Sweetwater Wildcats

The 2002 football season marked a return to prominence for tradition rich Sweetwater as the Wildcats roared to the State semi finals and an outstanding 13-1 season. While the loss ruined the dream of a perfect season and shot at a fourth State Title, the Wildcats return enough talented athletes to once again challenge for postseason honors.

"We graduated a lot of great players and will be a very young team this season," said Head Coach Rex Rhodes Jr., who took over the reigns of the program from his legendary father. Rhodes senior guided the Wildcats to their last State Championship in 1993 and there was a significant drop off in interest after his retirement in 1997. Rex Rhodes Jr. has experienced the bad times but persevered and has guided the perennial power back to near the top of the high school football mountain.

Six starters return to an offense that averaged 38 points per ballgame last season. If the Wildcats are to approach those numbers this season, they must do so with a powerful ground game featuring outstanding fullback Dustin Latham (6'0" 225). A year ago this junior to be pounded his way to almost 1900 yards rushing and scored an incredible 25 touchdowns. "Latham is a hoss," said Coach Rhodes. The burly fullback's penchant for piling up big yardage earned him All State honors at the end of the season. He will be joined by tailback Jam Ferguson (5'8" 185). While Ferguson's a defensive specialist, this senior will be given plenty of opportunities to carry the football as a scatback with big play ability this season.

Sweetwater may rely heavily on the running game to win games but they will certainly not be one dimensional on offense. Talented junior Jeffrey Moore (6'1" 170) steps into the limelight at quarterback after spending last season at wide receiver. "Moore was a solid receiver a year ago but is such a good athlete we decided to move him under center this season and he will do a great job," said Coach Rhodes. Moore is a very good runner and should thrive at the position. Freshman Sam Mason (5'9" 145) will learn the intricacies of the offense as Moore's backup at QB.

Moore will look for several promising young receivers in passing situations. The split end will be junior Eric Borden (5'9" 160) while fellow junior talent Chris Melton (6'1" 175) will get opportunities to make big plays at receiver as well. Melton will also get snaps as a back up quarterback. Another junior, Eric Thompson (5'8" 165) will line up at wingback and the tight end will be junior Tony Upton (5'10" 190).

A solid wall of an offensive line will feature senior center Phillip Mitchell (5'9" 205), guard Chris Meier (5'10" 265) and tackle Jewell Burton (5'10" 285). Yet another senior stalwart will be tackle Corey Tallent (6'2" 265) while the other guard should be junior Rick Monroe (5'10" 195). Sophomore Jeremy Teegarden (5'9" 190) will get snaps at center while junior Michael Couch (6'2" 245) and sophomore Chris Burnett (6'4" 285) will give Sweetwater quality depth along the offensive front five.

When the Wildcats offense bogs down in enemy territory, junior placekicker John Fox (5'8" 160) will get the chance to boot the field goal. Fox will also handle the punting duties for Sweetwater.

The Wildcats' defense was outstanding a year ago allowing less than 10 points per game. This year's group welcomes back five holdovers and should be good enough to keep Sweetwater in every game they play.

The defensive line will have Meier, Burton, Couch and Burnett as a solid rotation at tackle. Upton and Monroe will be the ends with sophomore Jacob Henderson (6'2" 225) pushing for playing time on the outside.

The Wildcats' linebackers feature the ability to make plays sideline to sideline with their speed. They arrive at the ball carrier with cruel intentions. On the inside, Latham is a stud with a penchant for blowing up running backs. Junior Malachi Blomstrom (5'10" 175) will line up next to Latham at inside linebacker. Freshman Nigel Holland (6'0" 190) has his coaches excited about his potential at LB. Melton and Thompson will play outside backer along with junior Josh Presley (5'9" 170).

The secondary features Jam Ferguson at cornerback, where he garnered All State honors two years ago with 13 interceptions. "The problem for Jam last season was nobody wanted to throw the ball in his direction," said Coach Rhodes. Despite that unhappy tendency, Ferguson was still able to step in and snare six "oskies" last year. The other corner should be talented freshman Nisha Smith (5'7" 165). The free safety will be Moore but his quarterback duties will require Borden to get most of the opportunities to roam freely in the defensive backfield.

With such a young team, it will be difficult for the Sweetwater Wildcats to repeat the magic of last season but Coach Rhodes and his staff will see to it that their team reaches the playoffs. Fans filling Carter Stadium King Berrong Field will enjoy excellent football as Sweetwater has returned to prominence. The Wildcats' roar is back and will remain a fierce growl for years to come.

TNPrepSports.com Prediction- 8-2

Playoff Contender- Yes

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