NICKELSVILLE — There is no record of the items Twin Springs coach Mike Castle keeps in his coaching kit. But after last season one might expect to find several four-leaf clovers and a rabbit’s foot — any edge he can get to keep his team healthy.
“Last year we went to Haysi for a scrimmage and thought Kelly Holbrook had a sprained back and he ended up not dressing out the season,” Castle said. “Then we went to John Battle and lost Tyler Hillman, and he plays six or seven positions. He was the heart and soul and it took several weeks to recuperate the kids’ mental status.”
Hillman suffered a broken leg against the Trojans. After a limited preseason, he’s cleared for action.
The Titans return eight starters on both offense and defense.
Size isn’t a problem along the offensive line, where 6-foot-3, 295-pound all-state performer Ethan Salyer is back at his tackle spot. Balancing out the other side of the line is 6-6, 285-pound Cole Osborne. Austin Gullett (6-1, 225) returns at center after starting all 10 games last season as a freshman.
Senior Clay Collins (6-0, 195), returning as the Titans’ signal-caller, leads an experienced backfield, where he’s joined by Hillman (6-0, 205) and fullback Dylan Wallace (6-0, 180). Holbrook (5-9, 175), Nathan Quillen (5-9, 175) and Austin McCracken (5-8, 165) also are getting a share of carries.
“We feel good about the backfield with our running backs,” Castle said. “Hillman is back and Quillen stepped in for him last year while McCracken filled in for Holbrook after his injury.”
Daniel Devine (6-1, 175) and Justyn Gillenwater (6-1, 175) are the wideouts.
The defensive front line returns intact with Salyer, Collins (6-0, 190) and Charles Porter (5-11, 185) manning the front line.
Four of the five linebacker positions are filled by returnees. Zac Hall (6-0, 185), Blake Hall (5-11, 190), Wallace (5-8, 155) and Hillman are joined by either Austin Niece (5-11, 190) or Gunner Chandler (5-10, 175).
McCracken, Devine and Holbrook round out the secondary.
“Everybody feels good now and if we stay healthy, we feel like we will be able to be competitive,” Castle said. “Depth will be our biggest issue; we’ve got several players that you just can’t replace. The kids have worked hard and we will tell a little more after our first scrimmage.”
Restructuring by the VHSL brings two new faces to the Cumberland District: Clintwood and J.I. Burton.
“Clintwood and J.I. Burton are in the division and we’ve played both in JV the past couple years and the kids are familiar,” Castle said. “We sort of know each other and they will be strong and athletic, but we just have to come out and be ready to play.”