Nickname: Blue Knights
Coach: Greg Mullins
2006 record: 2-8, 1-6
Offensive starters back: 4
Defensive starters back: 4
COEBURN — The Blue Knights enter a new season in a new district hoping to find plenty of strength in numbers.
“We’re up to 39, so the kids are excited,” Coeburn coach Greg Mullins said. “They’re young, but they’re competing — they all know the jobs are there.”
Coming off of a 2-8 season in a top-heavy Lonesome Pine District, Coeburn is looking forward to a change of scenery in the Cumberland District. The Blue Knights made the move as part of the Region D realignment.
Although plenty of starters have moved on, the vacant spots on both sides of the ball will be filled with athleticism. Plus, for the first time in a long time, there will be depth at almost every position.
“We have competition going on right now,” Mullins said. “With the numbers we have, this is the first year we have competition for spots.”
With numbers no longer an issue, the biggest challenge for Mullins has been preparing his kids for the unknown that comes with switching to a new league.
“We talk about the Cumberland District every day,” Mullins said. “We’re trying to breed rivalries. That’s the only thing we talk about because that’s our focus now.”
While the Blue Knights focus on making themselves at home in the Cumberland, everyone else around the league will have to focus on stopping Shane Bright, a 5-foot-10, 230-pound wrecking ball of a fullback.
Bright racked up 750 rushing yards as a freshman and followed it up last year with 1,150 more yards on the ground.
“I try not to say a lot about him in the papers because he gets so much attention as it is,” Mullins said of his junior fullback. “But he’s the hardest worker I’ve been around.”
With opposing defenses keying on Bright, first-year quarterback Jon Dean should have some room to operate.
Dean, a 5-8, 180 sophomore, saw some action as a running back last year.
One of two sophomores, Rodney Meade (6-foot, 180) or Brett Hall (5-6, 140), will start at the right halfback spot.
Meanwhile, freshman Zack Hayes (5-7, 160) will battle a pair of sophomores, Tanner Jackson (5-9, 150) and Blake Duffy (5-9, 165), for snaps at the other halfback slot. Hunter Bond, a 6-1, 150 sophomore will be the split end.
On the offensive line, only sophomore tight end Tra Nixon (5-10, 200), senior center Jeremy Rose (5-9, 230) and sophomore guard Adam Miles (5-10, 195) return up front with starting experience.
Sophomore Corey Bower (5-8, 280) and senior Ryan Osborne (6-foot, 230) will step in to man the left side of the line while senior Alex Sexton (6-4, 320) takes over at right tackle.
Mullins is expecting a lot out of the defense, which will be captained by Nixon.
“Our defense is going to attack,” Mullins said. “We’re going to play downhill — we’re going to play nasty, swarming defense.”
Osborne, Bower, Sexton and Bright will start up front while Nixon, Meade and Duffy man the linebacker slots.
Bond and Hayes will be the cornerbacks while Dean roams the starting safety slot in the 4-4 defense.
Mullins expects the schedule will make the transition to the Cumberland a bit easier. Five of the Blue Knights’ six district games will be played at home.
“We’re excited about what we can bring to the district and what the district can bring to us,” Mullins said.