2020 High School Football Preview: Yellow Jackets sense success just over the horizon

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GLENCOE SENIORS. Pictured above, kneeling, from left: Justin Dove, Bryant Speer, Eli Huff, Colby Lancaster, Taylor Shaneyfelt. Standing, from left: Josh Loftis, T.J. Peeples, Taylor Smith, Sam Hines, Trent Hudson. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger) 

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

Although it’s been rough going record-wise over the past two seasons at the corner of Lonesome Bend and East Air Depot roads, Brian Alred considers his program as more or less on schedule heading into his third year as Glencoe head football coach.
“When I took this job, I really thought that it would be year 4 or 5 until we’d really be able to compete,” he said. “We’re bigger, we’re faster and we’re stronger, and we have a lot more depth than we’ve had in years past. Whether they start or not, we have several kids who will be able to come in and give us quality reps.
“There’s been such a different vibe coming into this season. You can sense some belief with our young men. They’ve obviously been through some very tough seasons, and we’re proud of these guys for their resiliency and how they’ve been able to stay the course. We’re just excited about having the opportunity to play a season, when it was in doubt for so long whether we would be able to play.”
Glencoe’s lone win came against Weaver in Week 8, a 27-6 victory that ended a seven-game losing streak.
“We only had three seniors last year, which is not what you want playing in the region that we were in,” said Alred. “Most of the time we were playing 14 or 15-year old kids against mostly juniors and seniors, which obviously was tough. But we’ve got a lot of experience coming back, and our guys believe that they’re be able to compete. I really believe that we’ll win some ball games that a lot of people think we won’t have a shot at. Going into this season, I think we’ll be in a lot better shape then we’ve been in the past, for sure.”
Sophomore Nolan Fairly will start the season under center.
“Nolan is a very good athlete with a lot of upside,” said Alred. “He’s a big, strong kid who throws the ball really well for being a sophomore. When the spring was cancelled and we were out, he really did a good job with learning the offense in our virtual meetings and learning to read a defense. This is his first year ever playing quarterback, but early on we felt like Nolan was a guy who could come in and do the job for us. He has done a good job of taking on a leadership role and directing kids where to go with the offense.”
Alred sees senior Sam Hines and junior Hunter Hanners as emerging players at running back. “We’re really expecting Sam to be a workhorse for us. He is a kid that can go in between the tackles and get the tough yards or get to the outside. Hunter has been a leader by example and really understands what we are trying to do. He is a physical runner, as well.”
At wideout, Alred noted that sophomores Jacob Perry and Alex Moman have the ability to stretch the field and that senior Eli Huff is a solid possession receiver.
“Both Jacob and Alex have good speed and run clean routes. (Senior) Eli Huff is another guy that we moved from running back to slot who is versatile in what we do. He is someone we feel confident in running our crossing routes over the middle.”
Senior Drew Glanze, junior Cade Crowder and so-phomore Taylor Westcott are back on the offensive line, with junior Conner Brown and sophomores Luke Lasseter and Wheeler Moss in the mix. Starting left guard Austin Cochran is out for the season after suffering a knee injury playing summer basketball.
“Austin will be a big loss for us,” said Alred. “Cade is one of our best offensive and defensive linemen. Taylor is a physical kid who we are expecting big things out of. Drew has worked really hard in the off season in the weight room to get his body to where it needs to be. We’re excited to see the difference in him from this year to last.”
Long and Crowder were All-Etowah County selections last season on the defensive line at end and nose tackle, respectively.
“Both of those guys are very good football players and very good young men,” said Alred. “We expect these two guys to be leaders for our team. They lead by example and are always doing what we’re asking them to do.
“We feel [the defensive line] will be the strong point of our football team. (Senior) T.J. Peeples is one of the better defensive ends I’ve seen. He has an extremely quick first step and great hands. He is a big strong kid who is smart and loves the game.”
Senior Taylor Shaneyfelt moved from defensive end to linebacker. Sophomores Caleb Chapman and Garret Gaskin are the top candidates at Mike linebacker.
“Taylor is a quiet kid but plays really hard and he likes contact. Caleb and Garrett have a good competition going on. We expect both of those guys to play for us.”
Senior Bryant Speers was an All-County pick at defensive back in 2019. Hanners and senior Eli Huff will man the safety positions. Alred expects senior Trent Hudson and juniors Carson Naylor and Hayden Smith to play in the secondary as well.
For the first time since 2011, the Yellow Jackets will play county neighbor Hokes Bluff as a region opponent.
Class 3A, Region 5 also includes Saks, Pleasant Valley, Ohatchee, Weaver, Walter Wellborn and defending state champion Piedmont.
“It’s definitely the SEC West region of Class 3A football,” said Alred. “From 1A through 7A, it’s probably one of the toughest regions there is. You get no off weeks; you’d better come mentally and physically prepared week in and week out.”

Emma Kirkemier contributed to this article.

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