A 36-26 win over Mason County on Oct. 26, 2018 may seem like eons ago to some, but Lewis County coach Josh Hughes hopes it’s fresh on the Lions’ minds.
The victory cemented a 3-7 mark and they didn’t crack into the postseason.
“I feel like we were a couple pieces here and there away,” Hughes said. “I felt like we were more competitive than our record showed. We’ve just gotta get some of the right people in place.”
While Lewis County has struggled to field more than two 11-man teams in some preseason practices, Hughes is leaning on the old quality-over-quantity adage.
“Speed is a strength for us,” said the 12th-year head coach. “We’ve got more kids that can run than we normally have.”
The colossal concern is the Lions’ extreme lack of enormity on the front lines.
David Keen, Dalton Fry and Hughes all expressed apprehension regarding protection in the trenches.
“I think our offense and defense is going to be solid this year, but we really don’t have a big line,” Keen said. “I don’t think we’ll get as many passes off unless we get a bigger line.”
Hughes knows he can’t physically balloon his blockers up front, but he sees potential if they’re tough enough.
Connor Kidwell, Zared Lewis, Braxton Smith, Tucker Madden and Brandon Smith figure to see time on the O-line. Sam Bunch will as well. Of that group, Bunch is the lone senior. Lewis and Kidwell bring back some experience.
Moses Jackson is an athletic quarterback who replaces the graduated Zach Lehn. Dylan Hardy will back up Jackson. Fry is capable of handling snaps, too.
Fry and Keen are wingbacks. Keen has moved from wideout to wing “as a way to get him the ball more,” Hughes said.
Ethan Sizemore, Ashton Evans, Morgan Steadman and Isaiah Hamm will fulfill skill spots.
Most of the Lions are expected to play two ways — only 35 players are listed on the roster.
Wes Fogle may be an exception. The freshman defensive tackle “was extremely hard to block under the lights” during preseason camp, according to Hughes.
Evans, Madden and Fry will likely complete the D-line.
Hughes labeled Hamm the most improved player from last season to this year. He, Steadman, Jackson, Sizemore and Austin Howard will comprise a good portion of the linebacking corps. Fry will rotate in there, too.
“Dalton’s playing every spot,” Hughes said with a grin.
Fry isn’t picky.
“I like linebacker, but I like end, too, because I don’t have any specific job,” Fry said.
In the secondary will be Izaia Burns, Peyton Spencer, Jackson, Keen and, at times, Fry. Hughes said Keen will make a lot of calls from the safety spot.
The Keen brothers — David and Jordan — will play pivotal roles in the special-teams unit.
“David is probably our best kicker, but he’s probably going to have to snap punts,” Hughes said. Jordan Keen is the punter.
Lewis County is in a district alongside Fleming County, Mason County, Pendleton County and Powell County.
“It’s odd to say our non-district schedule includes East, West and Bath,” Hughes said of the Carter County schools and the Wildcats. The Lions will also take on Fairview, Nicholas County and Rowan County.
“I think we have the potential to have a good team,” Fry said. “It’s just about trusting each other and knowing that the person next to you is going to do his job as much as you’re going to do yours.”