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J.I. BURTON RAIDERS

Coach: Jacob Caudill (interim, first season)

Classification: Class 1, Region 1D

2018 record: 9-3 (5-0)

Key Returners: Tyler Spriggs, Sr., OL/DL; Najee Steele, Sr., RB/LB; Mikey Culbertson, Sr., FB/LB; Austin Jones, Jr., OL/DL; Johnny Williams, Soph., DL; Kaleb Mink, Jr., OL/LB; Tyrell Ingram, Sr., WR/DB; Canaan Stacy Lawson, Sr., OL; Jaymen Buchanan, Soph., DB

Key Losses: Derrick Allen, WR/DB; Houston Thacker, QB; De’Von Williams, DL

Outlook: The biggest news surrounding J.I. Burton in the preseason is that the Raiders began the season without Jim Adams serving as the head coach for the first time since 1997.

While Adams has dealt with off the field issues that have kept his job status in limbo, Jacob Caudill was appointed as interim head coach.

A Burton graduate, Caudill had been an assistant coach at the school for the previous seven seasons and was most recently the defensive coordinator.

Regardless of who is calling the shots, J.I. Burton will put a quality team on the field as 20 of its 22 starters return. The Raiders also had 36 players on their preseason roster, up from 27 a year ago.

Linebacker Mikey Culbertson (Cumberland District defensive player of the year), 6-foot-3, 270-pound senior Tyler Spriggs (Cumberland District offensive lineman of the year) and Austin Jones (Cumberland District defensive lineman of the year) lead the group of returnees.

Sophomore speedster Jaymen Buchanan takes over for Houston Thacker as the starting quarterback.

Coach’s Quote: “It’s one of those things where the program is the biggest thing and the boys have responded to that.”

EASTSIDE SPARTANS

Coach: Mike Rhodes (second season)

Classification: Class 1, Region 1D

2018 record: 4-7 (4-1)

Key Returners: Garrett Whited, Sr., RB; Grayson Whited, Sr., WR; Evan Bellamy, Sr., LB; Will Stansberry, Jr., CB; Nick Raymond, Jr., LB

Key Losses: Jordan Rasnick, QB; Justin McCoy, OL; Jessie McCoy, DL; Christian Buchanan, DE; Mason Hall, OL; Nick Livingston, WR; Chris Swann, WR

Outlook: A tackling machine at linebacker, a ball-hawking defensive back and twin brothers who terrorize opposing defenses are among the players who figure to make the Eastside Spartans a contender in the Cumberland District this fall.

Senior Evan Bellamy racked up a single-season school record 155 tackles last season and 24 of those came behind the line of scrimmage. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound hard-hitter was a first-team All-Region 1D selection.

Will Stansberry, a junior, is the stud in the defensive secondary as he allowed just five completions all season in 2018 and came up with three interceptions.

Meanwhile, Garrett Whited (1,036 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns; 441 receiving yards, three touchdowns) and Grayson Whited (195 rushing yards; 525 receiving yards) are two of the fastest players in Region 1D and have the ability to take it to the house every time the ball is in their hands. Grayson Whited scored four touchdowns on Friday night in Eastside’s loss to Honaker in a VHSL Benefit Game.

Quarterback Jordan Rasnick graduated after throwing for 2,122 yards and Stansberry will now be taking the snaps. Stansberry had 27 catches for 375 yards and four touchdowns a year ago.

Coach’s Quote: “We have got a whole year in the weight room and a whole year under our philosophy. The kids have bought in and I look for good things. I think as long as we stay healthy we’ll be all right.”

THOMAS WALKER PIONEERS

Coach: Nick Johnson (third season)

Classification: Class 1, Region 1D

2018 record: 7-4 (3-2)

Key returners: Kenny Ball, Jr., RB; Jaron Warf, Jr., LB; Jason Cowden, Jr., DE; Zack Kidwell, Soph., QB; Logan Ely, Sr., WR/LB

Key losses: Peyton Redinger, OL; Dawson Lee, RB/WR/DB; Wesley Gilliam, DB; Eddie Donato, DL

Outlook: Thomas Walker is aiming for a third straight playoff berth – which has never been done in program history – and the Pioneers appear in good shape with seven returnees back on each side of the ball.

Offensively, running back Kenny Ball (113 carries, 481 yards, 12 touchdowns in the regular season in 2018), quarterback Zack Kidwell (653 passing yards, nine touchdowns, eight interceptions) and 6-foot-2, 205-pound wide receiver Logan Ely (eight catches, 267 yards, three TDs) are the most notable returnees.

Defensive end Jason Cowden (57 tackles) and linebacker Jaron Warf (98 tackles) lead the way for Thomas Walker’s D.

Head coach Nick Johnson has helped TW’s program improve significantly but they still have yet to take the next step and knock off Cumberland District heavyweights Eastside and J.I. Burton.

Coach’s Quote: “We bring back a pretty good nucleus. We’re hoping another summer in the weight room and another summer in the program will carry over and we’ll just continue to kind of build on what we’ve done.”

