By Daniel Brunty The Winston County Journal
After an incredible season followed by a good playoff run, the LHS football team began their quest for a championship run with spring practices that started on April 25, and lasted for two weeks.
Head coach M.C. Miller and his coaching staff went into the practices looking to replace some key starters from last season’s team. With the loss of linemen and a few skill players, development of younger talent would be key to bringing back an even stronger team than last season’s.
One of the main areas of concentration for the Wildcats was on the defensive side of the ball. With most of the defensive line lost to graduation, the team will be looking toward its underclassmen to step up and fill these roles. “We got a few players we need to develop, but they will get better with practice,” Miller said.
Another area that the Wildcats will look to focus on before the season are the linebacker positions.
They will be looking to fill positions left by last season’s All- Region Class 4-4A Linebacker Chaffin Triplett. However, the Wildcats will return All-Region Class 4-4A team member Jeremy Sangster, who will be a junior this upcoming season.
Fortunately for the Wildcats, their secondary will retain the main core of its players, and will be looking for these players to help lead a defense that will be younger that last season’s. Returning will be All-Region Class 4-4A team member Nick Shields, who will be looking toward another big season this fall.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Wildcats will be looking to repeat last year’s success, as they return a core of their skill players to the team. The Wildcats will look to the duo of All-Region Class 4-4A Quarterback Wyatt Roberts and All Region Class 4-4A Wide Receiver Desmond Goss to lead Miller’s high-powered air attack. Roberts will also have one of his favorite targets in Dalton Hudspeth returning to the wide receiver position. Hudspeth was huge in their passing game last season, being a dependable possession receiver with good hands.
Alongside Goss, the Wildcats are expecting a big year from junior wide receiver Thomas Brown, who was injured for most of last season. Brown was expected to be a key factor in last season’s offensive scheme, but injuries forced him to the sideline. With his talent and a year to recover, Miller and the staff look for him to be a critical part in the team’s success.
The Wildcats will have a strong backfield led by senior Cass Love. Love had a solid season last year, backing up Davais Schaffer at the running back position. This season, the Wildcats will look to him to help lead the underclass backs.
A key area of the offense the Wildcats focused on during spring training was the offensive line. They are looking to replace three offensive linemen, including All-Region Offensive Lineman Jack Vowell. Looking to fill one of these positions will be Oriental Jackson, a 6-foot-6-inch, 275-pound sophomore. Miller and his staff look for him to be a big part of developing a new offensive line before the season begins.
As for special teams, the Wildcats will look to All-Region punter Hudspeth to continue to his duties from last season. Hudspeth will also kick extra points, just as he did last season.
The coaching staff feels confident with players in these new positions, mainly because most of the players have experience in their positions due to the rotation of players the Wildcats used in various positions last season. Most players who are filling roles got to play in game time situations last season, and they know already how to play the position, as well as what is expected of them.
After spring training, the coaching staff felt good about where they were with the team and feels like this year’s squad, with its potential, can go just as far if not further than last season’s team. “We looked good overall,” Miller said.
To see how far they had come during spring training, the Wildcats tested themselves by hosting a spring game against Class 6A Murrah out of Jackson on May 14. In what would be a close matchup in skill and talent, the Wildcats would outscore the bigger school and won the game 41-36.
For the Wildcats, Roberts would have a great game, completing 17 of 23 passes for 404 yards with 5 passing touchdowns and 1 rushing touchdown. Goss had 8 receptions for 265 yards and 3 touchdowns. Love would add 44 yards rushing off of 8 carries. Demarcus Brooks would also add 31 yards rushing off of 7 carries.
Also scoring touchdowns during the game were Thomas Brown, who had a 36-yard reception and a 26-yard reception.
In the last few seconds of the game, the Wildcats were down and needed a touchdown to win the game. Roberts would end up throwing a 6- yard touchdown reception to Goss with six seconds left in the game to take the lead and the win for the Wildcats.
If this spring game is any indication of the upcoming season, then Wildcats fans can expect an exciting and fun-filled season with a lot more success to come.