The 2012 edition of the MCHS Raider football program will take the field August 17 for the home opener against Wayne County.
It will be the third season for the Raiders under Head Coach Scott Smith. This season, they will work on improving last year’s 7-4 record season that ended in a 28-24 loss to Nashville Christian in the first round of the TSSAA playoffs.
In order to make those improvements, the Raiders will have to rely on several young players, with only six seniors in this year’s roster.
Despite a pretty experienced backfield led by senior quarterback J.P. Evans, the Raider offense will have to develop quickly, especially on the offensive line.
The younger players will have to follow the lead of junior Jack Evans (5-8, 195) at guard and senior Robert Austell (5-11, 180) at tackle to provide the blocking needed to get the Moore County offense moving.
Prime candidates for the starting O-line include junior Chance Tharp (6-2, 225) and freshman Chance Austell (5-10, 205). Tharp is expected to see time anchoring the line at center, while the younger Austell will probably be at the other tackle position.
As far as the skill positions on the offense, the Raiders have plenty of experience.
Evans (6-2, 210) returns at quarterback. He was primarily a runner at that position last season, rushing for over 1,100 yards and 20 touchdowns and receiving post-season honors last year.
When the Raiders do go to the air, Evans will be looking for senior wide receiver Dalton Barrier (6-0, 160). Last season, Barrier hauled in 53 catches for 435 yards and three touchdowns.
Junior Aidan Simpson is the team’s biggest player at 6-3, 240. He is an outstanding blocker at fullback.
In addition to Evans, Smith can also look to junior Dillon Davis (6-1, 180) and sophomore Christian Glascoe (5-11, 145) to either throw the ball or catch it, creating what could be an interesting weapon system for the Raider offense.
And if the younger players can step up and develop their blocking, Moore County could put up some impressive offensive numbers this season.
However, while offense can win some ball games, it is defense that wins football seasons.
And like the Moore County offense, the Raider secondary will have to learn its lessons quickly on defense.
The defensive secondary, like the offensive line, was ravaged by graduation, and younger players will be forced to mature quickly if the Raiders hope to go back to the playoffs in District 9A again in 2012.
Both Austell brothers will probably see time in the defensive trenches, and both J.P. and Jack Evans will see time at the linebacker positions. In addition, sophomore Austin Henshaw (5-10, 190) will probably see starting duty at a linebacker post as well as senior Joshua Prater (5-8, 195). Junior Austin Bingham (6-0, 220) is another linebacker candidate.
Simpson is expected to be a beast at the defensive end position again this season, while the Raiders will be looking to junior Matt Taggett (5-6, 165) as a safety along with Davis and Glascoe to help out in the secondary.
Seniors Colt Wells (6-0, 150) and Antonio Arguelles (5-8, 150) may also see time at cornerback or safety.
The Raiders scrimmaged with Ezell-Harding Friday and performed reasonably well, and went to scrimmage Warren County Wednesday.
The Raiders have been picked to finish fourth in District 9A, but pre-season picks often prove to be meaningless once the lights come on Friday nights.