The Bottom Line
By Bill Nestor
The 2016 football season is just around the corner and the excitement can be felt throughout Shinnston. The Cougars want to build upon last season’s early success en route to a playoff appearance.
A vast majority of last year’s quick start can be attributed to Lincoln Head Coach Rob Hawkins and his staff. The attention to detail and the preseason preparation were vital in capturing both wins and momentum. The extra effort paid huge dividends for this program and the confidence that came from those victories have carried over to this preseason.
An easy way for a coach to get younger players and even newcomers to a program to buy into what they want done on the field is to point to the record book. Wins speak for themselves and are a motivator to any team oriented player. With fourteen sophomores and freshman on a roster of 36 total players, it’s important to have belief in the system.
The stats also do their fair share of talking, especially the ones that center around the passing attack and junior signal caller, Kobie Carpenter. Carpenter, a dual threat quarterback threw for 2,069 yards and 20 touchdowns a year ago. His two favorite targets are back in seniors Chase Riley and Anthony Kellar. The duo combined for 81 receptions, 1,346 yards, and 15 scores.
Also returning is last season’s rushing leader Hunter Moore. Moore, a sophomore, rushed for 451 yards in a part time role and looks to be the main running back heading into this campaign.
Leadership is pivotal for any squad’s success and that is no different in ‘Cougar Country” and Hawkins knows that experience is on his side. “We are a very veteran team with sixteen of twenty-two starters back.”
That is great news for this group but wait; it just gets better as two players return for their senior seasons after missing last year due to injury. Brandon Weaver and Anthony Tate are back in the program and will be counted on for hefty contributions. Their return has given this talented squad a shot in the arm and they have helped to elevate the level of excitement surrounding this year’s edition. This has provided immediate results in camp and the level of competition has grown to game like conditions.
Hawkins and company find themselves, for a second consecutive year, way ahead of the curve which puts them in prime position to repeat last years early hot streak. “We started very fast last year. We opened up playing very well and we are hoping to get off to the same kind of start again” explained Hawkins.
The Cougars will have to work most of their early season magic on the road to start as their schedule shows three of their first four outings will be on the road.
They open up at Braxton County before heading home to host Philip Barbour. A trip to Liberty followed by a venture at East Fairmont finish the first segment of the schedule. Two new editions ratchet up the strength of schedule as Bridgeport comes to town followed by a road trip to Lewis County. It’s no easy task to put a team in playoff contention with this difficult of a start but if anyone can pull it off, Hawkins can.
That will do it for now. Until next week…take care and God Bless!