Setting sights high
Bulldogs look for first winning season this year
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
After taking a licking from seven of the 10 teams they played last year, Priceville's Bulldogs have dedicated themselves to having a winning season in 2005.
"We faced tough competition in our first year of 2A football against teams like Lamar County, Holly Pond, Oakman and Danville," said head coach Marty Chambers. "I believe our players learned something positive from the experience. When you've been there and seen what it's like, you know what to expect."
He said they decided they don't like to lose.
"They hit the weight room and have worked hard to get stronger and better conditioned. We're as strong and in as good of a shape as we've been since I've been here," he said.
Seven days of optional summer workouts involving coaches as well as players also worked to the squad's advantage, according to Chambers.
"We practiced an hour each on seven consecutive Monday evenings, working mostly with the offense on getting our timing down," he said. "It worked well. We got in a lot of repetitions involving our skilled players, most of whom played baseball and missed part of our spring training program.
"Everywhere I look I see this group has a will to win. I see it in their attitude and enthusiasm, in their punctuality and work habits and in the closeness and leadership of the seniors," he added.
The Bulldogs have eight of 11 starters returning from last year's team. They are Hunter Teague, senior quarterback and free safety; Lonny Sutton, junior wide receiver; John Miller, senior offensive guard and middle linebacker; Wesley Crow, senior offensive and defensive tackle; Wesley Long, junior offensive guard; Logan Cahill, junior center and defensive tackle; Jeremy Holloway, senior offensive tackle and weakside linebacker; and Brad Helton, senior flanker and cornerback.
Teague is described by his coach as "the heart and soul of the team." He is a fourth-year starter who split his junior season between playing tailback and quarterback.
"He's our go-to guy, the one we'll count on to make the play that could change the momentum or win the game," Chambers said.
Sutton emerged as a starter last season as a sophomore. Chambers said he's a consistent player who runs good routes as a receiver and is always in the right zone when he's playing cornerback on defense.
Miller, Crow, Holloway and Helton are fourth-year starters. Chambers said Miller was moved from defensive end to middle linebacker to take advantage of his strength.
Helton will handle place kicking and punting duties. He kicked extra points and field goals last season.
"We've got a good nucleus of experience back with seasoned players filling every position on the interior offensive line from tackle to tackle," Chambers said. "I consider the offensive line a team strength. On the other side of the coin, we've got to find replacements at fullback, tailback and tight end."
Big holes were left in the backfield with the graduation of Cody Allen, who split playing time with Teague at running back, and Justin Lawson, who was the team's fullback in 2004.
Allen rushed for nearly 800 yards and Lawson was an effective blocker and a team leader.
Six prospects who moved up from the junior team are being counted on step up and help fill the gaps left by graduation. They are Chase Martin, Brad Clark, Eli Allen, Jayson Hamilton, Trevor Maxwell and Greg Brown.
Chambers said pass protection is one area his team's defense needs to improve on.
"We hurt there last season, and it's something we'll work hard to correct in the pre-season," he said.
The Bulldogs schedule is the same as it was last year and is expected to offer stiff competition.
The season opens at Hanceville Aug. 26 and closes at West Limestone Oct. 28. The home opener is against Lamar County Sept. 23. Cross-county rivals Danville and Falkville will come calling Sept. 24 and Oct. 8, respectively.
Chambers said the best thing that could happen to his team would be to get an early win against either Lamar County or Holly Pond, or both.
"They beat us to a pulp last year and finished one-two in the area," he said. "We have them both at home this year. A win against one of them would be a big boost to the confidence of our team and go a long way toward helping us make a run for a winning season."
Working with the Bulldogs as assistant coaches are Phillip Banks, defensive coordinator; Shane Hopkins, special teams; Donald Weeks, offensive coordinator; and Derek Blagburn, offensive and defensive linemen.