“I hope this doesn’t become the story. How do you move on after Markell (Hayes) and Cory (Wilson) and Tyler (McCoy) and those guys being such huge playmakers for us for such a long time?” he said. “What we’ve tried to do is let last year stand for itself. And I know the kids are hearing these things, and we’ve been in a unique situation around here.”
Doubt may be the best motivator for what is a still a veteran Garrard squad, led by quarterback Billy Abney who threw for 2,005 yards and 22 touchdowns with seven interceptions last yar and is the top returning rusher with 79 yards.
“It’s a good building block for us because it gives us that calm in the offensive huddle. Billy brings that presence, and so does Garrett (Caudill) and the line, too,” Scenters said.
It’s the line that may be the biggest boost for Garrard, as all five senior starters and the top reserve return to an offense that averaged 41¿points and 414 yards per game.
Left tackle Shae Garcia anchors the line, which includes Dylan Worley, Layne Marsee and Bradley Rector. Dakota Hisle, who started in the playoffs after Rector was injured, also returns.
“Lee Collins and David Logan and some other young kids are also doing a nice job. Thank goodness, this is the deepest we’ve been up front. We feel like we’ve got several young men that will give us depth up front,” Scenters said.
Garrard has about 19 players on the line as compared to 10 or 11 most years. They will be blocking for running backs who had a total of 135 yards last year. But Scenters said this year’s backs are just waiting their turn. Caudill will be the primary ball carrier, but junior Noah Williams and J.T. Lyons could also see a lot of touches to give the offense balance.
“This year, I can see us going back to the way it was a few years back when one running backs get five or six touches, and another gets six or seven touches and having three or four kids back there, being very balanced,” Scenters said.
The biggest question on offense is who Abney is going to throw to.
Caudill had seven catches for 88 yards and will catch the ball out of the backfield. Lane Cumby, normally a defensive back, will also move to wide receiver along with Jacob Smith and Jacob Simpson.
“Those two (Smith and Simpson) have nice size, and very good hands and we’re hoping they up and take a large part of the passing game,” Scenters said of Smith and Simpson. “And there are a host of other guys who very easily could works themselves into the mix.
“We’re hoping we can develop that big-play ability. We have hopes for Jacob¿Smith. Cumby has had a knack his while career of making big plays at big times. And he’s one that could possibly step up to be a big-play type of guy.”
Scenters said his defense was a bit unsung last season, but the Lions will be depending on the defense more this year.
“Mental toughness and mental readiness on the defensive side of the ball is something that is going to be very important for us this year,” he said. “For the most part, we’re going to hang our hat on the defense this year. Defense is going to have to be the calling card for us to achieve what we want to achieve.”
Rector, Worley, Garcia and Ronnie Saylor return along the defensive front.
Caudill is the “staple” at linebacker, and Scenters said Williams and Lyons will also get looks there, as will Dustin Keller, Saylor and Rector.
Defensive back has the most holes, but Cumby does return at one corner spot.
Scenters likes that his team will get tested early, hoping it pays off down the road for another run to the state final.
“The big thing for us is, we do have a very difficult out of district schedule. We’ve got some wrinkles we have to iron out early,” Scenters said. “We’ve always tried to play a stout out of district schedule. But the most important thing is that you are ready by the time district games roll around.