By Gene Stanley/Sports Correspondent
The first time Swane Morris became head football coach at Gaston High, it took him a season to show a lot of improvement.
Morris’ first edition of the Bulldogs in 2001 went 1-9 and Morris’ second team finished 7-4. Gaston never again missed the playoffs during his nine-year tenure.
Morris left Gaston following the 2009 season for Scottsboro High, where he spent three seasons.
In 2013, Morris is stepping into a similar situation, as the Bulldogs finished 0-10 last year.
“Even if I never coached them (he coached three of his current players), they remember me and they remember the excitement,” Morris said. “We haven’t talked about what happened before – we’re ready to go forward.”
The only problem is the learning curve.
Former coach Josh Averett used diferent offensive and defensive schemes, and Morris is teaching his own methods.
“Right now, I need them to know geometry, and we’re still at aught plus aught equal aught (0+0=0),” he said. “There are seven kids who will play both ways, and they’re having to learn my offense and my defense.”
Jordan Douglas, who stepped in at quarterback at mid-season, will return as signal-caller. The sophomore threw for 947 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012.
Seniors Jailyn Britton and Braxton Collins and junior Mitchell Smith, who were the ‘Dogs’ top 2012 rushers, return at running back. Smith also caught 15 passes. Senior Shai Ogles also will see time in the backfield.
Junior Albert Douglas, who caught 14 passes last season, will again line up at wide receiver and defensive back, as will senior Trevion Rooks.
Seniors Lee Corey Lane Johnson and Tyler Pankey return to both sides of the line. Corey and Collins will play linebacker as well. Corey had 71 tackles last season, while Collins had 49.
Senior Tyler Jennings, who had 40 tackles at linebacker last year, will line up at nose guard. Mitchell, who had 56 stops last year, returns to the line. Rooks and Albert Douglas will play at defensive back.
One thing hurting Gaston’s chances of making this year’s playoffs is the regional competition.
“There’s no off week in this region,” Morris said. “It is good, from top to bottom. Most years, four good teams miss the playoffs.”
Assistant coaches are Cody Short, Derrick Sewell, Brian Usry, Lee Wadsworth and Buddy Wright.
Editors note: For the complete 2013 Messenger Football Preview that includes team rosters, photos and schedules, purchase a copy of the Aug. 23 edition of the Messenger.