Coalfield Yellow Jackets

Only a handful of teams end their high school season's with victory but the sour taste left in the mouth of the Coalfield Yellow Jackets in 2002 has endured through the entire offseason. In round one of the playoffs a year ago Coalfield took a 14-0 advantage over Powell Valley into the 4th quarter and had first down at the opposition's 3 yard line. To make a long story short, the Yellow Jackets ended up losing that gut wrenching game and finish 8-3 on the year.

"That bad taste won't go away until we beat somebody this year," said long time Head Coach Gary Kreis. "It still hurts but it has been a great motivator for our team." Kreis is set to begin his 17th season with Coalfield. His teams have made the state quarterfinals on four different occasions. 2003 just might be the year the Yellow Jackets advance a step or two further.

In a word, Coalfield is loaded with outstanding senior leadership and a handful of talented underclassmen returning to form the nucleus of another class A powerhouse. "As good as our offense should be our defense should be really really good," said Coach Kreis. "We have strength and quickness up front and some outstanding skill people."

In his playing days at Tennessee, Coach Kreis was an excellent wide receiver for the Vols. It should be no surprise that the old coach is offensive minded. Kreis loves to spread the field with receivers and create mismatches in the secondary. "We will be very multiple offensively," said Kreis. "We will line up in trips, double slots, pro set, shot gun then mix in the wishbone at times."

Last year the Yellow Jackets averaged well over 300 yards total offense and 30 points per ballgame. Seven starters return to give defensive coordinators recurring nightmares the week before facing Coalfield.

It all starts with the quarterback and the Yellow Jackets have one of the area's best returning for what should be an outstanding senior season. Last year QB Ricky Lowe (6'2" 190) flooded the gridiron with an aerial assault the United States Air Force would be proud of. For his efforts Ricky Lowe was named All Region and All East Tennessee. 2003 will be his 4th year as the Yellow Jackets starting quarterback. Freshman Johnny Hill (5'5" 150) will get a year to learn the system as Lowe's backup.

Lowe will have a stout group of offensive linemen protecting him when he drops to throw. The center should be senior stalwart Justin Bunch (5'8" 190) who was named to the All Region team at the position. The guards should be seniors Beau Lowe (5'11" 185) and Cory Griffith (6'0" 195) while the tackles should be junior Joe Cotton (6'0" 245) and sophomore Dustin Carroll (6'1" 205). Senior Marcus Richardson (5'9" 220), and juniors Richard Seiber (6'3" 275) and Derrick Baker (5'11" 180) are strong and will provide quality depth to what should develop into an outstanding O-line.

Coach Kreis says his team will use a "running back by committee" approach in 2003. Junior Josh Jenkins (5'9" 165) has the speed and moves to succeed at running back after missing all of last year with a torn ACL injury. Senior Stephen Williams (5'10" 160) and freshman Chris Lowe (5'7" 155) will get opportunities to be a hero at RB. The fullback should be sophomore Benjamin Duncan (5'10" 180) who started half the games a year ago. Junior Paul Gouge (5'8" 175) and sophomore Ryan Carson (5'11" 190) will see action at fullback as well.

There is talent and big play ability at the receiver spots. Senior tight end Brandon Foster (6'4" 230) returns after making 30 catches and scoring six touchdowns. Foster was named to the All Region team for his efforts. Junior wide receiver Steven Hensley (5'11" 170) is also back looking to improve on his 27 catch 8 touchdown season. Senior Matt Silvey (5'9" 160) should be the other starter at split end. Senior Robert Bannister (5'7" 140), sophomore Chase Brown (5'11" 160) and freshman Jesse Keith (5'10" 160) will get chances at WR while freshmen J.J. Jordan (6'0" 170) and Brandon Justice (6'1" 165) start their careers at tight end.

With all that firepower, Coalfield won't need a great defense to win a bunch of games but there is potential for excellence on "D." "We shut out four or five teams a year ago and should be strong and quick defensively," said Coach Kreis.

The Yellow Jackets sting will be painful on defense as the front seven will be stout. Coalfield's stop unit is headlined by the returning Defensive Player of the Year in Region 2A, senior noseguard/tackle Jack Price (6'0" 175). Price is flat out nasty and makes plays sideline to sideline with his quickness. Griffith and sophomores Terry Jones (5'11" 215) and Brett Barry (5'7" 175) will be in the rotation at tackle. The ends should be Foster, Carroll and freshman Matt Ritter (6'2" 170).

The Yellow Jackets swarm to the football defensively. The linebackers should be Carson nailing down the spot in the middle with the outside backers being Duncan and sophomore Chris Coker (5'11" 185). Yet another freshman, Drake Liles (5'9" 180) will provide depth at linebacker.

The Coalfield secondary features All Region free safety Hensley who intercepted 7 passes in 2002. The strong safety will be Ricky Lowe who stepped in to pick off 3 "oskies" last season. Silvey, Williams and Keith will vie for the starting spots at cornerback. Silvey picked off a couple passes in the Yellow Jackets big play defensive backfield. Brown and senior Logan Adcock (5'8" 155) will battle for playing time in the secondary.

Coalfield suffered a demoralizing loss to end their season in the playoffs a year ago but the Yellow Jackets have used that disappointment to rally and work harder in preparation to win big in 2003. Led by a swarming defense and a fleet of big play skill position athletes, the Yellow Jackets hive will be abuzz and their sting painful indeed. Look for Coalfield to make a run deep into the playoffs this season. Prediction- 8-2

Playoff Contender- Yes

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