SARDIS SENIORS. Pictured, kneeling, from left: Justin Fuller, Luke Morris, Mason Golden, Henry Chavez, Mason Smith, Tre Dalrymple, Reece Lee. Standing, from left: Brayden Bridges, Dylan Metcalf, Michael Turner, Brandon Noblett, Temon Wilson, Jacob Hopper, Wyatt Samples, Jay Owens, Will Love, Ray Perez. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Sardis High’s inaugural season of Class 5A football did not go as well as head coach Gene Hill would have liked.
The Lions went 2-4 in region play – including losses to Etowah County neighbors Southside and Etowah – to put a damper on the 2019 season. But Hill sees a bright present and an even brighter future for Etowah County’s Sand Mountain squad with a 17-member senior class and a 14-member junior class at his disposal.
“This is probably one of the biggest senior classes since I’ve been here [since 2011], and most of them are experienced players. The biggest thing is they know how to win and they hate to lose.”
Back under center for his senior season is Jay Owens, who threw for 775 yards and 12 touchdowns last year while sharing time with the now-graduated Trent Presley. Hill is looking forward to seeing what Owens will bring as a full-time starter.
“Jay’s had a year of our system under his belt, so we expect him to play like a senior leader.”
Owens’ primary weapon will be senior tight end Jacob Hopper, who committed to South Alabama earlier this summer. The 6’6 Hopper was the Lions’ top receiver last season with 31 catches for 378 yards and nine touchdowns.
“When you’ve got Jacob’s height and catching ability, we’ve got to get him ‘x’ amount of touches a game. The other teams will know that, too, so he’ll see a lot of double coverages. So we’ve got to find some guys who can catch the ball and take some heat off him.”
Hill anticipates seniors Temon Wilson and Luke Morris as receiving the majority of snaps at halfback. Wilson was injured for much of last season.
“It seems like Temon has been around here forever, and Luke has really worked himself into a good football player. He’s not very big but he’s deceiving in his strength. It’s a good 1-2 combination for us. We’ll also play Logan Edwards a little bit more in the backfield and mix (junior) Justin Fuller in there.”
The offensive line should move the chains with four returning starters in seniors Dylan Metcalf, Trey Dalrymple and Mason Smith and junior Josh Scales.
“We feel really confident that position, and hopefully that’s going to be the strength of our team in running the ball behind those guys,” said Hill.
Hopper, Scales and Dalrymple will also play on the defensive line along with seniors Henry Chavez and Wyatt Samples.
Another area of strength should be at linebacker, where every starter is back from 2018. The team’s leading tackler returns in senior Michael Turner, who had 67 stops in 2018. Sean Wright (30 tackles), Edwards, junior Carson Grant and freshman Jacob Smith round out the unit.
Three-fourths of the secondary returns with Hopper (67 tackles, 13 for a loss in 2018) and Wilson at safety and Morris (38 tackles) at cornerback. Fuller, Weirwind, seniors Taylor Minyard and Brayden Bridges and sophomore Brody Samples will also see action.
David Carpelon, a foreign exchange student from Spain, and Jose Corona will handle the kicking duties. Owens returns at punter.
Alexandria, Boaz, Crossville and Douglas round out the Lions’ Class 5A Region 7 competition.
“Etowah’s clearly got to be the favorite after last year, and Alexandria might be even better than last season. I think Boaz will surprise some folks, and you’ve always got to throw Southside in there. Hopefully, we can upset one or two [teams] along the line and get in the mix somewhere.”