“I’ve never seen a bunch of guys that are excited about the season more than these guys right here,” Warriors head coach Tripp Curry said earlier this week.
The offense will have a familiar feel.
“We’ll run some of the same stuff we’ve been running,” the coach said. “We’re not going to change too much. We just need to get better at what we’re doing.”
Curry pegs the offensive line as the strength of this team. Senior right tackle Chase May, senior right guard Brad Minor and junior left tackle Andrew Johnson return. Curry predicts juniors Preston Grimes and Chris Dunn will be at center and left guard respectively. Grimes has some experience at center and his move to full-time at the position will allow the Warriors to move Jacob Green, also a center last year, to defense to shore up the defensive line.
“Football hasn’t changed. It’s still about those guys up front,” said Curry. “If those guys up front have a good year then I think we can have a good year.”
Speedster Ty Green, described by Curry as “probably the third or fourth fastest guy in the state”, returns at one running back and Tanner Johnson will also run the ball.
Junior J.T. Hill, a starter at safety last season, moves to quarterback in 2013.
“He’s a good runner. He had a good spring game so we’re excited about him,” Curry said of Hill. “He’s a very, very smart quarterback, could be valedictorian of the class.”
When Hill throws his primary targets will be senior wide receivers Wade Griffith and Marquese Walker and sophomore tight end Nahum Horton. Curry said the Warriors haven’t thrown often to the tight end in recent times but all that could change with Horton on the field.
“He’s a big target. He’s a weapon over there. If he works at it and does what he’s supposed to he’s going to be good.”
On defense, the Warriors return linebackers Dallas Cade and Tanner Johnson. Michael Spurling, who missed last year, will also play linebacker. Gone are three linemen from last year’s starting front including All-State selection Zach Bedwell. At the defensive ends in the four-man front will be Tyler Moore and Caleb Moore. Curry plans a rotation with Jacob Green, Andrew Johnson, May, Minor and Dunn at the defensive tackles. Horton will spend some time on the defensive line.
The secondary will be fresh faces. Darius Covington started in last year’s opener against Piedmont, was injured and missed the bulk of the season. Walker, Kenyan Dupree and Natron Miller each missed all of the 2012 season but are expected to start in 2013.
Erik Burgess will handle field goals, extra points and kickoffs for the third year. Tanner Johnson will punt and Griffith will do the long snapping.
In years past, Curry has tried to play one group of 11 on offense, another group of 11 on defense and sprinkle some reserves on his special teams. Expect that philosophy to change this time around.
“We tried to play about 26 kids last year and we didn’t have 26 kids to play,” Curry said. “Football’s not changed. You’ve got to get your athletes on the field and I don’t think we did a good job of getting our athletes on the field last year.”
Curry hopes a change in his players’ attitudes will benefit this year’s team.
“They really believe that they are very good and that’s half the battle,” he said. “You’ve got to believe in yourself and they believe that they’re really good.”
Cherokee County at a glance
Coach: Tripp Curry (88-53 in 12 seasons at Cherokee County. Class 4A state champion in 2009, 4A runner-up in 2008 and 3A runner-up in 2005.)
Last year’s record: 1-8, including 1-6 in Class 4A, Region 5. Run of four consecutive playoff appearances ended.
Outlook: Cherokee County started the 2012 season 0-8. Some quick wins would do worlds to bolster the Warriors’ confidence but it won’t be easy. Cherokee County hosts perennial 3A powerhouse Piedmont in its first game then entertains last year’s Region 5 champion Alexandria before traveling to up-and-coming Jacksonville in Week 3. Cherokee County didn’t lose a fumble in the 2009 playoffs on the way to a 15-0 season and the Class 4A state championship. In 2012, the Warriors lost the ball 23 more times than they took it away from their opponents. That number has to change for the record to improve.
8- 30 Piedmont
9- 6 Alexandria #
9-13 at Jacksonville #
9-20 Cleburne County #
9-27 at Ider
10-4 at Lincoln #
10-11 Anniston #
10-17 *Munford #
10-25 at Hokes Bluff #
11-1 Open (possible game pending)
* Denotes game at JSU Stadium
# Denotes Region game