The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

High School Sports

August 29, 2013

Summers looking for longer playoff run

— 2012 IN REVIEW: Years of frustration ended last season when Summers County made the Class AA high school football playoffs for the first time since 1995. Hopes are high again to match or better the Bobcats’ 7-4 campaign, and this time get a playoff win.

“We had a pretty good core of seniors, and also exceptional athletes for underclassmen who helped pick up the slack,” new coach Nate Tanner said. “We definitely achieved our potential. It was a successful season and it’s carrying on to this year.”

Tanner, an assistant coach the last two seasons, replaces Josh Houchins, who decided to concentrate on his principal duties this season.

WHO’S BACK: Houchins did not leave the cupboard bare by any means. Many starters return for the Bobcats, and they have two of the finest players in Class AA in quarterback T.J. Smith and versatile Isaiah Brown.

Smith (5-foot-10, 180 pounds) is a four-year starter at quarterback, and is adept at both passing and running. He’s also a fine strong safety.

“T.J. came into his own this summer. He’s more of a student of the game now,” Tanner said. “He’s always had the ability to throw the ball, but lacked confidence. That comes with maturity.

“He’s making good decisions at quarterback, and on defense he’s settled down and playing smarter. His tackling is better.

“He’s a good leader on the field, and I expect him to have a good season.”

If Smith is the playmaker, Brown (5-9, 175) is the certified touchdown threat.

Tanner said, “Isaiah is an athlete. He’s an explosive player, both running and catching the ball, and he will have a lot of big plays.

“What people don’t see is he’s an extremely hard worker in the weight room. He takes pride in his work ethic, and he tries to perfect his craft. Sometimes he’s too hard on himself.”

Brown is Summers’ other free safety, and will start there for the fourth consecutive season.

Two other key returnees are senior wide receiver, running back and outside linebacker Erik Lindsey, and promising sophomore Matt Ryan.

Tanner considers Lindsey (5-9, 180) one of the steadiest players on the team. He catches the ball well, runs good routes and is one of the best blockers.

“Eric plays very physical, very intense, and that carries over to defense,” Tanner said. “He’s an exceptional tackler, and gives us good coverage against the pass.”

Ryan (5-11, 165), had a fine freshman season where he ran, caught and returned the ball, and was a threat, like Brown, to score every time.

 “Last year Matt got a lot of good exposure, and his role suited him well. He didn’t have too much pressure on him,” Tanner said. “This year his role is more important — he’ll get more touches in the passing and running games. He’s also put on 10 pounds. He can block better, and like Isaiah, he’s explosive when the ball hits his hands.”

HIDDEN GEMS: Three seniors not as well known as their teammates could very well make their marks for the Bobcats.

Tackle and defensive end Allen Brown (6-3, 250) has good size and he can move.

Brown didn’t play until the 10th grade, and he was very raw. He’s worked hard, however, both in practice and in the weight room. He’s stronger, faster and quicker and could have a big year.

Fullback-linebacker Jaquan Ayers (5-9, 210) didn’t play football last year, but is rapidly becoming another weapon in the Bobcats’ arsenal

Ayers doesn’t have blazing speed, but has good lateral movement and good hands out of the backfield. On defense, Tanner said he “is your traditional middle linebacker. He fills holes well.”

 Tackle Jacob King is back after sitting out last season. At 6-2, 315, he’s a big kid who moves well for his size. He needs experience, but good things are expected of him, particularly on defense.

PUTTING POINTS ON THE BOARD: Summers is blessed with big-play people in the skill positions, but the offensive line is young.

Junior Zach Grady has moved from center to guard, where he’ll be joined by sophomore Josh Smith. Casey Forren, a junior, takes over at center, and Brown and either Trevor Anderson or PikeView transfer Kevin Reynolds are the tackles.

Sean Willey adds depth in the backfield, and both he and Caleb Harrah will help in the receiving corps.

MAKING STOPS: The Bobcats’ 4-3 defense features Brown and Harrah at the ends and Forren and King at the tackles.

Ayers and Lindsey will be backed at linebacker by freshmen Dylan Smith and Dakota Thomas, and sophomore Nick Adkins.

Willey and Ryan are the corners, while Smith and Brown are proven veterans at safety.

STANDING IN THE WAY: Summers has a competitive schedule that includes a long bus ride to Grafton, a tough opening game at home with rival PikeView and an expected barnburner with Wyoming East.

Greenbrier West, Independence and James Monroe are also good rivalry games.

“I know the kids are looking forward to playing West because they’ve never beaten them,” Tanner said. “That’s a tough task. They’re a very good program.

WHAT’S IN STORE: Tanner is both optimistic and realistic about his team’s chances.

“Something I’ve been taught is you can only go as far as your seniors take you,” he said. “This summer and preseason they’ve provided extremely good leadership, like another coaching staff.

“Expectations are for us to have a successful season, but I won’t make drastic expectations. Our goal is to build on what we did last year, and hopefully get through the first round of the playoffs.

“In order for that to happen, the kids and coaching staff have to remain focused on what we do every day, and never get satisfied.”

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