HOKES BLUFF SENIORS. Pictured, front row, from left: Spencer Griffin, Jayce Barber, Barry Smith, Jaylen Simmons, Luke Whalen, Nolan Fletcher, Kaleb Coshatt. Back row, from left: Westin Day, Brylon Pilkington, Noah Sprayberry, Cole Stone, Dakota Holcomb, Conner Masters, Layton Horne. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Mike Robertson isn’t sure how his 26th football team at Hokes Bluff will perform this fall, but one of the things he does expect is solid leadership from the team’s 14 seniors.
“As a coach, I’ve felt that the seniors have to be the leaders, both on and off the field,” said Robertson. “They’re all good people and great competitors, and I’m looking to their leadership to get us through this season.”
Losses from graduation were significant. Gone is Etowah County Schools MVP Tucker Griffin, who was the Eagles top player on both offense and defense.
Also gone are the team’s starting quarterback, fullback, tight end and three-fourths of the offensive line.
“We lost about 80 percent of our offense,” said Robertson. “We did lose some good football players, but we’ve got some experience coming back. Hopefully, we’ll have an exciting season.”
As Robertson noted, the Eagles’ cupboard is far from empty. Senior tight end/defensive end/long snapper Jaylen Simmons, senior tackle Dakota Holcomb, sophomore guard Leon Chen and junior fullback Brayson Hayes are expected to be major contributors.
“We’re bringing back about four [starters] on each side of the ball, but several other guys got to play last year in a backup role,” said Robertson. “Jaylen Simmons is probably our most experienced player on defense. We’re hoping some of these ninth graders will do what last year’s ninth graders did. If they’re not starters, they’ll be playing as many minutes as the starters anyway.”
Robertson added that with the depth the Eagles have at some positions, he’d like to limit the number of players who will start on both offense and defense.
Hokes Bluff will encounter many familiar faces in Class 3A Region 6, most notably ancient rival Glencoe and Etowah County neighbor Westbrook Christian. The Eagles also play defending state champion Piedmont, Geraldine, Plainview, Ohatchee and Sylvania. Non-region games include Southside, Sardis and White Plains.
“They put us right back into the SEC Central region, so our schedule is tough,” said Robertson. “As far as expectations, we just want to play hard. I do think we have a great community, and that’s why, except for three years, I’ve been here since 1971.”