Pictured, kneeling, from left: Ryan Minyard, Brett Hayes, Dylan Johnston, Jordan Bradley, Noah Monday, Austin Vickery, Gage Wiemann. Standing, from left: Reese Crow, Braxen Starkey, Tucker Griffin, Mason Lockridge, Will Wellingham, J.R. Golden, Ian Stinson, Kylle Patterson, B.J. Teet.
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
If Mike Robertson has learned anything in his 25 years as Hokes Bluff head football coach, it is that a lack of depth can make or break a season.
“When you play tough teams in football, you’re going to get injuries,” he said. “I don’t care what level it is – pro, college, high school or pee wee football. So when you don’t have a lot of depth, it just magnifies that. Some positions, we probably have more depth; some, we don’t. That’s kind of what you have to go through in spring and summer. Do we need to move a player to a new position because we’re a little short in that depth-wise situation?”
Robertson and his staff are busy filling in some gaps, as the Eagles lost their starting quarterback, fullback and middle linebacker to graduation.
“We lost some really good players, but we’ve got a lot of good players back. Of course, we had a lot of room to improve, but we’ve gotten bigger, faster and stronger. But I think our attitude is our biggest asset. Our leaders have good attitudes, and a good attitude carries you a lot further than sometimes just ability.”
The Eagles missed the state playoffs for the first time in five years after a loss to Saks in Week 9.
“I’m hoping we’ll do better than we did last year [when] we went 5 and 5 under the situation of the [COVID-19] virus. It was an average year, so I think these guys want to do a little better than that this season. But we have a tough schedule, and our guys are in for a challenge.”
Returning on offense is senior All-Etowah County halfback Tucker Griffin, who was the team’s leading rusher in 2020 with 715 yards and nine touchdowns. Senior Jordan Bradley, who started at safety last season, steps in at quarterback.
Also back is All-County, All-Messenger and All-State honorable mention sophomore kicker Jadan Burns, who last season was a perfect 30 for 30 in extra points and was 2 for 2 in field goals.
Senior All-County center Ian Stinson, senior tackle and three-year starter J.R. Golden and senior guard Mason Lockridge will shore up the offensive line.
Hokes Bluff’s Class 3A, Region 5 competition remains Glencoe, Pleasant Valley, Ohatchee, Weaver, Walter Wellborn, Saks and Piedmont.
“I tell my players all the time that if I’m not at practice or a coach is not at practice, go on and do your job,” said Robertson. “Because when they get on the field on Friday nights, I’m just standing there hoping and praying that they did what we asked them to do in practice. Leadership comes out when the coach is not around. It’s not going to mean every game is going to be a win, but I’m proud to say our players really take on that pride of just doing it because you’re supposed to do it – it’s your job.”
Staff writer Emma Kierkemier contributed to this article.