Coach: Terry Smith
2006 record: 5-6, 3-0
Offensive starters back: 5
Defensive starters back: 8
BRISTOL, Va. — Virginia High may be dropping down to Group A status this season. But as far as coach Terry Smith is concerned, the Bearcats won’t be taking a step down in terms of competition.
“You’re going to face the Powell Valleys, the Lebanons and the Gate Citys,” Smith said. “There’s really not that much difference between Division 2 teams and Division 3 teams. All those teams are just as good and competitive as Graham, Tazewell, Abingdon and Marion.
“This league is going to be the toughest league in Region D, no question. All Division 2 schools. You slip up once and you’re out. That’s just the way it is.”
Virginia High, which took its third straight Highlands District football crown last year, may have reached a program turning point when it ambushed Gate City in last year’s non-district meeting.
“That kind of helped us. We’ve only beaten them three times since 1977, so that’s a huge breaking point for our team,” said Smith, who thought the infusion of confidence couldn’t have been timelier.
Smith’s top two offensive veterans are Randall White, a senior tight end and H-back who has already committed to the University of North Carolina, and junior fullback Shaka Andrews, the preseason front-runner for Region D’s coolest gridiron name.
Daniel Woods is the top candidate to replace Zak Messer at quarterback this season. Along with White and Andrews, Damon Dock, Anthony Jones and Robbie Stout give Smith some different looks out of the flexbone.
“They’re tough kids. They might be just as tough as what we’ve had,” Smith said.
Ditto for the offensive front. Returning guards Tyler Callahan and Tyler Greear (both about 5-foot-10 and 215 pounds) and returning tackle Derek McClanahan (6-foot, 255) are joined by impressive sophomore center Conner Selfe (6-2, 250) and tackle Brent Davenport (6-3, 225), who was White’s backup at tight end last year.
Returning starters on defense for Virginia High will include Greear at tackle with Davenport and McClanahan at the ends. White and Andrews return at inside linebacker with Stout at outside linebacker. Jones returns at cornerback and Woods returns at free safety.
Ethan Williams, who has been tutored by yeoman kicking coach Doug Blevins, will handle all punting and kicking duties and is the centerpiece of a kicking game that is a particular source of pride for Smith.
“I think the strength of our team is going to be our defense ... and our special teams,” said Smith.
“We’ve got a lot of exciting players on our team. And this is the best senior leadership on a team that I’ve had.”