By Gene Stanley/Messenger Sports Correspondent
What’s a four-letter word you love to hate? For Hokes Bluff coach Mike Robertson, it’s “4A.”
Okay, it’s not a four-letter word, per se. But Robertson feels like it is.
The Eagles are back in the higher classification for the first time since 2009. In all, Hokes Bluff has been a Class 3A school for eight of Robertson’s 16 seasons and 4A for the other eight.
“I think we were something like two students over the limit for 3A,” the veteran coach said. “Being in 4A is a whole lot tougher than being in 3A.”
The Eagles have a 52-33 mark against 4A competition and a 65-30 record vs. 3A. The telling statistic, though, is the playoffs. Hokes Bluff has never won a 4A playoff game with Robertson at the helm.
Conversely, the Eagles have gone deep into the 3A playoffs a couple of times, including the 2001 state championship and a semifinal appearance in ‘04. Those great seasons are sandwiched around 6-5 and 8-3 seasons as a 4A squad. Hokes Bluff’s Region 5 competition this fall includes Anniston, Cleburne County, Lincoln, Jacksonville, Alexandria, Munford, Hokes Bluff and Cherokee County.
“We’re facing what is probably the toughest schedule in school history,” said Robertson. “We think we’ll have a good team but I don’t know if we’ll be very good against the regional opponents.”
Leading the team again this year is the coach’s son, senior quarterback Brad Ro-bertson, who last year threw for 984 yards and seven touchdowns.
“Because of an injury a couple of years ago, he’s already got two seasons of experience,” the coach said. “But a quarterback is only as good as the players around him.”
The running back slots are likely to see a committee approach unless someone jumps ahead of the rest. Seniors Alex Hawk and Dylan McKee are two players that Mike Robertson thinks have a chance to be standouts.
“Alex is a big, strong runner and Dylan is small and quick,” he said. “They complement each other well.”
Seniors Jake Ingram and Charlie Reed are expected to be the playmakers at receiver, being called “possession type receivers who can catch the ball well.” Ingram caught 19 passes last season, while Reed hauled in 17.
The offensive line has a little experience with Matthew Watkins, Chance Ford and Aaron Mason being seniors.
One thing that Mike Robertson hopes to avoid is having to have anyone playing both ways. But a couple of athletes are slated in for just that responsibility.
Ingram, McKee and Jake Ponder will be seniors in the defensive backfield. McKee came up with 88 tackles from his safety position last year.
“That part of the team will be as strong as it has been in years,” the coach said. “I think it’ll be one of the strengths of the team.”
Hawk is the only returning starter at linebacker (he had 108 tackles in 2011), but Mike Robertson thinks that a couple of others could wind up playing big after they get used to the varsity level. Sophomore Noah Click and junior Chase Pope are the names that jump out at the coach.
The defensive line will be the newest part of the squad. Mike Robertson said he will probably have some of the offensive players flipping over, at least until the competition settles out.
“There are five or six guys that we’re going to put in and see who has it in him to play.”
Sophomore Phillip Ward and freshman Bradley Pruett are both soccer-style kickers who are vying for the extra point/field goal job.
“They’re young but look like kickers,” the coach said.
Assistant coaches are Greg Watkins, Jeff Noah, Jake Ball, Taylor Morgan and Brian Sexton. Last year, Morgan was at Piedmont and Sexton was at Gaylesville. The addition of those two puts three coaches from the state championship team on the sidelines. Ball was the quarterback in ‘01.
Aug. 30 – @Southside
Sept. 7 – @Jacksonville*
Sept. 14 – Alexandria*
Sept. 21 – @Lincoln*
Sept. 28 – Glencoe
Oct. 5 – Cleburne Co.*
Oct. 12 – @Munford*
Oct. 19 – Anniston*
Oct. 26 – Cherokee Co.*
Nov. 2 – Westbrook
* Region game
Piedmont 21, Hokes Bluff 0
Saks 27, Hokes Bluff 0
Hokes Bluff 35, Ashville 12
Hokes Bluff 36, Pisgah 7
Susan Moore 14, Hokes Bluff 6
Hokes Bluff 31, White Plains 0
Hokes Bluff 41, JB Penn. 0
Glencoe 20, Hokes Bluff 0
Weaver 42, Hokes Bluff 20
Southside 13, Hokes Bluff 11