By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Jeff Alexander’s Liberty Raiders have quite a few holes to fill this season, but perhaps none will be bigger than the one left by a player he never even had.
After news broke Tuesday evening that 6-foot-11 Levi Cook will be transferring from Liberty to Huntington Prep for basketball, it squashed the summer of speculation that the behemoth would suit up in pads and hit the gridiron.
But Alexander isn’t going to let losing a potential massive weapon stop his plans of moving forward.
“Levi’s a great kid and I wish him the best. I’m a fan,” Alexander said. “But I’m not going to miss him as a player because I never had him as a player. I like him, though. Then again, I like Ferraris but I’ve never had one of those, either.
“I think he would have been a great football player,” Alexander added. “But I think there were some coaches in Morgantown who wouldn’t have liked that.”
Perhaps more importantly, Liberty will look to replace a duo of playmakers in Joey Lacek and Matthew Bailey, who graduated in the spring.
“Joey and Matt — they were players,” Alexander said. “It will be hard to replace them. I had to have two guys for each of them to step up and replace them. They’re young, but they’re getting some experience.”
Luckily for Alexander and the Raiders, Lacek’s spot at quarterback will be in safe hands with Hunter Wright.
The youngster stepped in and saw some action under center for the Raiders in 2012.
“He played quite a bit for us last year. I think he started four or five games at quarterback,” Alexander said. “He had well over 900 yards throwing the ball. He’s young, but he’s learning and he’s getting much better.”
Also returning for the Raiders is athletic receiver Tre’Shaun McDowell, a three-sport athlete who also represented Liberty in the state track meet.
“Tre’ is back. He’s gotten taller and a little stronger,” Alexander said. “He’s a junior this year and he’s working hard. Everybody’s trying to contribute, but he’s an athlete. You can match him up in the slot or a wideout. We’ll look to him.”
Alexander enters the season with as much uncertainty about the teams he’ll face as he does the team he’ll put on the field. Three of the Raiders’ longtime opponents have new coaches: Independence’s Chris Vicars, Summers County’s Nate Tanner and Westside’s Larry Cook.
“I don’t know what to expect,” Alexander said. “You don’t know if they’re going to run what they used to run or if they’re going to change everything up.”
Liberty will get its first look at the Bobcats a little earlier this season. The teams will meet in a scrimmage Saturday at 10 a.m. in Hinton. They’ll welcome Class AAA Oak Hill to Glen Daniel next Saturday.
The Raiders will open the season Friday, Aug. 30, at Westside.
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