handful lost since, with a couple of transfers and a couple of players who are no longer on the team.
“I think the losses made us stronger,” Averett said. “They brought us together as a team. I honestly believe that even though we lost some talent, we’re going to be better for it.”
Lee Wadsworth, Buddy Wright and Derrick Sewell are assistant coaches.
Aug. 31 – @Randoplh Co.
Sept. 7 – @Sand Rock*
Sept. 14 – Section*
Sept. 21 – N. Sand Mtn.*
Sept. 28 – @Wadley
Oct. 5 – @Westbrook*
Oct. 12 – Fyffe*
Oct. 19 – @Ider*
Oct. 26 – West End*
Nov. 2 – Pleasant Valley
* Region game
Wellborn 47, Gaston 20
Gaston 33, Gaylesville 13
Collinsville 24, Gaston 14
Gaston 28, Spring Garden 7
Gaston 29, Notasulga 28
Gaston 46, Valley Head 12
Cedar Bluff 24, Gaston 16
Gaston 47, Woodville 8
Gaston 18, West End 6
Donoho 28, Gaston 6