SARDIS SENIORS. Pictured above, kneeling, from left: Andrew Blackwell, Tyler Chanie, Brody Love, Dylan Holcomb, Garrett Howington. Standing, from left: Justin Golden, Torin Bright, Peyton Wherwein, Carson Grant, Jackson Burns. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
It’s safe to say that the 2020 Sardis High football team required a bit of re-tooling.
The Lions enter the season with new starters at quarterback, running back, receiver and tight end, not to mention three-fifths of the offensive line.
Defensively, losses from graduation included the Lions’ top five tackers.
“We’ve got a lot to replace,” Hill acknowledged. “We had a big senior group. We’ve got a lot of holes to fill, but we’ve got some good young kids and we’ll try to play as many of them as we can and get them in the right spots.”
Sardis is coming off a 5-6 2019 season that saw the Lions finish third in the region for their first state playoff berth as a Class 5A program.
Sardis also posted its first win over Southside in 44 years.
Nine seniors grace the 2020 Sardis roster, and according to Hill, most will play both ways.
Junior Brody Samples is the favorite to take over at quarterback for two-year starter Jay Owens. Samples quarterbacked the Lion junior varsity in 2019 while playing in several varsity games at safety.
“I feel comfortable with [Samples],” said Hill. “I know what he’s capable of. He throws the ball fairly well and can run the ball pretty good, so that will give us another dimension.”
Samples will have a pair of veteran targets in seniors Torin Bright and Peyton Wehrwein.
“Torin played a pretty good bit last year, and we’re looking for him to have a breakout year because he has so much ability,” Hill said. “We’ve got to get the ball in Peyton’s hands a good bit this year.”
Two starters return on the offensive line – senior tackle Jackson Burns and senior guard Garrett Howington.
“[Jackson] wound up star-ting all ball games at left tackle position, done a real good job for us, and we expect him to be a leader for us on the offensive line again this year,” said Hill.
Hill views freshmen Jose Ponce and Blake Butts as having an impact in the tren-ches.
“Both of those kids have an opportunity to play as true freshmen,” Hill said. “They’re pretty big and strong.”
Hill expects senior Sean Wright, junior Logan Edwards and sophomore Jacob Smith to see extensive snaps at linebacker.
Wehrwein returns at safety.
“Peyton did a lot better job [at safety] than I ever thought he could do,” said Hill. “He was probably the biggest surprise on our team. I think you’ll see him on the field on both sides of the ball a good bit.”
The Lions will compete in 5A Region 7 along with Douglas, Boaz, Guntersville, West Point, Crossville and Fairview. Crossville and Douglas are returning region opponents, while Guntersville, Fairview and West Point are new. Sardis retained its non-region games against Sylvania, Geraldine, Southside and Hokes Bluff from its 2019 schedule.
“If you look down the schedule, there’s a lot of rival schools in our region,” said Hill. “That’s good for the players, it’s good for the fans and it’s good for the gate. This will be our third year in 5A in a pretty tough 5A region. It’s changed up a little bit this year, but we were in a very tough region last year.”
Emma Kirkemier contributed to this article