August 23, 2007

Tigers 2007 Football Lineup Will Feature Lots of New Faces

As the final seconds wind down off the clock in a team’s season finale, it can be an emotional time for high school coaches as they are forced to say goodbye to all of the team’s seniors.

The 2006 football season was like that for Scotland County. Coach Brent Bondurant had to say goodbye to 12 seniors.

As the 2007 pre-season practices unfolded, the coaching staff likely was having to relive some of those tough emotional times, as they were faced with the task of replacing those 12 graduates who had manned a majority of the starting roles for the Tigers.

Injuries ravished last year’s squad and led to a disappointing record for the Tigers. The 2007 team may benefit from last year’s troubles, as a number of kids received valuable experience when given the opportunity to fill in for the departed seniors.

With just 25 players out, and only 14 of those that played either varsity or junior varsity ball in 2006, the Tigers need to avoid the injury bug that plagued them throughout 2006.

“Depth is a big concern for us right now,” Bondurant said. “We need to avoid the injury bug. If anyone gets hurt, it will be like trying to put a puzzle together, as we’ll have to move people around, plug someone in that hole and then find someone else to fill those shoes. It is sort of like the domino effect, and we don’t have any easy fixes right now with our limited numbers.”

Kyle Shelley returns to lead the offense. As a freshman, Shelley saw time at quarterback in several games filling in for Marcus Shalley. Shelley will have some big shoes to fill, replacing the second-team all-conference signal caller. Shalley completed 87 of 200 pass attempts for 1,025 yards and seven touchdowns while being intercepted just five times. He was also the team’s leading rusher, carrying the ball a team-high 130 times for 683 yards and 10 TDs.

Shelley showed signs of promise, completing 6 of 12 pass attempts for 63 yards.

He’ll have to find some new targets.

Coach Bondurant will be replacing the team’s top three receiving threats. First team all-conference performer Grant Blomme led the team with 39 catches for 556 yards and four touchdowns. Bryce Blomme’s 24 receptions for 293 yards and a TD are also gone.

Brandon Garnett was worked into the rotation as a third receiver early in his freshman year and ultimately took over a starting role as injuries took their toll on SCR-I. He caught two passes for 26 yards. He’ll be one of Shelley’s top targets in 2007. Other receiving options will include junior Caleb Kittle, seniors Ben Wiley and Craig Wittstock and junior Kegan Hunt.

Kittle, the team’s second string quarterback, has earned the title of most improved player in spring practice as Coach Bondurant praised his hard work.

Eric Glass, one of Scotland County’s six seniors, will try to build on his 2006 performance as the team’s starting running back. Glass was in the mix as a junior before having the bulk of the load fall to him after injuries ended the seasons of Matt Wickert and Zach McBee.

Glass carried the ball 40 times for 151 yards in 2006.

Jeff Kice also saw some limited action in the backfield in 2006, rushing for 35 yards on six attempts. He and Glass will combine to give the team two balanced rushing options.

The duo will be running behind a revamped offensive line. Aaron Neagle returns after seeing plenty of action up front as a sophomore. Justin Winn also moved into the trenches for SCR-I as a freshman before missing the end of the year with a broken leg. Bradley Hamner will return to action after being lost most of 2006 with a separated shoulder. He started at linebacker as a sophomore, but now will be counted on to anchor the offensive line as well.

Senior Cody Gundy saw time on the line last year and will be counted on to fill the big shoes left behind by all-conference performers Lance Smith and Casey Parrish. Fellow senior Tyler Henstorf will also see time in the rotation along with junior Chad Consbrock and sophomore Jordan Fulk.

The defensive line is shaping up with Hamner, Gundy, Winn, Neagle and Wittstock looking to have nailed down starting spots with Fulk and Henstorf two other options in the rotation.

Bondurant said linebacker is thin for the 2007 Tigers with Glass starting at one spot and freshman Logan Brassfield likely to hold down the other side of the defense.

The defensive backfield will feature Kice and Kittle at the corners with Shelley and Garnett playing safety and Kegan Hunt providing depth.

Despite losing some big time players, including University of Missouri-bound league MVP Luke Lambert, Brookfield still looks to be the cream of the crop in the Tri-Rivers Conference. As usual, Clark County will give them a run for the money for the league crown. The Indians return talented running back Javis Vineyard. They will have to replace the league’s best QB from 2006 Brock Egley, but a talented group of underclassmen should help Clark County reload for another run at the conference crown.

The bulk of the league will be in a similar position as the Tigers, filling plenty of key roles. Putnam County will have to replace top runner Nathan Valentine while Milan has similar shoes to fill due to the graduation of Matt Hill and Dustin Magney. Knox County must replace leading rusher Caleb Shubert while Schuyler County lost the versatile Tyler Green at quarterback.

The wars could be won in the trenches where the league does see some big time performers returning in 2007. Unanimous all-conference selection Tyler Gordon heads the list of blockers that return for Brookfield, along with fellow first teamer Cory Bennett making them the team to beat, and second team all-league running back Dustin White an early favorite for league MVP honors.

Cori Seth was a unanimous first teamer as just a sophomore for Clark County and Darien Valentine was the lone other unanimous choice on the offensive line. He returns for his senior season at Putnam County. Milan also returns the core of its offensive line, making them another tough opponent for SCR-I.

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