CLINCHPORT — Rye Cove was hit hard by graduation in both 2011 and ‘12. After last year’s sophomores and juniors took their licks, they are looking to return the favor this season.
Right now, however, some of those hits are coming against each other with several spots for the upcoming season still to be determined.
Of the 25 players listed on the team roster, 20 of them are either juniors or seniors.
“We lost several kids last year that contributed quite a bit. Add that to the losses two years ago and a lot of these kids are still learning,” said Rye Cove coach Cheyenne Osborne.
The War Eagles have six players vying for the five offensive line positions. Among them are Josh Hill (5-foot-11, 230 pounds, Jr.), James Carlson (5-9, 215, Jr.), Kyle Rollins (5-11, 240, Jr.), J. Alex McNew (5-10, 202, Sr.) and Hunter Williams (5-10, 210, Jr.).
“Right now these guys are fighting for those spots and we are looking for the right combination so we can be as good up front as we can be,” Osborne noted.
Eric Hill, a 5-11, 160-pound junior, is handling quarterback duties while senior Brady Palmer (5-9, 170) and junior Dakota Hood (5-5, 166) return as the running backs.
“Palmer can play any spot in the backfield and Hood started every game last season,” Osborne said.
James Kern (5-10, 200, Sr.) and Greg Herron (5-5, 135, Jr.) are in a battle for the fullback spot.
“We have several players capable. Now we have to find the best place for them,” the coach added.
Across the line of scrimmage, the linebacking corps is manned by Palmer, Hood and Cory Manness (5-10, 170, So.), but other than sophomore Jacob Boyd (5-9, 144) at cornerback, the defensive unit is still under construction.
“We have spots wide open and are still looking for players to step up and claim spots,” Osborne said.
Once the Eagles have their puzzle pieces in place, they face a new challenge: the additions of Clintwood and J.I. Burton to the Cumberland District from the disbanded Lonesome Pine District.
“Different is the best way to describe it,” Osborne said. “The quality of district play just shot through the roof.
“We are familiar with Burton and everyone knows that Clintwood is a powerhouse. We just have to be ready and do the best that we can and that’s all we can ask for.”