Knoxville West Rebels

The 2002 football season was a series of near misses for the West Rebels of Knoxville. Head Coach Scott Cummings' first year at the helm was frustrating as his team battled week after week only to lose close hard fought battles and finished with a disappointing 3-7 record. "We must teach and preach fundamentals to our players," said the Rebels leader. "Last year's record could easily have been 7-3 if our fundamentals had been better!"

If the Rebels are to set up ambushes this year, they must improve defensively after allowing 23 points per ballgame last season. There is plenty of talent to make that goal a reality. "Our defensive front will be big and strong," said Coach Cummings, "those guys should really be able to control the line of scrimmage."

Three of four starters return to that stalwart defensive front led by senior Preston Mynatt (6'1" 240). Mynatt waylaid 53 ball carriers a year ago six of those tackles for minus yardage. Fellow senior Joseph Slack (6'2" 360) is a mountain of a man who recorded 15 stops. Slack and Mynatt should combine to be a formidable force at defensive tackle. Junior Morgan Shaver (6'0" 200) should be one of the ends. Sophomore upstart Lamel Winton (6'0" 195) will be counted upon at the other defensive end spot.

West High's 4-3 defense will feature three linebackers led by senior Judd Chandler (5'10" 185) on the outside. Chandler has the speed to roam sideline to sideline as he racked up 63 tackles, 11 for loss and also found an interception in 2002. He will be joined by another senior at middle backer in Tanner Hiles (6'1" 200). Hiles will improve on the 15 stops he made last year. At the other OLB position junior Wes Crawford (5'9" 180) is set to step into the limelight as a starter.

The Rebels secondary will feature a talented cornerback in senior Larry Williford (6'1" 175). "Williford is one of the top defensive backs in East Tennessee," said Coach Cummings. Williford likes to hit as he made 45 tackles a year ago. He also has a nose for the big play as he stepped in to make 5 interceptions. The strong safety should be rising newcomer Michael Gay (5'9" 175). Fellow sophomore Rob Crawford (5'10" 175) must find a spot in the secondary as well.

Offensively, Coach Cummings plans to get back to basics to improve on the Rebels' 15 points per game scoring average from 2002. "Our line has to get better. We are going to simplify the offense to improve fundamentally," said the West Head Coach.

The QB is the key to any offensive success and especially so when your team operates the veer option attack with split running backs. Quick decisions must be made to move the ball effectively with the option. Charged with this task will be senior QB Justin Jackson (6'0" 175).

The top returning running back is junior Nate Martin (5'9" 175). Martin rushed for 306 yards and scored 4 touchdowns. His numbers should skyrocket this season. Hootie Henderson (5'9" 180) is another junior that will be counted upon to carry the pigskin for West. Gay will get his chances at RB as well.

Don't expect the Rebels' attack to be one-dimensional as West will throw the football with some regularity. West must improve upon their 79 yards per game passing from a year ago and there are experienced pass catchers back to do just that.

Williford is an all purpose threat for the Rebels. He hauled in 14 receptions for 199 yards as a receiver, averaged 24 yards per kickoff return and 8.2 yards per punt return. Senior slot receiver Skyler Cassell (5'8" 170) is the top returning WR as he nabbed 22 passes for 288 yards and a couple of scores and also rushed 60 times for 247 more yards. Senior James Stewart (6'3" 200) will be an imposing figure at WR as well.

West has four linemen set to line up along the offensive front led by returning senior center Jonathan VanHuesen (5'11" 180). VanHeusen started all 10 games at guard in 2002. This year's guards should be seniors Chris Cheatham (6'0" 250) and Jeremy Eslinger (6'0" 240). One of the tackles will be sophomore Preston Cooper (5'10" 190).

If the West Rebels can plug a couple of holes and the coaching staff can discover some quality depth, the Rebels have enough talent to make some serious noise in their Region. "We can sneak up on some teams in our league if we can get more fundamentally consistent and stronger overall," said Coach Cummings.

West is always a tough opponent for even the top teams in the area and Region 3 4A is THE toughest Region in the State! West may indeed upset and ambush unwary ballclubs. They have several capable playmakers and a star in the making in Larry Williford. The Rebels last appearance in the Playoffs was 1999. You might just add 2003 to that ledger this season. Prediction: 5-5

Playoff Contender: Yes

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