Friday’s lid lifter is first for Dobbs on MCHS sidelines
LYNCHBURG, Tenn. — When Jason Dobbs arrived in Lynchburg to take over the reigns as Moore County High School’s new football coach last spring, the cupboard wasn’t exactly chocked full.
With only seven seniors at his disposal — now only six following a season-ending injury to lineman Luke Sells — Dobbs knew he’d have to whip the Raiders into shape quickly if the team expected to compete for a playoff spot.
The Raiders will play in a solid conference that includes powerhouse Columbia Academy, as well as rivals Huntland and Fayetteville City. All three were losses a year ago, though Moore County did manage to win at Richland and defeat Mt. Pleasant at home over the final two weeks of the regular season to slip into the postseason.
The 2015 campaign ended with a muddy, messy 19-7 loss at Whitwell in the first round of the TSSAA Class A playoffs. With the season-opener quickly approaching — MCHS opens up at home against Cascade this Friday night — the returning players understand that how they’ve prepared up to this point could very well determine their fate moving forward.
“It’s a team. The big part is unity,” said senior lineman Sam O’Neal. “It’s very important for us to rally together, even with a new coach in place. There’s a lot of potential and this coach is looking for success and that’s the biggest thing that I see out of him. He’s hungry for it. We’ve got to rally around that and really take hold of it.”
Fellow senior Isaac Holt, who’s listed as a full back and a linebacker, said getting used to Dobbs’ system and his style of coaching was an adjustment, especially for the upperclassmen. Once they bought in, however, Holt said things have gone well.
“Me and Coach Dobbs butted heads a little bit at first,” admitted Holt. “I was a senior coming back who started both ways last year. After a couple of weeks we started getting along and things started moving along well and I saw that he was going to be a very successful coach here and that’s what we need is success to bring the program back.
“I’ve seen a lot of improvement from a lot of guys. We’ve had a lot of new guys come out. We’ve seen major gains from the new guys. I think we’ll have a pretty good season.”
Dobbs was especially complimentary of Holt following the team’s spring practice.
“He did a great job. He’s a competitor,” said Dobbs. “He’s physical … everything you want in a football player.”
Being physical could be a big part of the Raiders’ success. Dobbs spent the last six seasons at Riverdale High School, so he brings a state championship-caliber pedigree to Moore County. He also was an assistant coach for 13 years at Trousdale County High School in Hartsville, where, as an offensive line coach, he was part of five state championship teams.
At Riverdale, however, Dobbs had the luxury of numbers. That’s not the case in Lynchburg, where heading into the final week of the preseason there were only 30 players on the roster. There are seven seniors, 13 juniors, six sophomores and four freshmen. He’ll have to get the most out of each and every one — both in practice and on Friday nights — in order to lay a successful foundation.
For the upperclassmen, they want to win now. O’Neal said they expect to win.
“There are some things we need to improve on,” said O’Neal. “As far as the season goes, what would you expect out of it? I expect to win. There’s a lot of potential in the team and as long as we keep working hard, everything’s gonna pan out.”
Junior Coy Cashion, who serves as a running back on offense and a defensive back on the opposite side of the ball, said he’s looking forward to navigating the tough schedule.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how we (work) through the season and how we win games. I’m looking forward to seeing how good we can make it,” Cashion said. “They look at Columbia Academy and they look at Moore County, they’re gonna put us as the underdog automatically. But I think the way Coach Dobbs has conditioned us and prepared us, we might have a pretty good chance of beating them toward the end of the game.”
Austin Waters, a senior running back and DB, said the conditioning has been a focal point since Dobbs arrived.
“Conditioning is one of the main things I have focused on,” he said. “We’ve been able to come back late in quarters and finish strong. If we keep on conditioning, conditioning, conditioning, we ought to be able to start out strong and finish strong.
“We have to start off at each kickoff by getting pumped up, just getting excited, feel the crowd, let the crowd pump you up and just go … go hard each play.”
With Columbia Academy the clear favorite atop the conference, it should be a scramble to see who fills the final three playoff spots. The football programs at both Summertown and Grace Christian-Franklin are in their infancy, so barring any major upset, they are both a few years away from being consistent playoff contenders.
That leaves Moore County to battle Fayetteville, Cornersville, Huntland, Richland and Mt. Pleasant for one of the other three Region 4-A playoff spots.
“I think we should fare very well. There’s a very high chance of us finishing second in the district and making the playoffs,” said Holt. “You have Columbia Academy who is obviously the powerhouse. I think we can fare well against them.
“You have Fayetteville City, another powerhouse; I think we can take them on our home field this year. There’s not really anyone else. Huntland is returning running back DJ Taylor, but from what I have seen in their scrimmages, that’s all they have, so I think we will be alright.”
Holt, O’Neal, Waters and Sells are joined by Corbin Noblitt, Ryan Huskey and Dillon Fowler as the team’s only seniors. With the loss of Sells for the season, Dobbs will need another lineman to step forward.
After what Dobbs said was a “very productive spring” the Raiders improved over the summer. He challenged them to get stronger and start faster. Moore County’s sluggish starts were sticking points in early scrimmages and the first-year head coach hopes the Raiders have those bugs worked out as the season-opener looms.
There are still a lot of other question marks as well. The Raiders plan to start untested junior Matthew Schuller at quarterback. He’ll be the team’s third different starting QB in as many years. How he settles in under center on a larger stage this Friday is key.
Friday’s home opener, set for a 7 p.m. start, is Military Appreciation Night. Anyone with a Military ID will be admitted free of charge. The Raiders will then face Forrest in Chapel Hill in Week 2.
“Our first two opponents right out of the gate will be a tall task and will answer a lot of questions for us,” said Dobbs.
MCHS visits Columbia Academy on Sept. 2 and Cornersville on Sept. 9. Moore County returns home on Sept. 23 and will host Grace Christian Academy-Franklin for Homecoming festivities.
The Raiders are back on the road on Sept. 23 with a trip to Summertown. While the Raiders will contest four of their first six games on the road, they’ll have the luxury of hosting three of their final four down the stretch.
Moore County hosts Fayetteville City in a key conference match-up on Sept. 30 before having an off week on Friday, Oct. 7. Following the bye week, MCHS hosts longtime rival and district foe Huntland on Oct. 14.
Richland visits Lynchburg on Oct. 21 for the final regular season home contest. It will also be Senior Night for Moore County.
The final regular season game will be at Mt. Pleasant on Oct. 28.
2016 season tickets are available at the Moore County High School office for $24 each. Tickets include all home games, excluding any postseason contests.
Kickoff for all games is set for 7 p.m.