Morristown East Hurricanes

If the 2002 football season had come in the form of a weather forecast, the fortunes of the Morristown East Hurricanes would have been a major disappointment for prognosticators as the gathering storm would have petered out before making landfall.

The ‘Canes 2-8 record indicated that the team had pretty much hit rock bottom. Into the eye of the storm steps first year Head Coach Larry Smith, who has 32 years in coaching. He will supply much needed experience through good times and bad and be able to lead his young Hurricanes through the difficult rebuilding effort in the wake of last season.

"It can only get better, I'll tell you that after the year we had," said Defensive Coordinator Billy Seals. "We are very optimistic and plan on being really competitive and working to earn our way back into the playoffs." There is no delusions of grandeur at Morristown East. "We are probably middle of the pack in our region," said Coach Seals. Most of the major players are back better for last season's debacle.

Seven starters return to the offensive unit that will feature a strong front five along the offensive line. The only senior on the O-line is guard Michael Branner (6'3" 275). Branner has been through the wars and will provide key leadership for his young mates. The center will be sophomore Brandon Pritchett (5'11" 215). The other guard will be junior Rob Davis (5'11" 250) while the tackles will be juniors Austin Coker (6'1" 286) and Steven Ray (6'2" 275). That is plenty of beef to provide running room for the backs.

Senior tailback Chavez Francisco (6'1" 210) will be the feature back this season. This kid is a defensive specialist that should relish the opportunity to improve on his 650 yards gained from a year ago. Francisco averaged seven yards per carry and can pound for tough yardage and take it the distance. Senior Andy Coker (5'10" 200) is the backup at tailback and will get plenty of carries when Francisco needs a breather. The fullback will be fellow senior Shane Bower (6'0" 220) who is a punishing blocker. Junior Kyle Vaughn (5'9" 185) will spell Bower at the position.

Senior quarterback Jared Palazolla (6'1" 175) passed for almost 1300 yards and 11 touchdowns a year ago. Sophomore Josh Greene (5'11" 165) will learn the signal caller trade while observing Palazolla's decisions on the field.

On passing downs, Palazolla will look for senior wide receiver Wahkeem Simpson (6'5" 190) in key situations. Simpson grabbed 25 passes for 450 yards last season. His height will provide an inviting target. Junior talent Justin Delapp (5'10" 175), senior Matt Harvill (6'0" 170) and sophomore Shawn Penland (5'10" 170) will see aerials tossed in their direction at receiver. The tight end should be sophomore Blake Garrettson (6'3" 235) who is like another behemoth linemen paving the way for backs to blast through. Senior Gordie Larson (5'11" 210) is the other tight end.

For the Hurricanes to improve and stay in ballgames this fall, the defense must stir up a whirlwind of chaos. The secondary features Francisco at free safety. Francisco is a college prospect who recorded 75 tackles and stole six interceptions to earn All Region and All East Tennessee honors a year ago. The strong safety will be senior Brandon Jarnigan (5'9" 175) who ripped into 60 stops last season. The corners will be Delapp and senior Greg Tippett (6'0" 160).

The linebackers are set with "Sam" backer Bower returning with harmful intentions. Bower participated in 70 tackles a year ago. The "Will" backer will be junior Chris Wilson (6'1" 210). The man in the middle will be Rob Davis while the other outside linebacker will be junior Josh Russell (5'11" 180). These guys need to be extremely active for the ‘Canes defense to be really nasty.

Our front seven has a chance to be very good," said Coach Seals. The defensive front includes senior Branden Sturm (5'10" 195) at end along with Ray and Garrettson. The tackles will be the stalwart Branner, who recorded 45 tackles last season and Coker. Developing quality depth is a concern and job one for the coaching staff. Most of Morristown East's linemen will play both ways.

Morristown East welcomes new Head Coach Larry Smith into the eye of the Hurricane. After a subpar season a year ago there is every reason to believe the ‘Canes will stir up a new storm with a solid defensive unit and an offense looking to ground the opposition with a powerful run game. The schedule is certainly not easy as always strong Powell, Cocke County and Greeneville will all come calling to cozy Burt Toney Stadium. Cross town rival Morristown West is a force to be reckoned with as well but Morristown East will not repeat the disaster of last season. Prediction- 5-5

Playoff Contender- Yes

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