2019 High School Football Preview: Drew Noles set to lead Warriors into battle

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WESTBROOK SENIORS. Pictured, kneeling, from left: Andrew Lockridge, Steven Smith, John Reese Bellew, Will Edwards, Jai’Shawn Cattling, Brandon Foster, Quinn Morrison, head coach Drew Noles. Standing, from left: Will Vice, Brandon Morgan, Baylor Tennyson, Derek Graham, Ethan Hart, Phillip Morrison, Josh Osagatharp, John Harvey, Brett Fouts. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

Entering his 20th year as a head football coach, Drew Noles feels he is in an ideal situation at 100 Westminster Drive in Rainbow City.
“The timing was great for us, and people in the community have made us feel welcome,” he said. “Plus, the kids have really bought into what we’re trying to do.”
Noles – who has 132 career victories to his credit, including 52 in six years at Etowah – guided the 2018 Blue Devils to their first undefeated regular season since 1999 and second straight berth in the Class 5A state quarterfinals. Eto-wah went 13-0 in region play the past two years.
The Class 2A Warriors went 7-4 last season and qualified for a second straight playoff berth.
“We have 52 players in the program right now, and most of them will have a role,” said Noles.
“We had 92 percent attendance with our summer workouts, which is outstanding. “[Assistant] coach [Chad] Phillips did a great job with them in the weight room, and our coaches did a good job of installing our base offense and base defense.”
Westbrook most likely will endure some growing pains this fall, as the Warriors lost their starting quarterback, top receiver, top two rushers and most of their offensive and defensive linemen.
“I don’t care if you’re a 7A school or a 1A school, it’s tough to replace all of those players,” said Noles. “I do like what we have, but we don’t have a back that gained over 150 yards last year, we don’t have a quarterback who threw for more than 100 yards and we don’t have a receiver who caught more than 19 passes.
“So to think we’re going to light the scoreboard up is unrealistic. We’re young and we’ve got a lot of guys playing new positions, so it’s going to take some time.”
Noles is high on a trio of transfers – his son Will from Etowah, senior receiver Joe Tucker from Alexandria and senior lineman Phillip Morrison from Nashville, Tenn.
Will Noles, who started at tight end last season for Etowah, will switch to quarterback this fall. Drew Noles pointed out that Will had literally attended every coaches’ meeting over the past three years.
“Nobody understands what we’re doing on offense better than Will. That’s part of being a coach’s son. Plus, he started 13 games for the No. 1 team in Class 5A last season, so the stage isn’t going to be too big for him. He’s also a tremendous leader.”
Drew Noles added that freshman Cade Phillips will see game action.
“Cade brings more athleticism, so we will use him in difference places. When you have someone as dynamic as him, you’ve got to get the ball in his hands.”
Back at receiver are sophomore Ryan Scott, who had 19 catches for 469 yards in 2018, and senior Brandon Foster, who had 11 receptions for 159 yards. Also in the mix are seniors Steven Smith and Andrew Lockridge and junior Carson Wiggins, along with Phillips.
“With the addition of Joe, we feel that our receivers are our strength,” said Noles. “We have some depth there.”
Noles said that seniors Jai’Shawn Cattling and John Reece Bellew, junior Caiden Wyatt, freshman Karmichael Cattling, eighth grader Asher Keck will comprise a running back by committee.
“I think we could run for 1,500 yards this year; I just don’t know if one guy will do that.”
Two-thirds of the offensive line return in seniors Derek Graham and John Harvey, who recently co-mmitted to Birmingham Southern. Along with Morrison, senior Josh Osgatharp, juniors Hal Bouleware and Deacon Godfrey and ? Brandon Morgan will see time in the trenches.
“I feel that the offensive line has a chance to be good,” said Noles. “We have eight or nine guys we can plug in there, and the good thing is that most of them won’t have to play de-fense. We’ll have several people playing both ways but none of them will have to start, which helps us with both conditioning and adjustments at halftime.”
The defensive line will feature Harvey, Graham, seniors Brett Fouts and Ethan Hart and sophomore Kinnedy Cranfield and Carl Hen-ry.
Senior Will Vice (37 tackles in 2018) and Jai’Shawn Cattling (36 tackles) return at linebacker. Wyatt, Foster, junior Garrett Hall, sophomore Jackson Shores and freshman Jesse Palmer will also see action.
Bellew (46 tackles, five sacks in 2018) returns at safety, while Wiggins, Tucker, Scott, Lockridge and the Cattling brothers will be on the field at one time or another.
Noles said that the team’s biggest plus might be the kicking game with the addition of senior Will Edwards.
Westbrook shares Class 2A Region 6 with Gaston, West End, Cleveland, Ohat-chee, Ranburne and Woodland.
“Ohatchee and Ranburne seem to be the teams to beat,” said Noles. “I know that Cleveland’s going to be really good and West End is much improved. Coach [Swane] Morris always does a good job at Gaston. I think it’s a very tough region, and there will be a good team that won’t make the playoffs.
“The thing I most like about this team is the kids really like to hang out with together after workouts and practice,” said Noles. “That’s been really good to see, because the team that stays together, will play well together. And we do have 18 seniors, which should be a good leadership group.”

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