By Stan Veitch/Sports Correspondent
Sardis High made a bit of a splash in Class 4A last season, finishing 5-6 and making the playoffs as a No. 4 seed in Region 6.
Coach Gene Hill hopes to improve on that showing this fall, as he returns eight starters on offense and eight more on defense.
“We could be better this year but not win as many games,” Hill said. “The top dogs in the region will all be better.”
Hill noted that Cleburne County, last year’s region champion, “returns everybody.” Saks returns “everyone except the quarterback. And I’m sure they’ll find a good quarterback.”
Hill pointed out that that Jacksonville returns a quarterback who is a “big-time playmaker” and a running back who is “dangerous.”
Hill added said that he hears Cherokee County will be much improved over last year.
Crossville and White Plains round out the region.
As for Sardis, one of the impact players should be senior running back Keenan Lewis, who is approaching the 4,000-yard mark after breaking the 1,000-yard mark in the past three seasons.
Lewis was a second-team All-State pick last year after rushing for 1,203 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Senior wide receiver Austin Hallmark, who caught 29 passes for 445 yards and four touchdowns in 2014, is the other offensive player that Hill mentioned.
Hallmark also had four interceptions at defensive back.
Back behind center is Logan Gaskin, who threw for 737 yards and 11 touchdowns as a freshman last season.
As for the defense, Hill said that last year’s second-leading tackler – Luke Nelson – and the third-leading tackler – Jarod Smith – both return.
Nelson had 113 stops last season, while Smith had 74.
“If all goes right and we avoid injury, we could make the playoffs again,” Hill said. “But again, we could also win less region games because of the other teams improving.”
Assistant coaches include Dusty Darnell, Brad Bruce, Clay Wright, Matt Harris, Bubba Jennings and Phillip Pierce.