After finishing 2008 at 6-5, the Leopards had high hopes for 2009 but a plague of injuries struck and the team only managed two wins.
“We lost our starting center for the year in the third quarter of the first game and starting running back in the third game,” said coach Blair Armstrong, “We had several other injuries to starters that would last for two to three games at a time. As a result, we were ahead in three games by two touchdowns and ended up losing.”
Despite that, Armstrong believes his players remained upbeat last season and were focused on getting important experience.
“We have to keep the same mindset, stay healthy, and if we do have injuries, be able to overcome the adversity,” he said.
Several players have overcome injuries suffered last season and a slew of seniors make up this year’s starting 11.
Senior center Nathan Mathis, one of the most experienced players on the offensive line, is back from injury and should help anchor the line along with senior guard Isaac Mayfield, whom Armstrong labels as an “experienced leader.”
Matthew Patton, a tight end last season, will move to offensive tackle in 2010.
The most important return from injury may be senior running back Dylan Lackey, who went out in the third game last season after rushing for more than 453 yards. Lackey’s return is important because Clay Frink graduated after compiling 574 yards in 2009.
Quarterback Harrison Dale started the last four games of the season and completed 28 of 66 passes in those four games for 322 yards.
The Banks County defense returns all three leading tacklers from a year ago.
Senior Jeremy Greenway had 118 tackles in 2009.
Matthew Patton, the team’s leading tackler last season (119) is also back. Patton had 84 solo tackles last season from while seeing playing time on both sides of the ball.
Senior defensive end Eli Autry led the team in sacks last season with five and will see time at tight end as well as handling his first year of punting duties.
With Autry in his first year punting, Dean Ewing kicking off and Adan Gonzalez coming in for extra-point attempts, Banks County kicking will be done by committee, as will the return game.
The return of Lackey to the running back position will help take pressure of Dale and ensure that the senior doesn’t have to carry the team alone. When Dale must pass, he will have two of the top three receivers from a year ago to throw to.