White County had many talented players on the roster last season. That doesn’t always mean all the pieces fall into place. The Warriors were snake-bit by misfortune, which kept them to a grand total of 3 wins. Nonetheless, these guys made the playoffs before falling at Pickens in the first round. Coach Tim Cokely and his 2019 cast will seek more cohesion and consistency this time around.
7 Things To Know About the Warriors
1. Big Ben is Back Again
Two years ago, a young, inexperienced freshman was named starter of the Warriors football team. No one regrets that decision. Even in that first year, J Ben Haynes showed signs of promise. He grew physically and intellectually in the 2018 sophomore season, and no doubt has done so again prior to 2019. Look for Haynes to have a breakout year, showcasing both his arm and his feet, and being more accurate in his passing game.
2. Haynes-Turner Combo Will Be Lethal
Wonder how many times we’ll see the connection of J Ben Haynes to Cooper Turner? As early as last season’s scrimmage, we say that combo hook up for a TD. It became more frequent throughout last season to see that pair connect for short and long gains, and ones that went the distance. We anticipate even more action between the two this year.
3. 3rd Time’s a Charm
Prior to 2001, White County had NEVER made the state playoffs. After making it in 2001, and again in 2007, the Warriors have now made state six times in the past nine seasons. That’s habitual. White County did so from 2012-14 (three straight), and are looking to do the same this year. That would be just the second time in school history that White County makes the postseason three straight times.
4. Who’s Got Next?
The Warriors were dealt a HUGE blow with the loss of Michael Mintz and Jay Lepkoske on defense. That duo was crucial to the defensive unit, as was Kurtis Havlen, who is also gone. The real question is who will step up on that side of the ball. We pick Cory Ezzard (2 Sacks last season) as a breakout star entering his senior year. Greg Wimer and Jared Jullian also will be huge for that unit.
5. Jullian, Sampson, Wimer Looking to Fill Void
Based on what was lost last season (see above), the load will fall on many guys, but ones who really stick out include Jared Jullian, Greg Wimer, and Will Sampson. That trio of seniors will be counted on for leadership in more ways than one. They will need to be the vocal leaders, and set the tone on and off the field for this team to be successful.
6. Takeaways Are Key
Most playoff teams have a plus turnover ratio. That will be critical for this team as well. Last year, the Warriors picked off 5 passes and forced 8 fumbles. That’s really good! Most of the guys creating that kind of havoc are back in 2019. If the Warriors can keep this wrinkle in the forefront of the game plan, watch out!
7. Who Shines on Special Teams?
No doubt something White County has also focused on is special teams. Placekicker/punter Grayson Clark is gone from last season (30 kick points, 23 punts). Of the 613 kick/punt return yards for the Warriors, 527 yards of that has to be replaced. The likely candidates include J Ben Haynes and/or Jesse Thomas to punt (18 combined punts last year), and Thomas, Riley Stancil, and Jullian for kick/punt return duties (educated guess).