Five fast facts about Pleasant Valley football as the Raiders prepare for the 2018 season:
—For the first time in Jonathan Nix’s four-year tenure as head coach, he has a returning starting quarterback in junior Brody Phillips. Phillips got time as a freshman and progressed quickly, Nix said, showing confidence, making reads and flashing a good arm as a sophomore.
—The Raiders suffered key skill-position losses from 2017. Ethan Borders has been a staple at running back, and Colton East is stepping in. Ashton King will step in to replace older brother Reagan at running back. Connor Wolfe and Austin Johnson are filling in at Caden Turner’s receiver spot. Turner and Nic Smith graduated in the secondary, and five or six players are battling for those spots.
—Adam Freeman was the lone loss on the offensive line, but all six Raiders rotating on the offensive line got starts last year. The whole starting defensive line returns, but key reserves Wes Harrell and Adam Pritchett, who got starts toward the end of the year, graduated. The entire linebacking corps returns.
—Nix estimates that 75 percent of his team consists of juniors and seniors. A handful of seniors are new to football, he said, but most of his upperclassmen have come up in the program since he arrived before the 2015 season.
—The Raiders have gone from zero, to two, to four wins in Nix’s three seasons, but the schedule gets no easier. Ohatchee dropped to Class 2A this year but remains on the schedule as a non-region opponent at regular season’s end, on the road. Saks dropped to 3A and replace Ohatchee in the region, and the Wildcats come third in a three-game early stretch includes Piedmont and Weaver. Those are games 2-4, and the Raiders get only Weaver at home.