BLEDSOE COUNTY WARRIORS
Head coach: Dewayne Tabor (31-14 here and overall)
Returning starters: 6 offensive; 6 defensive
Last year's record: 7-5, lost in TSSAA Class 2A second round
Key players: Jace Rains (6-2, 235) Sr. TE/DE, Nathan Sandell (5-9, 170) Sr. LB, Sam Agee (5-10, 210) Sr. RB/LB, Caymen Siever (6-0, 170) Jr. RB/DB, Jonathan Thomas (5-9, 190) Jr. RB, Damen Robeck (6-0, 212) Jr. OL/LB, Zach Bruggner (6-3, 225) Jr. OL/DE, Jake Agee (6-1, 230) Jr. OL/DL.
Season outlook: There is plenty of newness around the Warriors.
They will compete in a new region (2-2A), and all but 14 of the 40 players on the roster are freshmen and sophomores. Of that total, nine will either start or receive plenty of playing time.
"There's been a lot of talk around the players we lost, so I believe the younger guys who've waited their turn have a chip on their shoulder and want to prove themselves," Tabor said. "We've got to stay healthy because we are relying on a lot of guys to play both ways, but the key for us this year will be how fast those younger guys mature on the field."
Mingled in with the youth movement is a small but important group of eight seniors, including three — Rains, Sandell and Siever — who are three-year starters and were part of Bledsoe's region title team as freshmen.
Oneida, Polk County, Tellico Plains, Wartburg and York Institute are also in the new region, which is not as loaded with perennial playoff powerhouses as the previous one in which Bledsoe played; that league included Marion County, Meigs County and Tyner.
Although York reached the state semifinals last year, the Dragons graduated a lot of talent, while Oneida, Tellico Plains and Wartburg each lost seven games in 2022.
Contact Stephen Hargis at [email protected].