OOLTEWAH — In a unanimous decision at Thursday’s District 5-AAA media day, district coaches said new kid on the block East Hamilton will walk away with the 2013 championship.
Area sports media agreed with the coaches as far as which team will be No. 1 at the end of the season. Media members put Bradley Central No. 2 in the poll, Ooltewah as No. 3 and Cleveland No. 4.
Coaches disagreed with members of the sports media for the second, third and fourth spots, voting Ooltewah No. 2, Cleveland No. 3 and Bradley Central No. 4.
Both polls had McMinn County, Walker Valley and Soddy-Daisy in the final three spots.
Leading off the coaches, Damon Floyd, beginning his eighth year as head coach of the Bears, said Bradley Central will remain in the spread formation offensively and ball protection will be paramount.
“We feel like every other team, you can’t turn the ball over,” said Floyd. “You have to protect the ball and you can’t have costly penalties.”
The coach said the Bears are fortunate to have several skill players returning to the roster.
Floyd said Bradley will set up in a base 4-2-5 defense with multiple looks depending on the opposition. The Bears, after suffering through numerous injuries on defense, have the luxury of having 12 veterans who saw starting time.
“Last year they got a lot of experience, hopefully they can improve on that,” he stated. “We’ve got really good size up front, and we have some depth.”
Offensively, Floyd told the crowd the Bears will need some big-time effort to get the ball downfield quickly.
“Two years ago we were pretty explosive offensively. I think we need more big plays. We can’t continue to drive the length of the field without having some explosive plays,” he stated. “Hopefully, this year’s team will be more explosive offensively.”
“It’s going to be juniors and seniors who are playing and they’ve waited their turn. They know what we like to do. It’s just a matter of them stepping up and filling some voids.”
Blue Raiders need
output on offense
Cleveland’s Ron Crawford, in his second year and head coach of the Blue Raiders, joked he was late to media day because, “some teams have to practice.”
The Raiders, picked third by the coaches and fourth by the media, will have eight starters returning on offense and defense.
According to the coach, Cleveland will need to pick things up on the offensive side of the ball if they want to make the playoffs after missing out in 2012.
“That is an area of huge concern for us, an area where we need a considerable amount of improvement. When (the) draw (play) is your best run, that ought to tell you something,” said Crawford.
Size is still a concern for the coach although the Raiders are a bit bigger than they have been.
“We don’t have a great deal of size even though we are bigger than we were last year,” he said. We are having to play some small defensive linemen. They are great kids. They have worked hard for us. We couldn’t stop a hard-marching band last year.”
The Cleveland running game was improved last year according to Ryan, but the Raiders were not nearly good enough on defense.
Crawford said he is looking for more competitiveness from Cleveland this year, another key piece of the puzzle that was missing in 2012.
“One of the things we are trying to change is attitudes and our competitiveness. We want to be able to compete for 48 minutes and stay focused,” said Crawford.
The Blue Raiders have one advantage in returning quarterback Austin Herink. When asked if he thought having the seasoned veteran coming back was a luxury, the Cleveland coach said Herink just wants to make his team better.
“If we score a whole lot of points and we’re great on offense, I’ll be the offensive coordinator when I speak to the paper,” Crawford joked. “He’s just a motivated young man that wants to work to get better, understands the value of his teammates and how they help him.”
Crawford said he has a little better feel about the way things are done football-wise in the Southeast Tennessee area after learning on the job last season. He also emphasized the Blue Raiders definitely need to show improvement in 2013, something they did not do last time around.
“It’s really different. The officiating was different. I didn’t know any of the officials or any coaches. Every Friday was like going to the fair, you didn’t know what was going to pop up,” he said with a laugh. “It was all new and we didn’t improve. They were 5-5 before I got here and 5-5 last year. I don’t really think that’s why they hire us.”
Still, Crawford sees a bright future for the Cleveland football program.
“We’re still learning. We’re excited for the future and we think we’re going to be better. We’ve certainly got a lot to prove.”
Mustangs have much
work to do in 2013
Walker Valley head coach Glen Ryan, also in his second year as head coach, told the group the Mustangs’ 5-5 season does not mean the program has turned the corner, particularly with the loss of two baseball teams’ worth of seniors.
“Last year we were not a young team. We had 18 seniors last year. That’s 18 guys gone. We are young this year. We have nine seniors on the roster,” said Ryan. “We have right now about 92 kids out, but 40-something of those guys are freshmen. We are going to be a very, very young football team.”
Depth as far as experience may hinder the Mustangs, but the coach is pleased with the depth in skill positions. He is concerned, however, with size and the shallow pool of reserves on his offensive line.
“We feel like we have real good depth in our skill positions; my biggest concern is the offensive and defensive line. We are thin there and we are going to have to have some guys pick it up,” he said.
On the offensive side, the Mustangs return a single starter to the same spot he was in last year and have only six returning defensive starters.
“We’re just trying to get the rest of the guys to step up and fill in,” said Ryan.
The Mustangs will set up in the Wing-T on offense and run a 3-5 stack defensively, mainly due to a lack of size.
“We’re not very big,” said the Mustangs coach. “We’re pretty small, so we’re going to bring people and do all kinds of crazy stuff up front because we can’t sit there and play against these big guys and expect to handle things.
“To be successful this year we’ve got to go out and be competitive. That’s our goal. We want to be competitive and we want to not beat ourselves with mistakes. If we get beat, we get beat because somebody was better than us, not because we didn’t do the things we were supposed to do.”