J.I. Burton

NORTON — Interim head coach Jacob Caudill answered the call at J.I. Burton earlier in the season when he took over the baseball program. This summer, he has done the same taking over the reigns of the football team.

Caudill has been an assistant coach on the Burton sidelines. This gives the team a sense of familiarity and stability while a final decision is made on the status of currently suspended head coach Jim Adams.

“The team has responded well. I’ve told them in all aspects of life, they will face adversity. It’s all about them, really. I’m doing everything for the kids,” Caudill said.

2017 and 2018 Cumberland District defensive back of the year, Mikey Culbertson, steps up for his senior year and sees nothing but potential in his team.

“It’s exciting. We’re taking it one step at a time. We’ve had a lot of players out this year. I think this is the most we’ve had come out. People are fighting for spots and working harder. It’s gonna be a good year out here,” Culbertson said.

Key Losses – Houston Thacker – QB, Derrick Allen – WR, De’Von Williams – lineman

Key Returning Players – Mikey Culbertson – RB/LB, Najee Steele – RB, Tyler Spriggs – lineman, Johnny Williams – lineman, Esau Teasley - RB

Central

NORTON — Over the past few years, the Central football team has experienced excessive injuries, which required multiple plan and lineup changes throughout the season. Last season was the same as quarterback Isaiah McAmis was injured early in the season and the team was forced to rethink everything. By the end of the season, they were firing on all cylinders and the season was salvaged with a trip to the play offs.

This year, Wise County’s Best of the Best winning coach, Luke Owens, is ready for his young team to take off and exceed all expectations.

“I’m excited,” Owens said. “We’re still a team of mostly ninth and tenth graders with some juniors and seniors. We’ve got everybody back we were working with last year. We’re a year older, faster, bigger and stronger. I think Central football is on its way up.”

Junior wide receiver Ben Brickey will continue to be another 6’3” target for sophomore quarterback Ethan Mullins on the field this year.

“Last year (making the playoffs) was a really big accomplishment,” Brickey said. “Ethan matured a lot and grew up fast. He did everything he could for us. We don’t want to limit ourselves and have set that goal high. If we put our mind to it, we can do it.”

Key Losses – Isaiah McAmis – QB, Ben Stallard – LB

Key Returning Players – C.J. Crabtree – RB, Ben Brickey – WR, Ethan Mullins – QB, Maddox Reynolds - RB

Eastside

COEBURN — After losing quarterback record-setting quarterback, Jordan Rasnick, as well as other key starters, the Spartans look to stay strong and rebound in a big way.

Second-year coach Mike Rhodes has had a full year of kids under his coaching approach and has seen the utmost in off-season dedication.

“I think it’s going to really helped. Our kids have totally bought into our philosophies. We have had 95% attendance in the weight room since December. You can’t ask for any better work ethic than that,” Rhodes said.

The Spartans have had to replace height and consistency in wide outs due to graduation, but Grayson Whited had to be reconstructed after a season-ending injury with three games to go last year.

“It actually doesn’t bother me at all anymore,” Grayson Whited said. “I actually have a metal plate in it, so it is stronger than my left one. I am so glad to be healed up and back out here doing what I love best.”

Twin brother Garrett Whited does most of the heavy lifting in the backfield.

“Mentally, I was a lot more nervous when he wasn’t out here with me last year. But, we’re ready this year. Football is all we really talk about. Football is just our thing,” Garrett Whited said.

Key Losses – Jordan Rasnick – QB, Chris Swann – WR, Nick Livingston – WR

Key Returning Players – Garrett Whited – RB, Grayson Whited – WR, Evan Bellamy – LB, Will Stansberry - QB

Ridgeview

CLINTWOOD — 2018 did not quite pan out as the Wolfpack had hoped. There were high expectations from the team that sported the Mountain 7 offensive (running back Trenton Adkins) and defensive players (linebacker Alijah Sproles) of the year. This year, nothing has changed. The players and coaches are not holding on to last year and all intentions are for this team to go all the way to state.

“We’re going to have to take care of business like we did last year,” Sproles said. “We’re going to have to come out harder and faster than we did last year to get the job done. We expect nothing less than the best from each other.”

“I’ve got pretty high expectations this year,” head coach Rick Mullins said. “We’ve got the potential to be pretty good. A lot of things have to go our way, but I like where we are right now.”

Key Losses – Tyler O’Quin - QB, McKenzie Sproles and Matthew Sexton - Utility, Mason Mullins - C, Quinn Turner – WR, Derek Maine – OL, Jacob Hensley – and Carson Sykes – DB

Key Returning Players – Trenton Adkins – RB, Alijah Sproles – LB, Timmy Hess – WR, Joe Yates - TE

Union

BIG STONE GAP — After losing 20 athletes to graduation, Union is looking to rebuild. Until last year, the Bears were the gold standard in the Mountain 7. Abingdon and Ridgeview changed all of that by defeating Union for the first time in years.

This year, head coach Travis Turner’s bunch must compete with a new quarterback, running back and kicker/punter as well as other key losses on both sides of the football.

“It’s going to take time,” Turner said. We have to get some game experience underneath our belt and our kids have got to get their feet wet. I’m excited about our young guys. We will go through some growing pains at the beginning of the year, but we will be playing our best football at the end.”

Senior fullback/linebacker Mason Polier will be a voice of experience on the field for the Bears.

“I’m ready,” Polier said. As a team, we just want to win. That’s the goal. Everyone has a shot to win the state championship and that’s what we want to do. The losses hurt, but it has made everyone want to work. Spots are open. We’re just ready to get after it.”

Key Losses – Bailey Turner – QB, Avery Jenkins – RB, Justin Falin K/P/WR, Brandon Bunch – lineman

Key Returning Players – Mason Polier – FB, Bryce Guerrant – RB, Zavier Lomax – RB

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