Head Coach Buck Coatney begins his 12th season with a major rebuilding project on his hands but there is enough talent available to once again find the Fulton Falcons perched atop rugged Region 2AAA.
The Falcons boasted a high flying offensive attack last season but only two starters return to the unit. "We have a ton of work to do," said Coach Coatney, "but we have a lot of young athletes working hard."
Fulton, as usual, will have plenty of skilled playmakers on offense that should keep the scoreboard clicking.
The QB should be senior Justin Long (5'11" 167). Long waited patiently while Jake Whetsel led the Fulton attack for three years. 2003 will be his chance to show what he has learned as an understudy.
The Falcons nest should be full of fledgling running backs. Junior Jam Fine (5'11" 161) and sophomore Tyrone Cobb (6'0" 195) should be an outstanding one-two tandem in the backfield. Cobb's potential is unlimited as he has the size and speed to give opposing defenses nightmares. He comes by his talent honestly as he is related to former Tennessee running back Reggie Cobb.
Long will have a couple of explosive targets to get the ball to in passing situations. The tight end should be senior stalwart Demarcus Stevens (6'2" 195) who returns after an outstanding season a year ago. Stevens is capable of making the big play from any point on the field. Fellow senior Tylon Gibson (5'8" 153)is a diminutive speedster who will line up at wide receiver giving Fulton two very capable playmakers at receiver.
Fulton's success or failure offensively will depend heavily on a rebuilt offensive line. There are however, three players set to give the Falcons a solid foundation to get the job done.
Seniors Josh Nelson (6'1" 197) and Maurice Merchant (6'0" 257) are big fellas charged with the task of clearing holes for the running attack and protecting Long at QB. Junior Ryan Engle (6'0" 221) should be solid along the offensive line as well. The Falcons must find more linemen and build depth if they hope to return to the playoffs.
Defensively, Fulton returns four starters off a stingy unit that allowed only 8 points per game a year ago. As usual, the Falcons starters will be called upon to play both ways as the same cast of characters counted on for offense must turn around and get it done on "D."
Fulton will have plenty of speed and the Falcon's kids are always plenty tough. Cobb should be an outstanding linebacker anchoring the 4-3 defensive alignment.
Stevens is an All-Star candidate at defensive end. He was one of the Falcon's best at making big plays on that side of the ball a year ago. Merchant will be immovable as one of the defensive tackles.
Fulton's secondary forced numerous turnovers in 2002 and this season, interceptions should stop plenty of offensive drives. Fine and Gibson will roam freely at defensive back but are also capable run stoppers.
With so many holes to fill the Fulton Falcons will be hard pressed to repeat the magic of a runner-up finish statewide last year. Don't count out these inner city marvels. The Fulton coaching staff led by Coatney has a history of getting the most out of limited numbers of players.
The winner of Region 2AAA will definitely be a contender for the State Championship! With key games against rivals Austin-East, Anderson County and Seymour on the road, the Falcons must defend home field at Bob Black Field. Carter, Rutledge, Loudon and Kingston are big games Fulton must win at home.
Look for the high flying Fulton Falcons to once again be in the playoff mix in 2003!
Predicted Finish: 7-3
Playoff Contender: YES!
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