Football season kicks off tonight for both the Henry County Patriots and Inman Bulldogs middle school teams.
The Patriots middle school team will be playing host to Stewart County at Patriot Stadium while across town, Inman entertains Graves County, Ky. at Barton Field. Both games start at 6:30 p.m.
Justin Cheek begins his second year as the Patriots middle school coach while Bob Markum continues his long tenure as the only head coach the Bulldogs have ever known.
PATS TO COMPETE EVERY QUARTER
Cheek thinks his Patriots may have more speed this year but are needing to learn to be more physical.
“We’ve got some more team speed and think maybe we can use that to get outside more to create more home run kind of plays. We’ve been more a between-the-tackles, control-the-ball kind of team. We hope we can get guys outside more where they can make a play on their own and hopefully take it to the house,” Cheek said.
He said the Patriots have some experience in the line but still need to play with more power there so they can get the tough yards when they need them.
“We just really hope to prepare this team to compete for all four quarters so that we can get the game into the fourth quarter with a chance to win,” said Cheek.
He lists Jake Parker as the starting quarterback with James Bobbitt and Braiden Newell slated to see action at tailback. Newell will also spread out wide to catch the ball as a receiver and might even spend some time at tight end to take advantage of his size, speed and athletic ability.
Anthony Kmeic is a strong player at fullback with Michael Tharpe set to see action in the backfield and at receiver.
On the line of scrimmage, Conner Clark and Aden Scott are returning players who will serve as anchors.
Most of the team’s offensive linemen will also see action on the defensive line. Kmiec is a returning starter at linebacker. He teams with Jeremiah Townsend and Newell to give the Patriots a strong linebacker unit.
Bobbitt will head the secondary again this year with Tharpe giving the Patriots two solid cornerbacks.
Cheek says he thinks the added athletic ability on the outside will help the Patriots run down plays and turn plays back inside where there are more people to make tackles.
NEW FACES WILL LEAD BULLDOGS
Markum says the Bulldogs have been going through some growing pains in the preseason, especially with turnovers in the scrimmages the team has had so far.
But, he says the team is working hard and showing signs of developing into a good squad.
“We are going to do the same kind of things with our spread look on offense and we think we might wind up being a little better on defense,” Markum said.
He said the Bulldogs’ skill players are coming along although there isn’t much experience at the running back position. Inman’s line play is improving and the receivers are playing very well in the preseason.
Caden Marshall gives the Bulldogs a strong player at quarterback. Markum said Javion Boyd may take some snaps in the wildcat formation.
Boyd heads a strong receiving group that includes Martez Rack, Collin Muench, Ashton Kemp and Camron Phillips.
Heading the committee working at tailback are Evan Richardson, Tayden Morris, Lavon Tharpe, Demarcus Patton and Peyton Littleton.
There is a strong group at fullback including Mason Shankel, Logan Davidson, Landon Sanders and Brock Archie.
Landon Wilson plays tight end.
Heading up the blockers are center Fisher Lawrence with Maddox Jenkins and Carter Hedges showing promise. The tackles are Jesse Harrod, Tate Lee and Jamaree Johnson.
Markum says more players will see starting action on both offense and defense than last season. Most of the linemen also fill roles at nose guard and defensive tackle.
Wilson and Richardson play at defensive end. Shankel and Hedges are a strong unit at inside linebacker.
Marshall, Morris, Boyd, Rack and Phillips lead the secondary.
Hedges will handle both the kicking and punting duties.
“We just want them to keep working hard and understand that the people we play know about the success this program has been fortunate enough to have had in the past. This causes people to bring their best into the games with us. Our kids know this and are proud of the program’s accomplishments and want to add to that. I think if they remember to stay patient, keep working to improve each day, then this will be a pretty good team by the end of the season,” Markum said.