- Local News
--By Staff Writer on --
COACH: Blair Armstrong
LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 1-9
STARTERS RETURNING (OFFENSE): 11
STARTERS RETURNING (DEFENSE): 6
To say the Raiders are focused like a lazer on improvement this season would be an understatement.
“Improving on last year’s (1-9) record has been in all of our minds since the last game in November,” Armstrong said Thursday. “We have thought of nothing else. We began on Nov. 15 at 7a.m. with our offseason program and the team has been relentless in pursuing the preparation for a winning season.”
The offense should be much improved. Junior quarterback Harris Roberts (6’3 170) leads a unit that is big, battle tested and experienced, with all 11 starters returning.
Wing Back Cameron Anderson (5’10 165), half back Luke Slaton (5’8 150), last year’s leading rusher, and fullback Eric Fitzgerald (6’0 210) will handle most of the ball carrying responsibilities.
The Raiders have some healing to do at the wide receiver positions before the season opener.
“Both our top receivers are injured right now,” Armstrong said. Tyler Collins should be ready to go this Friday but Wil McKinney will be about five weeks before he can return from a broken collar bone.” Until then, tight end Madison Hoke (6’3 195) and split end Branson Marks (6’ 170) will see plenty of playing time.
Senior Tanner Short (6’3, 248), one of the county’s best centers will anchor a burly front line that includes 300+ pounders at the tackles. Zakk Gross (6’ 330) and Colby Gossett (6’6 300) should make life in the trenches miserable for Raiders opponents. The guards are senior Rick Adle (6’3 235) and junior Blake Hodges (6’2 210).
“We’re excited about how far our offensive line has come in the offseason,” Armstrong said. “Coach Chuck Hudson and Coach Russ Ivey coach the line and they have really got these guys and their backups ready to go.”
The defense features six returning starters, including the team’s leading tacklers, linebackers Eric Fitzgerald (6′, 210) and Joe Musulman (5’10, 210). Senior Madison Hoke (6’3 195) will round out the linebacking corps.
The defensive line is big and experienced with ends Payton Holbrooks (6’2,220) and Colby Gossett (6’6, 300) returning along with senior nose guard Christian Coussan (6-2, 234).
But Armstrong will have to find some replacements in the secondary where safety Shane Cross (5’8, 155) is the lone returning starter. Players who will be expected to step in there quickly include safety Cody Gottberg (6’1,197), corner Luke Slaton (5’8 150), corner Kansas Mullins (5’9 165) and free safety Bailey Mauldin (5’10 181).
“We have had a great fall practice and off season,” Armstrong said. “Our new region has some very tough teams with a lot of playoff experience. We will have to bring our “A” game to be in the hunt, but we have been working on that game for a long time.”