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The kids are back in school and the sports teams have been practicing for nearly a month, which means that the fall sports season is about to heat up.
I am looking forward to getting back out to the playing fields to cover the county’s teams. This year I will not have the excuse of being a rookie reporter if I make a mistake, but I feel much more comfortable about the road ahead than I did at this time last year. When I looked at the calendar last year I wasn’t sure I could possibly cover everything.
But what I came to realize is that coaches and fans are very helpful when it comes to getting everything covered. Since my task is to cover mostly home contests, I relied heavily on others to help me with away games. Thanks to everyone who helped out last year to make my rookie season a little easier.
One area I would like to see more help is in the youth and middle school sports. I cannot possibly cover everything and stay married!
If a coach or reliable parent would send me information on the games, I would put it in. Eminence Middle School football coach Mike Roberts was very good about keeping me informed of his team’s exploits last year. Now he has moved up to be an assistant for the high school team. Hopefully other youth coaches will follow his example this year so that we can get more of our youngsters in the paper.
If you are interested in helping get middle school sports results in the paper, email me at email@example.com for more information.
As for the high school season, I am excited by what I see for both the HCHS and EHS football teams.
The Warriors have better numbers than they have had in a long time and they boast a large senior class. Last year’s seniors will be sorely missed but there is still plenty of talent left for the upcoming season. Junior Justin Mitchell will lead the team as quarterback. He put up huge numbers last year as a sophomore after switching from the receiver position.
Seniors Shelby Armstrong, Jalen Dixie, Mitchell Golden and Cornelius Sanford give the Warriors good depth at the skill positions, and Hayden Hoofman, Clayton Rader, Corey Roberts, Matthew Gilbert and Tyler Roby will provide leadership on the line and on defense.
The Warriors also have a huge freshmen class both in numbers and size. If some of the young Warriors can develop quickly, they could provide the team with more depth than they have had in a long time.
The Wildcat football team’s roster has grown to 63 players. It is the largest group in a long time. There are nine seniors on the team but the big numbers are in the junior and sophomore classes. There are 19 juniors on the roster and 18 sophomores. While the senior class is made up mostly of linemen, the junior class is loaded with skill position players.
Seniors William Baker, Kristian Fitzgerald, Billy Collier, Adam Maddox and Byron Robbins give the Wildcats strong leadership on the line and on defense, while Cody Tindle, Tyler Singleton and Giovanni Rivera give the Wildcats leadership at the skill positions. Erick Jones, another senior is new to the program and will add depth.
The backfield will see the return of Mason Fish to the running back spot. Fish had some big runs last year but his season was marred by numerous injuries and he wasn’t able to fully show what he is capable of. Fish has been in the weight room adding strength and if he can stay healthy, he could put up rushing numbers not seen for a while at HCHS.
Brennan Peniston will be the quarterback this season replacing the departed Brock Fish. Peniston will provide excellent leadership and has an excellent head on his shoulders, which is what coaches want first and foremost in a high school quarterback.
The EHS volleyball team could arguably be the most experienced and battle-tested team in the county this season. The Warriors have five seniors who played a majority of the minutes last year and six juniors, many of whom also played large roles for the team in 2012.
The Warriors had a very successful season but fell heartbreakingly in the district tournament to Carroll County after having the Lady Panthers on the ropes for much of the match.
It is hard to pinpoint one or two key players for the Warriors because they have so much depth this season. Besides, coach Stephanie Barrows goes by the philosophy that you are only as strong as your weakest player and has worked hard to keep that philosophy foremost in her team’s mind during the preseason.
With so many experienced players back it is hard to imagine that the Warriors won’t be among the favorites in the district this year. But the Lady Panthers also return a lot of key players and will make it tough on the Warriors.
Henry County returns just one senior, but the Lady Cats played a lot of underclassman and are more experienced than the lone senior indicates. Senior Kim Barmore will lead a crop of talented juniors and sophomores in what could be a bounce-back season for the Lady Cats. Henry County finished as runners-up in the district despite a tough regular season. Hitter Megan Payton’s ability to bounce back from a knee injury sustained in basketball will be key for the Cats.
Juniors Molly Williamson, Paige DeBurger and Victoria Marcum also saw a lot of varsity action last season and figure to be key contributors.
As for the rest of the local teams, well it may sound like I pulled out last season’s material. The teams were very young and inexperienced last year and remain so this year although they do have a season under their belts.
The Wildcats’ soccer team seems to be building momentum this year. The roster has 20 high school players, which is more than I can ever remember them having over the years.
The team has five seniors this year but only two of those seniors, Chris Redmon and Scott Papineau, have more than one year of experience at the high school level. The other three seniors, Jacob Bratton, Ethan Smith and Isaac Steverson played last year, and Coach Bobby Jameson expects them to help Redmon and Papineau lead the young squad.
Three talented juniors — Colton Aneszko, Jacob Buckley and Eric Gidzinski — also will contribute.
Sophomore forward Gavin Jameson is an excellent target man who has the skills of a smaller player.
Watching the team in practice, I noticed a definite improvement in passing and ball handling. Jameson expects the team to be much better offensively, especially with the athletic Aneszko moving from goalie to play in the field. But question marks remain about defense, which was a major weakness last year. One thing is for sure: the Wildcats games should feature a lot of scoring by both teams this year.
Aside from improved offensive skills, the Cats will have some real depth with nine bench players to shuffle into the lineup.
The Lady Cats’ soccer team lost no one from last year’s team and has just three seniors this year in veterans Savannah Adams, Jessica Holcomb and newcomer Ashley Craigmyle. Juniors Mikaela Cline and Hollie Jameson also figure to be strong team members, but the real strength of the squad lies in the talented sophomore class. Rachel Vegh will once again lead the line as a forward and Izabelle Miller was strong in midfield for the Lady Cats last season. Sophie Hughes will return for another season between the sticks as goalie.
Having experienced players like Holcomb and Adams in the defense along with sophomore Justice Kirk should help the Lady Cats improve on their goals against stats this year.
The boys’ and girls’ golf teams are, once again, very young. On the girls’ side, junior MacKenzie Peyton, one of the top golfers in the state, will lead a group of middle school girls. Seventh grader Maddie Hensley was impressive last year qualifying for the state tournament and had a couple of strong performances in the opening week of this season.
The boys’ team will most likely be led by a pair of 6th graders, Alex Hadden and Isaac Klempner, who are very serious young players. Klempner and Hadden have a lot more experience in tournament competition than most players their age because they play tournament golf during the summer. Hadden could be a dark horse to qualify for the state tournament despite his age.
Junior Conor Lyons, sophomore Jakob Beckley and freshman Dillon Allen also have varsity experience. The lone senior, Robbie Cruse is a first year player but will provide good leadership for the young team.
The Henry County boys’ cross country team will be led by senior Chase Slone, who has worked hard in the off season to get ready for his final campaign. Junior Jesse Mann is also returning to the team with varsity experience as are sophomores Seth Amiott and Josh Logsdon and freshman Brandon Handley.
The girls’ team is young with freshman Lilly Golden and 8th grader Katherine Buckler leading the way. Sydney Amyx, another 8th grader also has some experience for the cross country Cats. Newcomers Katie Sutherland, a junior, and middle schooler Danielle Nichter will round out the Lady Cats team.