ROSBORO -- Centerpoint lost a third of its players from a team that went 6-5 a year ago, but head coach Cary Rogers feels that he has plenty of experience returning, including sophomores from a junior high team that went 7-2 last season.
While the Knights lost three of their top offensive producers in quarterback Owen Bright, leading rusher Blake Crawford and leading receiver Michael Bright, senior Landon Way returns, despite being limited last season due to injuries. Way averaged over 10 yards per carry with 34 rushes for 342 yards and six touchdowns a year ago.
"His yards per carry were high," Rogers said. "He just only got to play probably about four games. We look for him to touch the ball a lot. He is a good solid football player. He's our fastest kid we've ever had, so look for him to get it a bunch."
Rogers will rely on several young players to fill in the gaps left by the 11 total starters he lost from last year, including at quarterback. Sophomores Josh Lawson and Dylan Fox both took snaps during the summer with neither having earned the starting position outright in early August.
The offensive line will likely run by committee with multiple players slipping into the starting five. Among those are seniors Jonathan Daniel and Tad Green, junior Jacob Huffman and sophomores Garrett Alexander, James Mitchell, Jason Garrison, Gavan Angel, Dalton Kerberskey and Jackson Barksdale.
Joining Way in the backfield will be juniors Louis Lozano and Houston Way and sophomore Dathan Vaught. Lozano had 22 carries for 88 yards.
Gabe Doster returns for his senior campaign to lead the receivers corps that will also consist of classmate Rance Turner and sophomores C.J. Fox and Kaden Owens. Doster had 11 catches for 176 yards and two touchdowns last season.
Junior Kaden Horn and sophomore Hayden Rogers will split time at tight end.
The Knights averaged just under 170 rushing yards per game while putting up an average of 254.6 yards of total offense.
The Knights will be looking to create congestion up front on defense with a 5-2 front, with many of the players from the offensive line pool securing the first line of defense along with returning junior nose guard Blake Sorrells. Sorrells had 11 tackles, one for a loss, with one sack and one forced fumble.
Lozano, Dylan Fox and Houston Way will all see time at defensive end.
Senior Hayden Boyett and sophomores Dathan Vaught, Mitchell and Angel line up in the defensive backfield with Landon Way and Rogers, along with the receivers corps, securing the secondary.
Boyett led the Knights' defense last season with 55 tackles, four for a loss, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Way had 42 tackles, including one for a loss.
"We do have quite a bit of experience there," Rogers said. "Rance Turner started at cornerback. Landon has been a starting safety. Gabe Doster has started some at corner.
"The other three kids -- Fox, Owens and Rogers -- were in the junior high secondary last year on that pretty good team, so we feel like pass coverage may be one of our strengths this year. We don't often get to say that. We've got a pretty good secondary."
Lozano and Rogers battle for kicking duties. The junior kicked for the senior Knights last season while the sophomore had the kicking duties for the junior high squad a year ago. Lozano was 19 for 28 on field goals last season.
C.J. Fox will be taking on the punting duties.
Landon Way will again take on the return duties. Although limited to just a handful of games last season due to an ankle injury, he had two big punishing returns for the Knights. Way had three punt returns for 43 yards and 14 kickoff returns for 279 yards last season.
"He had an ankle sprain that just wouldn't heal," Rogers explained. "He played three full games and then sat out a couple and tried to come back. He'd make it a quarter or two, and the game stress -- he just couldn't get back. We've got to keep him healthy."
The Knights have no easy conference in the 3A-5 with three members reaching last year's Class 3A quarterfinals and Prescott falling by three in the semifinals to the eventual state champion.
"It's loaded," Rogers said. "If you look at Hooten's, our conference features two of the top three or four teams in the state and three in the top 10. Prescott, Smackover and [Camden] Harmony Grove are loaded.
"We feel like we're closing the gap on some of them and not sure when exactly we're going to get there, but we intend to contend for our conference championship, district championship every year. But it is loaded. Our district is loaded as we found out in the past. We finished third or fourth and gone on to win some playoff games. You can be second, third, fourth in our district be pretty good. Those top teams they're they're pretty talented this year."
The Knights open their season against 4A-7 opponent Haskell Harmony Grove on the road Aug. 30 before hosting 2A teams Murfreesboro in Week 1 and Mountain Pine in Week 3 at Diamond Bank Stadium. They then open their conference schedule on the road at Smackover and Fouke before hosting Genoa Central and Camden Harmony Grove.
Bismarck will host the contest for the Hammer Down Trophy on Oct. 25 with the Knights visiting Horatio on Nov. 1 before hosting senior night on Nov. 7 against Prescott.
Sports on 08/30/2019