KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)- The Hawks are coming off of a 4-6 season, that left them out of the playoffs for the second straight year—Hardin Valley is looking to change that this go-around.
Hardin Valley is returning a mere three starters on each side of the ball, leaving head coach Mike Potter and his coaching staff working on developing players in new positions in a short amount of time ahead of their season kickoff Friday, August 21.
“We’re limited in our time to prep so how quickly they adapt to those positions will determine our success,” said Potter.
Inexperience is a challenge this Hawks team will have to overcome this season. With three short weeks of full practice, Potter says the offense and defense are coming along—filling holes left by playmakers last season.
Potter is working on replacing a deep hole on offense in running back Kelton Gunn. As of now, Potter is leaning towards Ryan Nichol as their guy in the backfield.
“He’s been great,” said teammate Samuel Simpson, “He’s gotten a lot faster, a lot stronger, he’s gotten bigger. He’s a great running back for us.”
Samuel Simpson, who was the backup quarterback last season, will take over the reins on offense this year. Simpson is taking over the offense with some experience, starting one game and playing nearly three quarters in another. Simpson has put in work during the prolonged offseason that has not gone unnoticed
“Sam’s worked hard in the offseason,” said Potter. “He’s improved his arm strength. He’s a smart kid, so I think Sam’s going to step in there and do a great job for us.”
One area of improvement on offense is the offensive line—with new guys in new positions learning to play aggressively in a new system.
The hawks are also working on developing inexperienced players on defense, only returning three starters from last year including outside linebacker Michael Spurgeon—a top three leading tackler for the Hawks.
“He’s going to the quarterback of our defense,” noted Potter about relying on his leadership on defense, “He’s going to set the fronts to the strengths of the offense and get us lined up and get us in a good position to be able to defend whatever they throw at us.”
Potter’s expectations for his team this season is to be consistently competitive. The Hawks went on a late win streak to end their season, but overall inconsistency got the best of them. This year, he wants his team to show up to every game ready to compete for four quarters to be able to find success and win some ball games.
While their expectations differ this team this season, their goals remain the same, make the playoffs.
“You want to win region but if that doesn’t happen you at least want to be in that spot where you make playoffs cause that’s a totally new season,” said Potter.
The Hawks open their season hosting the Oak Ridge Wildcats. The last time these two teams met Hardin Valley beat Oak Ridge 13-6.