On the heels of back-to-back 1-9 seasons, hometown boy Jeremy Houseright steps into the head coaching position after being hired in December.
The Gate City graduate was an assistant coach for the Blue Devils from 2009-16 when his father, Bill, led the program; Gate City won the state championship in 2010.
Jeremy Houseright, only the sixth football coach at Gate City since 1956, is much more worried about the present than recent history. He has one word to describe how his Blue Devils can make their back to the top of the heap on the gridiron: team.
“We’re just all in it together. There’s no one person who stands up above the next,” Houseright said. “Team is the focus. It’s all about the team.
“It’s all about these kids. It’s all about the coaches on the staff. It’s all about our school. It’s all about this community. It don’t get much better than Gate City.”
With only 34 players on the roster, the Blue Devils aren’t big in numbers, but they have the experience of 13 seniors.
“It is what it is. That’s Southwest Virginia,” Houseright said of the numbers. “The ones that are here are the ones that have been here all summer. I mean, what more can you ask?”
Two seniors — 6-foot-2, 305-pound Kert Gibson and 6-foot, 255 Michael Calhoun — have started since their freshman year. Gibson anchors the offensive line and helps the defensive front as well, and Calhoun, a stronghold and linebacker, could see some time in the offensive backfield.
Houseright said there are still question marks going into the season.
“We’re still working. We don’t know yet. It changes day by day,” he said. “We’re just making sure everybody is getting as many reps as they can and trying to build some more experience and some depth and go from there.”
One example of where they’re still working is at quarterback. Houseright said four players — junior Luke Reed, seniors D’Andre Mack and Jon Sallee, and sophomore Carson Jenkins — are vying to be the starter.
“Right now, we’re trying to see what’s going to fit best and everybody’s getting some reps and we’ll go from there,” Houseright said.
No matter who ends up as QB No. 1, the coach said, the other three are likely to be on the field in some capacity.
The defense and special teams also remain a work in progress.
“We’re working to figure out the pieces right now. It’s all a puzzle and we’re not 100 percent sure on who’s going to be where yet,” Houseright noted. “We’re still trying to piece it together.”
The Blue Devils travel to Richlands on Aug. 30 to open the season.
BLUE DEVILS SCHEDULE
Aug. 30 at Richlands
Sept. 6 Abingdon
Sept. 13 Sullivan South
Sept. 20 at Ridgeview
Sept. 27 at Union
Oct. 4 at George Wythe
Oct. 11 Marion
Oct. 18 Lee High
Oct. 25 at John Battle
Nov. 1 Wise Central