The Spartans, though youthful, have some proven, solid leaders.
“We’ve got a real good group,” said second-year coach Mike Rhodes. “Strong leadership. They’ve been in the weight room since December with about 95 percent attendance. They’re committed and working hard. They get along good together. It’s a real close-knit group. If we can stay healthy, we’ll have a real good year.”
The roster features only five seniors, all of whom are invaluable to the team’s success.
Evan Bellamy heads the group and leads the defense. The linebacker recorded over 150 tackles last year as a junior on his way to being named all-state.
“He’s the first one in the weight room, he’s the last one to leave,” Rhodes said of Bellamy. “He’s the one making sure the weight room is clean. He just has that character.
“Everything he does he wants to be good at and successful at. If it’s working with these young kids or cleaning the locker room, he’s going to make sure everything’s done right and to the best of his ability. And those kinds of kids are special.”
Junior Nick Raymond also returns to the linebacking corps. Braeden Hensley, a sophomore, returns at nose guard after starting on the defensive front last season.
Back at the cornerback positions are senior Grayson Whited and junior Will Stansberry.
The Whited brothers are crucial to a productive offense for Eastside.
Grayson Whited returns as a wide receiver after accumulating over 400 yards receiving and four touchdowns at the position despite being sidelined by an injury. Twin brother Garrett is back at running back. Last year, Garrett Whited rushed for over 1,600 yards and scored 16 touchdowns.
Bellamy gets more time on the offensive side of the ball, moving to a running back slot, and Raymond is to see more playing time at wide receiver.
Stansberry steps into the quarterback spot, taking over for departed All-Region 1D
signal-caller Jordan Rasnick. Rasnick is on Emory & Henry’s roster this season.
The Spartans’ offensive line is all new, but Rhodes is optimistic about the unit’s potential.
“Up front we’re young, but they’re really strong,” he said. “They’re a good group and they’ve worked really hard and I think they have the potential to be a really good line.”
Those getting serious consideration on the line include Hensley, junior Timmy Hill and sophomore Jordan Sexton.
The schedule does not allow for many breaks, especially early in the year.
Eastside opens Aug. 30 at home against Class 2 and Wise County rival Central before taking on Hogoheegee District powers Patrick Henry and Chilhowie, another Class 2 foe in Lebanon, and J.I. Burton.
Aug. 30 Wise Central
Sept. 6 Patrick Henry
Sept. 20 at Chilhowie
Sept. 27 at Lebanon
Oct. 4 at J.I. Burton
Oct. 11 Rye Cove
Oct. 18 at Twin Springs
Oct. 25 Thomas Walker
Nov. 1 Holston
Nov. 8 Castlewood