Last season Austin-East, under the steadying influence of Head Coach Stanton Stevens, stormed to a 7-3 regular season record before falling to Seymour in a disappointing first round playoff loss to finish 7-4 overall. The Roadrunners lost some key players but still welcome back enough talent to have playoff hopes once again in 2003. "We are expecting to advance deep into the playoffs this season," said Coach Stevens.
The Roadrunners like to spread the field and get their talented skill position athletes the ball in space. Austin-East lost most of their offensive juggernaut from a year ago, but the Roadrunners simply reload and should be able to match their 26 points per game average.
Austin-East must find a quarterback to lead the show but whomever earns the starting job at QB will have the luxury of getting the ball to senior running back Terrell Johnson (5'9" 160) who rushed only four times for 46 yards in limited duty last season. Johnson is a dynamo and will see those numbers eclipsed in his first game. Junior Albert Harris (5'11" 170) is another skillful ball carrier looking to reach star status in 2003. Harris ran 19 times for 185 yards a year ago. Both Johnson (11.5 average) and Harris (10 average) have the wheels to go the distance at any time. Senior fullback Kevin Smith (6'0" 215) ran 17 times for 89 yards to give the Roadrunners the potential to turn any game into a track meet.
Youngsters working to get into the mix in the Roadrunners backfield include sophomores Mauric Davis (6'2" 180) and P.J. Moore (6'1" 180). Even more youthful but just as talented is freshman Laquinton Jones (5'9" 160). These guys give A-E awesome potential for years to come at running back.
The Roadrunners love to air it out and go for the home run pass and this year will be no different. Harris snared 19 aerials for 237 yards for a 12.5 yard average per catch. Senior speedsters Joe Moore (5'10" 155) and Willie Frazier (5'10" 155) hope to make the highlight reel on Friday nights this fall. The tight end should be senior Daniel Sawyer (6'1" 205). Freshman Anthony Anderson (5'11" 160) begins his career hoping to make an immediate impact at receiver.
For Austin-East to meet their coach's lofty expectations, the offensive line must develop and form a strong unit to force room for the skill guys to work their magic. The Roadrunners are thin up front as only three players are penciled in as starters early on. The anchor at center will be junior Anthony McAlister (6'0" 215). One of the guards should be fellow junior Tyrone Jackson (6'3" 265) while a tackle will be mammoth senior Brandon Winton (5'10" 310). A-E will have to find two more stalwarts to round out the O-line and discover some surprises amongst the ranks to supply depth.
Six starters return to a superlative defensive unit that allowed only nine points a game in 2002. The Austin-East linebackers are a team strength as they all can run and apply the leather once arriving at the opposing ball carrier. Two potential All Stars reside at the position for the Roadrunners. McAlister finished 2nd on the area Class 3A tackle chart with 127 total stops 23 of those for lost yardage. He also recorded two sacks. Senior hitman Ed Marsh (5'11" 190) was right behind as he ended up fifth in tackles with 107 hits 19 for loss. Marsh was also adept at chasing the QB as he got two sacks. P.J. Moore is counted upon to earn a starting spot as a sophomore.
The defensive line is set with Smith leading the way at end. Smith used his quickness off the edge to jump in on 40 total tackles last season 10 of those for loss. He also led the Roadrunners with 6 quarterback sacks. Sawyer should be the other end while Jackson and Winton should be the tackles.
Obviously, Austin-East will have a talented defensive secondary with senior cornerback Corey Brown leading the way. Brown had 48 tackles six for losses last season. The other corner will be Joe Moore with Terrell Johnson lining up at strong safety. Roaming from sideline to sideline at free safety should be sophomore Mauric Davis. The two freshmen Anderson and Jones will get on the job training as young defensive backs.
When the Austin-East Roadrunners race onto Sam Anderson Field at Dusty Lennon Stadium in 2003, they will once again be major players both in Region 2 3A and indeed, the State of Tennessee. Always rugged Anderson County, Kingston and 2002 state runner-up Fulton are major hurdles blocking the Roadrunners path to a state title. A-E is not the dominant force they once were but they are getting there and this season should see the Roadrunners take a giant leap back into prominence.
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