By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Somehow Liberty keeps coming up with senior-dominated teams.
And that’s just fine with coach Jeff Alexander.
“We have probably eight or nine seniors again who will be on the field,” the eighth-year coach said. “I wish it could be like that every year.”
The Raiders, 7-4 last season, will be experienced despite losing several key seniors to graduation.
Those seniors will be missed, of course. All-stater Jamie Newman could play any backfield position; Nick Pugh was a fixture at defensive end and guard; Ryan Skiles had eight interceptions at cornerback; Cody Stover stood out at defensive end and tackle and Luke Hodge had some big moments at scatback.
“They’ll be hard to replace, but the good news is our juniors played a lot last year because of injuries,” Alexander said. “It’s great when you can put nine or 10 seniors out there who have experience.”
During the summer practice, Liberty worked on its passing game in 7-on-7 competition in Princeton with the Tigers, Woodrow Wilson and Fayetteville.
It went well, and the Raiders have turned to their running game and defense in the first two weeks of preseason practice.
“We’ll try to be as balanced (on offense) as we can,” Alexander said. “But no matter how good your quarterbacks and receivers are, in high school football you have to be able to run before you can do anything else.”
Senior Luke Wright returns at swingback and tailback, and junior Trey Fitzwater has decent speed and shows lots of promise with the ball.
Devon Toney, another senior, will be the quarterback. He stepped in when Newman got hurt against PikeView last year and led Liberty to the win.
“Devon has been there before,” Alexander said. “We’re looking for him to keep getting better every week.”
Third-year player Michael Muovich has started at wideout since he was a sophomore. He has the best hands on the team.
On defense, senior middle linebacker Jerry Toney is back after leading the team with 109 tackles.
Cody Pettry, a 6-foot-1, 265-pound senior defensive tackle, will be the big man up front for the Raiders.
Alexander has taken Liberty to the playoffs in five of his seven years as head coach. Last year the Raiders fell to eventual Class AA state champion Bluefield in the first round.
Liberty has 51 players out for football this season, about average for the squad, and things look good to go.
“We’re close to being on schedule to where I thought we might be,” Alexander said.
“We’ve been fortunate here. We work hard and the good Lord smiles on us sometimes.”
The Raiders open their season Aug. 27 at home against Westside.
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