SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)- After two years without making it to the playoffs, the Smoky Bears are working hard to change that this season.
Sevier County football is returning a lot of experience this year, with seven to eight starters on both sides of the ball coming back—after losing only eight seniors from last year.
“We lost our top receiver and top running back but we had a lot of people get playing experience last year so we should be an experienced group,” said Sevier County head coach Toni Linginfelter.
The Smoky Bears ended their season 3-7 last year, with their last game being the best one they played.
“I liked the way we finished up our last game, that was our best game the way we played,” Linginfelter said. “I thought we played a complete game that night.”
Linginfelter is hoping to build off of that performance with the players he is returning.
Last season Sevier County struggled to finish games, which is one area of improvement the team is working on for this season.
“Last year we would be in the game for the first or second quarter and then we just wouldn’t have any endurance the rest of the game,” said junior quarterback Collin Shannon.
Shannon says the team is focused on building chemistry, building stamina so the Smoky Bears don’t let up on the gas as the game goes on, and trying to play more guys to keep everybody fresh.
For this season on defense, Linginfelter says they are working on doing a better job at stopping the run on first and second down.
On offense, the head coach says they need to get better on scoring in the red zone this year.
“We can’t come away with field goals ,we need to score touchdowns and we need to improve all aspects of our kicking game,” said the head coach.
Shannon is their guy at quarterback, who Linginfelter has high hopes for this season. The Smoky Bears head coach was impressed with his performance last year, starting at quarterback for the first time as a sophomore. Last season, Shannon only through three interceptions, and showed improvement as a leader on offense as the season went on.
“He’s stronger and faster and he’s throwing the ball really well right now,” said Linginfelter.
The work Shannon has been putting on and off of the field is being noticed. The quarterback says his personal goal for this season is to be stronger and faster, and utilized downtime during the quarantine to lift and build strength.
“I came off a back injury last year, and I wasn’t really that fast or strong either, and I’m just trying to last through the whole season and just be as healthy as I can be through the whole season,” said Shannon.
Despite losing two weapons on offense in Sebastian Nelson at running back and Brayden Hurst at receiver—Shannon says the offense has a lot better chemistry this year.
Tyler Wilson, the Smoky Bears second-leading receiver last season is expected to have another good season, being a key playmaker on offense.
Shannon says the Smoky Bears are working on their run game this year and is confident with their backfield, rotating Jace Henderson, Drake Daugherty, Garret Hawkins at running back. Shannon is expected to pick up some rushing yards this season, as the quarterback has been working on running the ball more.
Shannon says overall it’s a new vibe for the Smoky Bears this year: sporting confidence and optimism.
“I know last year we didn’t have a great year but it kind of feels like that year didn’t happen. It kind of feels like we’re a new team and we’re ready to go,” said Shannon.
Sevier County will host Jefferson County to kickoff their season Friday, August 21. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.