This season, they return three key offensive players in the backfield, and Austin “Pedro” Hartsock, Dale Potter and Yancy Dolen — a 2018 “All Tough Guys” team selection — constitute a tough trio to stop.
“Some of these seniors have played a lot of football for us these past few years,” coach Preston Patrick said. “I remember in a playoff game when Dale Potter started at safety. He’s got a lot of mileage on him. ...
“I’ve been around the game a long time and I’ve never seen the amount of injuries at key positions that we had last year,” added Patrick, whose squad started 5-1 before the injury bug bit. “You hear about it, but you never think it’s going to happen to you.”
The triple-option offense opponents are used to seeing out of North makes a return, though possibly with more passing involved.
The receiving corps is stronger this year and poses a threat to opposing secondaries — especially on vertical routes.
That speed surfaces when Potter or anyone else comes out of the backfield.
The defense is anchored by Dolen, playing a key position at either middle or outside linebacker.
Probably the Golden Raiders’ most suspect area on the football field at any given time lies in the secondary.
North plays its first three games on the road, a stretch that could go a long way in determining how the team deals with greater adversity later in the season.
The opener is against a much-improved Sullivan Central team. The Golden Raiders won last season’s contest 30-20 and ran all over the Cougars on that Thursday night at Bennie Compton Field.
What follows is an enormous test against two-time defending Region 1-3A champion Johnson County in Mountain City. A victory against what’s been a stingy Longhorns defense that’s good at stopping the run would offer a massive confidence boost entering conference play.
The Golden Raiders play Chuckey-Doak in their home opener.
The final four games — Hampton, Happy Valley, Sullivan East and Cloudland — are winnable if Patrick’s squad stays healthy.
“We’ll be prepared beyond the first strings this year,” Patrick said. “We had a good offseason and we were in the weight room a lot. Hopefully the injury bug doesn’t bite us this year.”
GOLDEN RAIDERS SCHEDULE
Aug. 23 at Sullivan Central
Aug. 30 at Johnson County
Sept. 6 at Cosby
Sept. 13 Chuckey-Doak
Sept. 20 South Greene
Sept. 27 at Pigeon Forge
Oct. 4 Hampton
Oct. 18 Happy Valley
Oct. 25 at Sullivan East
Nov. 1 at Cloudland