School Name: Lebanon
Coach: John Adams
2006 record: 9-3, 7-0
Offensive starters back: 8
Defensive starters back: 7
LEBANON — When the Pioneers made their undefeated run through the Hogoheegee District last year, Lebanon was the largest school in that league.
Now in Region D, the Pioneers find themselves to be the smallest school in the newly formed Clinch Mountain District.
Don’t expect the Russell County gridiron juggernaut’s ambitions to be downsized.
“We think we have a good enough team to win it,” said longtime Pioneer coach John Adams.
They’re not hiding from anyone inside the league, or out. The non-district slate includes Honaker, Powell Valley, Tazewell, Clintwood and Giles — the latter of whom eliminated Lebanon in last year’s Region C championship game.
A leaner, quicker and stronger offensive line — featuring veterans Clinton Collins and J.L. Kegley at the tackles and Nick McGlothin and William Rutherford at the guards — is one reason for Adams’ optimism.
Returning tailback Skyler Musick, who rushed for 1,800 yards and 29 touchdowns, is another. Adams’ big-play back is joined in the backfield by returning fullback Richard Lockridge, a 6-foot, 225-pound load.
“Skyler is a good running back, but he can’t run against nine, 10 and 11 of them,” Adams said. “We’ve got to diversify. If not, everybody is going to stack it up and make it hard for us.”
The receiving corps includes veterans Sutton Coleman and Ashton Ring, with Andrew Marshall, Marcus Smith and Steve Martin giving the Pioneers four- and even five-wide capabilities.
Quarterback is a huge question. Terrell Lee, a 6-3, 170 junior, is an intriguing athletic specimen who’ll play somewhere, but Adams is not yet sure if under center is where he belongs. Bob Jones and Nick Smith also bring respective pros and cons to the position.
“We’ll find somebody. It’ll work out for us,” Adams said.
On defense, Lebanon should continue to be formidable. Brandon Phillips (5-10, 265) is one of the area’s top returning defensive linemen. Noseguard Josh Robinson and Zach Hamilton both return with experience, and in better athletic shape.
Lockridge — an all-district headhunter — and Zach Griffith both return at linebacker. Clayton Chaney returns at strong safety while Martin brings starting experience to cornerback. Nick Bush, Marcus Smith, Coleman, Lee and Luke Addison provide Adams several options for filling out the secondary.