Coach: Phil Robbins
2004 record: 9-4, 6-1
Offensive starters back: 9
Defensive starters back: 8
BIG STONE GAP — Powell Valley lost 16 seniors to graduation after last season.
The Vikings, a VHSL Group A, Division 2 semifinalist in 2006, have 23 seniors on the roster this year — and many of them will see significant minutes.
“We could’ve had as many as 26,” coach Phil Robbins said. “It’s a big group and they’ve played for a long time.”
At the forefront of this senior renaissance, so to speak, is the duo of Cedric Mitchell and Delmas Lawson.
Mitchell (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) is a three-year starter at quarterback. Lawson, a first-team All-Region D wide receiver, has played a major role in the slot during all four of his years at Powell Valley.
And that’s not even the half of it.
Receivers Andrew Meador, Malcom Pinkston and Terrell Turner, and running back John Michael Allen all have more than a year of starting experience.
“There’s a pretty good mix in there,” Robbins said.
In addition, sophomore Myron Pinkston started at running back for the final six games of the 2006 season.
Myron Pinkston, the fraternal twin of Malcom, is set for a breakout year, according to his coach.
“He’s the real deal,” Robbins said.
Myron Pinkston has drawn comparisons to a pair of former Vikings now turned NFL players — Thomas and Julius Jones.
Robbins disagreed, somewhat: “He’s different from Thomas and Julius in a lot of ways. He doesn’t have the speed of Julius and doesn’t have the moves of Thomas.
“But if you just look at how he runs through arm tackles, you’ll see he’s special. When he hits the line, it’s ‘chooom,’ there he goes.”
Fellow running back Jordan Martin adds to the plethora of offensive weapons the Vikings will employ.
“Brad (Robbins) had been helping me, and said ‘Dad we just need to figure out how we’re going to get the ball to all these guys,’” Phil Robbins said.
“So we just have to get all the pieces together.”
It’s a good problem to have.
He also revealed that this year’s edition may do more from under center — even integrating some two-tight end sets that will feature Paul Thomas and Dakota Cantrell, a transfer from Pound.
“We’re going to be spread and a one-back football team, but I’d almost bet you right now that we’ll end up being under center at least as much as being in the shotgun,” Phil Robbins said.
On the offensive line, Robbins must replace LPD Offensive Lineman of the Year Jason Neely at center. The task belongs to James Rhoten. Chris Fraley and Dustin Bentley return up front, with Ryan Blevins (6-foot, 270 pounds) and Ryan Austin joining the fray. Tackle Chance Adams (6-3, 252) will see his role greatly expand. So could Robert Rentfrow.
While Robbins expressed uncertainty over the offensive line, his main concern was with the defense.
“We have to be a much better defensive team this year than we were last year,” Robbins said. “I thought we were absolutely horrible.”
And that was with four selections to the All-LPD first team.
At the core will be Fraley at nose tackle. Kevin Myers and Cody Barker will vie with Rhoten, Blevins, Adams and Rentfrow for time on the line.
Allen is back at linebacker, as is Trey Garrison. Martin and the Pinkstons are also penciled in.
In the secondary, Mitchell and Lawson will team up with Brandon Addison, who slots in at safety.
“We have to be able to block some people, and we have to be able to play defense,” Robbins said. “It’s that simple.”