Pictured, kneeling, from left: Cody Fincher, Cole Hyatt, Dylan Harris, Noah O’Dell, Dawson Welch. Standing, from left: Jacob Wilson, Skyler Cross, Chandler McGinnis, Daniel Sumner, Erick Gonzalez.
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
After posting the program’s first non-losing season in 15 years, Ashville is ready to build a few floors off that foundation.
“I’m going to say something that I don’t know if people in Ashville have heard a lot when it comes to football lately,” said second-year head football coach Shea Monroe. “We’ve got expectations, and one of our expectations this year is to play more than 10 games. If that wasn’t our team’s expectations, then we might as well just hang it up now, because I feel like if we have a team capable of doing it. The only pressure we put on ourselves is what we put on ourselves. I feel good about our team. How good? I guess we’ll find out on August 20.”
After starting out 1-4, the 2020 Bulldogs won four of their next five games to finish 5-5 and fall one victory shy of a state playoff berth. It was the first season in several years that Ashville scored more points than it allowed.
“We’re a veteran team,” said Monroe. “We lost six really good seniors that will be hard to replace, but I feel really good about the kids we have coming back. We’re going to be who we’re going to be and rely on work and toughness, and hopefully that will get us to that next step.”
Ashville returns 16 starters, eight on offense and eight on defense. Key among the returnees is senior quarterback Dylan Harris, a four-year starter who last season threw for 600 yards and seven touchdowns while running Monroe’s run single-wing offense. Senior Cole Hyatt will share the bulk of the load at running back. Hyatt had 56 tackles last year at inside linebacker. Harris will double at free safety.
Also back is All-Messenger junior kicker Grayson Simpson, who went 26 of 29 in extra points and 2-for-4 in field goal attempts with a long of 37.
Monroe appreciated what his 10 seniors have brought and continue to bring to the program.
“I’ve personally been with this senior class for four years, so I’ve been with them since they were freshmen in some capacity or another. Even when we started out 1-4, they never lost their enthusiasm for coming to practice, getting in the weight room and having a good time playing football.”
Ashville shares Class 4A, Region 6 with Etowah, Dora, Fultondale, Good Hope, Hanceville and Oneonta.
“Obviously the region we’re in is very good, so we know every week it’s going to be a battle,” said Monroe. “The biggest thing is we’ve got to stay healthy, and then we’ve got to go out there and we’ve got to compete.”
Monroe pointed to assistant coaches Tom Lamb, Shaun Carter, Paul Hawk, Clint Thompson, Nick Wilson, Jim Browning, Jonathan Mincey, Cortney Groce and James Thompson as vital to the team’s success.
“Our staff is fantastic. They do such a good job with our kids. The best compliment I can give them is they’re just great mentors. They’re people that if my son was playing ball, I’d want them to play for them just because of the things they stand for.
“I try to be positive. I try to give our kids confidence and the belief that they can do things, because I see it in them. I hope that they see what our staff sees and know that we can compete with everybody we play. I think one of the biggest problems at Ashville for the longest time was our kids thinking they were second best. They’re not second best; they deserve everything they get.”
Staff writer Emma Kirkemier contributed to this article.