The Warriors’ 47-player roster features 15 sophomores and 18 freshmen, so coach Luke Owens knows his team is young. But he also knows the squad is experienced.
Last season, Central started seven freshmen on both sides of the ball and finished with a 4-6 record. With a year of maturity under their belts, Owens expects his Warriors to be competitive.
“I don’t think you go into Year 2 with this bunch thinking it’s another learning year,” he said. “I’m expecting big things out of them. I don’t see how we can’t compete with anybody we play. I don’t see how we can’t beat anybody we play — as long we grow as the year goes on, we stay injury-free and we get a break here and there. That’s the big thing.
“I don’t go into this with a bunch of sophomores thinking it’s another learning year,” Owens added. “I go into this season thinking we’re going to win a bunch of football games.”
C.J. Crabtree brings experience and leadership as a junior wingback in the wing-T offense. An All-Mountain 7 District second- team pick last season, he’s the focus of the offense.
Sophomore Maddox Reynolds provides state championship speed at the other wing position. This past track and field season, Reynolds won the state championship in the 110 hurdles.
Matt Peters, another sophomore, also is to get plenty of playing time at the wing position. Sophomore Matthew Boggs and junior Noah Bolling man the fullback position.
Sophomore quarterback Ethan Mullins is calling the signals and throwing to receivers Ben Brickey and Jacob Page, both juniors, and senior Jalen Pratt.
Tanner Hensley — one of the team’s six seniors — anchors the offensive line.
Three sophomores and a junior anchor the defense at linebacker. Comprising a foursome that started as freshmen last season are Tyson Tester and Logan Mullins on the inside and Crabtree and Boggs — along with Bolling — on the outside.
Owens said Ethan Mullins is to see time in the secondary, along with Reynolds, Brickey, Peters and Pratt.
Along the defensive front, senior Josh Price and junior Austin Eldridge man the ends. Sophomore Daniel Hawkins can play end and tackle. Hensley could occupy the other tackle position.
Because of their youth, opponents may be quick to overlook the Warriors this season. That would be a mistake.
“We’re a year older, a year bigger, a year faster, a year stronger,” said Owens, whose team opens the season Aug. 30 at Eastside. “I think that Central football is on its way up.”
Aug. 30 at Eastside
Sept. 6 at Lebanon
Sept. 13 Ridgeview
Sept. 20 Virginia High
Oct. 4 at Abingdon
Oct. 11 John Battle
Oct. 18 Union
Oct. 25 Lee High
Nov. 1 at Gate City
Nov. 8 at Grundy