Nickname: Green Wave
Coach: Rick Mullins
2006 record: 7-5, 4-3
Offensive starters back: 9
Defensive starters back: 9
CLINTWOOD — An old coaching saw is that football teams never stay the same from one week to the next. They either get better — or they get worse.
Last year, no team in the Lonesome Pine District was better at getting better than Clintwood, which finished the year as Region D’s Division 2 runner-up despite far humbler preseason expectations.
If the Green Wave continues to progress like last season, they could be a very impressive football team. If they get worse, they’ll likely have nobody to blame but themselves.
“We lost two good people on each side of the ball, but we’re still experienced at almost every position,” coach Rick Mullins said.
“We’ve got a good mix, size-wise. We’ve got people that can catch it. We’ve got people that can throw it. We’ve got people that can run it. Our first two kickers, first two punters and first two deep snappers are back. We don’t have any excuses.”
A big key to Clintwood’s exponential improvement occurred in Week 4, when then-sophomore Chris Robinson was moved from quarterback to tailback and Heath Counts moved to quarterback. The Green Wave suddenly found the power running game they needed, while all the other offensive components fell into place.
Robinson, an honorable mention all-state kick returner, rushed for 1,030 yards and 16 touchdowns. During his six starts, Counts passed for 671 yards and four scores.
“Christopher gave us a more physical running game. Heath gave us a better opportunity running the ball,” Mullins said. “So it was a win-win situation.”
They return, along with backup tailbacks Michael Ramey and Alec Osborne. Fullback Derek Robbins — who is also punter and placekicker — also rejoins the squad. Ryan Lyle and Tyler Mullins return at wide receiver, with Nick Robinson back at tight end.
Up front, the Wave return starting tackle Mikell Rose, starting guard Russell Hull and part-time starting guard Jeremy Gibson. Nathan Hamilton looks to move in at center with Matt Blansett, Paul Moore and John Pennington all vying for playing time at guard or tackle.
On defense, Pennington — slimmed down to 325 pounds from last year’s 360 — returns at defensive tackle. Rose and Brad Smith also could contribute up front on defense. Hull returns at one of the defensive ends.
Osborne and Devin Elswick return at outside linebacker with Robbins and Nick Robinson returning at inside linebacker. Ramey and Lyle return at the corners, with Chris Robinson a good bet to reprise at safety.
“If we can stay healthy, this could be a fun year for us,” Mullins said. “I look for big things from this team. I expect big things from this team.”