By Gene Stanley/Correspondent
Besides knowing that Drew Noles is a good coach, Etowah High has another advantage in the program’s latest coaching change.
Noles is already very familiar with the Blue Devils and the rest of Class 5A, Region 7, from having to compete against them at Boaz for the past 16 years.
“I am familiar with the region,” Noles said. “Whether or not that will be an advantage will be seen. But I hope it is. I’ve played every team in the region – except Boaz, of course.
“The region is so balanced that it should be fun every week. There’s a chance for us to win every week and a chance for us to lose every week. It’s probably as balanced as any region in 5A.”
With a lot of talent back from last year’s team, Noles expects this version of the Blue Devils to get better as the year goes on.
“We’re going to be very experienced on defense,” he said. “We’re going to be good at wide receiver and running back, but inexperienced at quarterback.
“Our offensive line has improved a lot and will continue to improve. In places, depth will be a strength, too.”
Counting freshmen, there were 87 players on the roster headed into fall practice.
If there’s one thing that Etowah will possess, it’s speed.
Returning in the backfield is the region’s Most Valuable Player, senior running back Devin Horton, who last season ran for 753 yards, caught 14 passes, punted and returned 13 punts for an average of 26.4 yards. He scored 14 touchdowns overall.
“Devin is a great player but he’s a better kid,” Noles said. “Good things are going to happen to him.”
Also back is all-purpose sophomore back Paul Ruiz, who last season had 394 rushing yards for 11.5 average and retuned eight kickoffs for 27.87 average.
Ruiz, Horton, sophomore Stacy Williams and senior Marquavious Britton will comprise the backfield.
“There’s a chance for explosiveness from them on any play,” Noles said. “And the wide receivers are just about as potent.”
Receivers are seniors Dakota Parrish, Tevin Peterson, Thomas Putman, Caleb Ledbetter, Jordan Powell and Kenzal Moore.
Parrish and Peterson caught 23 and 13 passes, respectively, in 2012.
Noles said that he will use multiple offenses, according to his personnel and to the opposition.
Back on the defensive side of the ball is senior linebacker Zack Gamblin, who had 53 tackles and five sacks last season, senior lineman Coby Bryant (51 tackles, five sacks) and junior linebacker G.Q. Hardwick (48 tackles).
Noles also said that special teams could be a strong point. He mentioned Gamblin, Bryant, senior Kenton LaCount, junior Zac Goodwin and sophomores Chrishun Young and Colton Gibbs as special teams players.
Assistant coaches are Jason Noles, Brock Rutledge, Jeff Johnson, Mario Duster, Jamison Wadley, Eric Schuman, Stephen Coggins and David Rose..
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.