Mountain Heritage, Swain County previews
Canton - MOUNTAIN HERITAGE
Everything was humming along last fall for the Mountain Heritage Cougars. The team opened the season with a five game winning streak, and then followed their lone regular season loss with a six game win streak. It all came to a screeching halt in the second round of the play-offs with a 45-16 loss to Reidsville. The memory of that painful still sticks with Joey Robinson’s squad, mainly because so many players on his current team were there. “I think it's just a deal of our seniors leading. They've been with us for three years now and I think that leadership is going to be key to us,” said Robinson. “We're a much more mature football team this year and a lot stronger, so we hope that carries on so we can go a little deeper in the playoffs.”
The Cougars took their first test Friday night in a three-team scrimmage with Pisgah and Swain County. “They're pretty eager to see somebody besides their buddy,” smiled Robinson.
With eight starters back on offense, the Cougars expect to see a well-oiled machine, led by returning starting quarterback Trey Robinson. In addition to the signal-caller, most of the offensive line returns as well. Robinson is equally excited about the playmakers he has on the perimeter. “This is probably the most weapons we've ever had here and we're going to be able to spread the ball around a little bit more,” he shared.
On the defensive side of the ball the Cougars return six starters, including their entire secondary.
With the season less than a week away, the muggy August heat feels like another season, filled with excitement. “It's like Christmas in the mountains,” Robinson stated. “We're all ready for some Friday night football. This is what these kids work their tails off for all year.”
The Cougars open up with three of their first four games on the road. The first tilt is next Friday when the Cougars travel to Brevard.
As Neil Blankenship stared out at his team warming up Friday night, he saw a mixture of familiarity and the unknown. Blankenship said his Swain County High School squad has “’bout five” starters returning on both sides of the ball, meaning he does have experience; but it’s mixed in with untested youth. “I just want to make sure we're doing the fundamentals right and get our scheme down to make sure we're not blowing any assignments,” he explained of his expectations for the team’s first scrimmage.
The Maroon Devils will be baptized by fire according to their head coach. Aside from the scrimmage against Mountain Heritage and Pisgah, both of whom Blankenship said are “great programs,” the first regular season game sees a visit to Tuscola. “You throw them [young players] out there and hope they get better as we go,” laughed Blankenship.
Among the returning starters is quarterback Brodie Bowman, who will be entrusted to lead a unit that sees part of the offensive line returning from last year’s squad. Blankenship added that he really likes his receiving corps, but is still waiting for someone to take the lead in the running back competition.
On defense, the Maroon Devils return at least one experienced player at each level. Blankenship did not heap tons of expectations on the unit in the preseason, saying he only wanted to see them “fly around and get to the ball.”
After the Tuscola opener, Swain County hosts Smoky Mountain before hitting the road for a three game stretch.