HEAD COACH: Jimmy Rieves (4th season)
2002 RECORD: 6-3 reg. season; lost 1 game in playoffs
RETURNING STARTERS: Off 9, Def 5
PRE-SEASON RANK (NJCAA): #17
2003 OUTLOOK: "I believe we've got 36 guys coming back who played (last year)," said Rieves. The strength of Kilgore's balanced offense is at wide receiver and on the offensive line where nearly everyone returns.
The offensive player to watch is wide receiver Tonae Martin (6-3, 210). He's a pre-season NJCAA All-American, who is very tall and physical with good speed for his size. "Martin had five catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns in our spring game," said Rieves.
It's too early to tell who will replace graduated Jim Alford at quarterback. One sophomore and three freshmen are competing for the starting nod right now. Carlos Cavanaugh (6-2, 190) is the lone sophomore and moved over from wide receiver in the spring. He'll battle freshmen Cole Kristynik (6-0, 220), Bill Nersesta (6-2, 230), and Nick Burns (6-2, 195).
Whoever wins the job will have a solid line in front of him, led by offensive guard Mike Crossley (6-1, 305). He's got excellent football smarts, is fast, and has tremendous feet. Crossley started a handful of contests last season.
A majority of the team's points may be put on the board by another pre-season NJCAA All-American placekicker, Billy Brubaker, who has excellent range and accuracy.
If defense wins championships then Kilgore has a shot. "This is maybe the best defensive line I've had. There are two returning tackles: Byron Smith (6-2, 280), a pre-season All-American, and Quency Darley (6-2, 260) played in every game last year," said Rieves. Appalachian State signed Darley out of Manning High School in South Carolina but he failed to qualify. Both defensive tackles are being heavily recruited by D1 programs.
Playing behind the line is a sturdy corps of linebackers, which includes Jerrick Clark (5-10, 220) and Noah Hutchinson (6-0, 215). The former started three games last season while Hutchinson had a terrific spring. Rieves is also expecting great things from Broderick Cross.
Kilgore's secondary should be tough and is anchored by cornerback Diamond Byrd (5-10, 180) and safety James Shedd, both of whom played extensively in 2002.
FIRST GAME: E Texas Baptist JV @ Kilgore on Aug. 30 (7:00 p.m.)