Head Coach Joel Helton begins his 20th season as the top Bobcat with a team loaded with talent. "Our kids are committed to hard work and they know what it takes to make it to a championship game," said Coach Helton. The Bobcats have every reason to believe they are state title contenders but the first goal will be to dethrone three time defending state champion Maryville. "The Rebels may have lost a bunch of seniors but they are still the team to beat in our region," said Helton. "Until someone can step up and prove otherwise, they are the favorites."
The Central Bobcats intend to be the team that rises up to knock the Rebels off their well deserved and hard earned pedestal. There is a wealth of talent at the skill positions and a bunch of mean ole nasty big boys along both lines that will make this Bobcat bunch a feared opponent each week.
Eight starters return to ignite what should be one of the highest scoring offenses in the state. Central is loaded at the skill positions. Last year Zach Helton (5'10" 165) started every game as a freshman and compiled impressive numbers. Helton, son of the head coach, earned high praise as a young field general. He completed 77 of 150 passes for 1250 yards and 13 touchdowns. Helton is a dual threat as he added 442 yards rushing with 6 scores. With another year to mature, Zach Helton will be bigger and better.
The Bobcats have an exciting tandem at running back as threats to take the ball the distance on any play from any point on the field. Senior tailback Cassen Jackson (6'1" 205) has the size and speed to be a major college prospect. Jackson carried the ball for over 1300 yards and 17 touchdowns in a superlative 2002. He scored five six pointers against Cocke County. He averaged almost 8 yards per carry. Jackson is also a threat in the passing game as he made 7 receptions for 115 more yards and a score.
Senior slotback Shavar Young (5'8" 165) is even more versatile. Young scampered 29 times for 312 yards and two touchdowns and also made 25 catches for 468 yards and 2 more six pointers last season. The Bobcats also have the luxury of adding a power running fullback into the mix. Sophomore bruiser Kevin Dyer (6'1" 215) is a great blocker but is also a capable ball carrier in short yardage situations. Fellow sophomore David Gaston (5'8" 170) should get his chances to carry the ball as well.
When Central goes airborne, Helton will look downfield for junior split end Terrence Scott (5'10" 150) who has the speed to make the big play. The tight end will be junior Barow Huber (6'3" 235). Helton likes to spread the ball around and Huber will be an imposing target. Jackson and Young are big play receivers as well. Sophomore Sean Adkins (6'0" 175) wants to earn opportunities to catch the football at receiver.
It all starts up front and the Bobcats have five senior returnees on the offensive line. The center will be strongman Chad McKamey (5'9" 175). The guards are Brandon Thomas (6'2" 180) and Daniel Sexton (6'2" 220) while the tackles are the huge tandem of Peter Hartsman (6'5" 265) and Devan Plaisance (6'3" 200). Plaisance has qualified for the 2004 summer Olympic martial arts team. Lining up opposite this collection of brutes is a scary thought.
While the defense lost some key members of last year's stingy unit that gave up the lowest average points per game in class 4A, the Bobcats will field an outstanding group once again. "The defense is going to have to come together early in the season for us to compete," said Coach Helton. Central pitched five shutouts in 2002.
The defensive line will be anchored by senior end Joe Battle (6'4" 225) who recorded 68 tackles, 13 for loss and recovered 3 fumbles a year ago. The other end will be tough customer Dyer while the tackles will be youngsters Shane Hill and Ryan Tankersley. Those two must step up and play well for the Bobcats to approach last season's defensive success. The diminutive McKamey jumpstarts Central's "D" at noseguard. He is very difficult for bigger offensive linemen to handle with his quickness. Sophomores Andy Byrd (6'0" 220) and Chris Crowder (6'1" 230) will add bulk and quality depth along what should be a very good defensive line.
The linebackers are headhunters! Huber was a part time starter a year ago. He will team with junior Bubba Johnson (6'2" 210) to form the LB tandem for Central. Sophomore A.J. Nance (5'10" 200) will see plenty of action at linebacker as well.
The Bobcats' secondary should be one of the best in the area. The corners are outstanding. Scott led the team with 5 interceptions and 9 pass break-ups. He returned one theft to the house. Young is just as stingy on the other side as he stepped in to pick off 2 "oskies" and broke up 5 passes. The strong safety will be sophomore Robert Longworth (6'2" 190) who plays more like a linebacker. The free safety will be lightning quick James Fine.
The football boosters provide pre-game steak dinners for the team before each contest. When public address announcer J.B. Mize declares, "Its Friday night, your in Fountain City…and its football time in Fountain City!" The fans get into a frenzy as their beloved Bobcats scamper onto Dan Boring Field.
The Central Bobcats are loaded heading into the 2003 season. "I think we can be good but you have to create some opportunities and stay injury free in order to achieve success," said Coach Helton. With such a tradition of excellence, this season could be special even by Central standards. The schedule is a bear but this group of Bobcats is up to the challenge.
Pigskin Preview Prediction: 10-0
Playoff Contender: Obviously
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