RYE COVE EAGLES

Coach: Cheyenne Osborne (second season)

Classification: Class 1, Region 1D

2018 record: 4-6 (1-4)

Key Returners: Mason Hardin, Jr., RB/LB; Matthew Hardin, Sr., RB/DE; Donovan Mullins, Jr., DL; Chris Duty, Jr., OL/DL

Key Losses: Matthew Gibson, OL/LB; Chase Love, TE/LB; Lucas Lane, DB

Outlook: While there might have been some disappointment in not making the VHSL Region 1D playoffs in 2018, the Rye Cove Eagles could take solace in the fact they closed the regular season with a 28-8 win over Scott County rival Twin Springs.

It was the first triumph over the Titans since 2011 for the Eagles.

Rye Cove’s 4-6 record a year ago was nothing to be ashamed of when you consider the program went just 4-46 in the previous five seasons combined.

The Eagles will look to improve even more this season and have two cornerstones to build around in junior Mason Hardin and senior Matthew Hardin, who are brothers.

Mason Hardin rushed for 1,079 yards on 134 carries last year, while Matthew Hardin gained 416 yards on the ground.

Senior Tyler Darnell is a versatile threat who can do a number of things well on the offensive side of the ball. Chris Duty, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound junior, will anchor the O-Line.

The Hardin brothers, linebacker Jesse Barnette, defensive lineman Donovan Mullins and freshman linebacker Jonathon Howell will be players to watch on defense.

Coach’s Quote: “Hopefully, we gained a little momentum and can keep that from last year. That being said, we’ve got some young guys that we’re going to have to depend on. You’re only as good as your weakest link. We’re trying to make sure that weakest link isn’t weak and just go from there.”

CASTLEWOOD BLUE DEVILS

Coach: Chris Lark (first season)

Classification: Class 1, Region 1D

2018 record: 3-7 (2-3)

Key returners: Jacob Vance, Sr., TE/DE/LB; Jeremiah Allen, Jr., RB/LB; Gavin Monk, Jr. OL; Elijah Stafford, Jr., OL; Shane Aesque, Soph., RB/DB; Cander Dudley, Sr., LB; Dalton Fields, Soph., LB

Key losses: Calleb Meade, OL/DL; Brue Mullins, RB/LB; A.J. Jessee, DL

Outlook: A 1991 Gate City graduate, Chris Lark has replaced Darrell Taylor as Castlewood’s head coach after assistant coaching gigs at schools in Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina and Florida.

The strength for Lark’s team will be up front.

Gavin Monk (6-foot-4, 230 pounds, junior), Elijah Stafford (6-foot-3, 253 pounds, junior), Brandon Buetler (5-foot-11, 265 pounds, junior), Ben Neece (6-foot-1, 212 pounds, sophomore) and Peyton Couch (5-foot-10, 195 pounds, junior) will hold things down in the trenches.

Tight ends Jacob Maxfield (5-foot-11, 190 pounds, sophomore) and Jacob Vance (5-foot-11, 185 pounds, senior) provide even more brawn.

Castlewood had just four seniors on its preseason roster.

The Dudley twins – Collen and Candler – will be the primary playmakers on both sides of the ball, while Castlewood will run a 3-5-3 scheme on defense.

Coach’s Quote: “The kids are working hard. They’ve bought into what we’re trying to do. I came on board July 8 and we’ve been working … for a solid month now. We’ve had anywhere from 27 to 31 kids [at practice], which is very good for a school this size.”

TWIN SPRINGS TITANS

Coach: Keith Warner (second season)

Classification: Class 1, Region 1D

2018 record: 1-9 (0-5)

Key returners: Corbin Kilgore, Sr., RB; Conner Gilmer, Jr., LB; Jordan Gillenwater, Sr., TE/DE; T.J. Taylor, Sr., OL; Juan Matias, Sr., DL; Preston Larkins, Sr., DE; Mason Elliott, Soph., QB; Kaleb Carter, Sr., OL

Key losses: Cole Burke, LB/FB; John Lane, DB

Outlook: A 43-18 victory over North Greene in October was the only triumph for the Twin Springs Titans in Keith Warner’s first season as head coach.

However, there were many signs of progress in 2018 and Warner has helped lift the spirits of the football program at his alma mater, reinvigorating the commitment of his players.

Sophomore quarterback Mason Elliott’s confidence has grown, 6-foot-1, 235-pound senior Kaleb Carter is a leader on the offensive line, junior linebacker/fullback Conner Gilmer is a hard hitter and senior defensive tackle/center T.J. Taylor is a leader.

Senior defensive ends Preston Larkins and Jordan Gillenwater are also key members of a unit that has to get better. The Titans have allowed more than 32 points per game in each of the previous three seasons.

Coach’s Quote: “They’ve seen it and they know the physicality of the teams that play in the postseason and they know the speed. It was good for us. The record wasn’t good [in 2018], but I am glad our kids responded well and stuck with it and stuck me with me and stuck with the team.”

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