By Gene Stanley/Correspondent
Sardis High has grown into a team that expects to make the state playoffs each year, as the Lions have played in the postseason in seven of the past eight seasons.
With a roster loaded with 22 seniors, Sardis appears ready to take another step and advance a game or two into the postseason.
“I hope these seniors are ready to step up into leadership roles,” coach Gene Hill said. “The only bad thing about it is looking to next year, which we try not to do.”
With a small junior class, the Lions will depend heavily on younger players next year. But let’s wait until then to talk about the large underclassmen classes.
Both sides of the line will be 2013 strengths, according to Hill.
“We’ll have a lot of size up front on both sides,” he said. “We may even be bigger than last year, and we’ll have some speed, too.”
In the backfield will be seniors Braun Pee and Carter Rains and junior Jesse Hubbard. Hubbard is also a defensive back and “rarely comes off the field,” Hill noted.
Last season, Hubbard recorded 90 tackles, while Pee collected 95 stops and four interceptions at safety.
Senior quarterback Will Scott is the only other backfield returnee. He is tutoring freshman Logan Gaskin, who will be the varsity backup. Scott is coming off a 2012 season in which he threw for 2,237 yards and 31 touchdowns.
“Scott has such good work habits and skills that we’re hoping (Gaskin) picks up on them,” Hill said. “We’re trying to prepare for the future this way.”
One of the keys to success is going to be finding backups to the skill players, according to Hill.
“We run a lot of routes,” he said. “It’s tough for our skill guys to not get a breather or two. And most of our opposition plays spread offenses, so that makes it hard on the defensive backs.”
With region opponent Oneonta favored to win another state title, Hill figures the next three playoff spots will come down to whichever teams can get through the dogfight, with Guntersville, St. Clair County and Fairview all probably good enough.
The Lions play Douglas, Crossville and Locust Fork in the first half and, on paper, should be able to win those games.
“I hope we can win at least two of those and go into the second half ready to win another couple,” Hill said. “Usually, four region wins will get you in. But we’d rather win more and compete for that No. 2 spot.”
Hill was pleased with the Lions’ participation and performance in the offseason weight lifting and conditioning program.
“We started our offseason workout at Christmas, and it’s probably the best workout program I’ve had. I think it’s really showing up.
“These guys are a lot stronger, a lot bigger, and I think their feet are a little bit quicker. It’s probably one of the best lifting summers we’ve had in a while.”
Assistant coaches are Phillip Pierce, Josh Wallace, Brad Bruce, Dusty Darnell, Clay Wright, Ty Harris and Whit Hibbs.
For the complete 2013 Messenger Football Preview that includes team rosters, photos and schedules, purchase a copy of the Aug. 23 edition of The Messenger.