PINEVILLE — The 2012 Mountain Lions have all the ingredients to be a sleeper in District 6-1A, coach Bart Elam says it just a matter of getting the players to come together as a team.
“I think across the board we might be faster as a whole team than we were a couple years ago. What we’ve got to do now is get them to mesh like that team meshed,” the coach said. “With this bunch the main key of being a good football team will be how well we mesh and become a team throughout the long haul.
“Obviously, we’re not overstocked with talent and we’re never going to be but we do have some talented guys. We don’t have any absolute blazers anywhere, but we’re pretty fast at every position.”
On paper at least, this Pineville team has a lot more in common with the 2010 team that went 8-4 than last year’s 4-7 squad. They have returning starters at just about every skill position and a solid group of seven seniors to provide leadership.
One thing that figures to be the same as last year is the sight of bruising running back Andrew Douglas leading the Lion’s rushing game. Douglas ran for nearly 1800 yards and scored 11 touchdowns as a junior.
“He’s a big kid, probably the heaviest tailback on this side of the state, but he carries it well. He’s not a finesse runner, he’s more of a fullback in a tailback type position but we like him that way,” Elam said. “He’s really excited about building off what he did last year. He had shoulder surgery over the off season and that’s made him even more hungry to get back into it.”
The Lions base formation remains the spread with Douglas lining up the backfield with senior quarterback Jamie Roan. Senior Tanner Mike, a transfer from Middlesboro, will start at the X receiver with junior Conner Ford returning as a starter a the H. Seniors Byron Asher and Kyle Capps round out the receiving corps at the Y and Z, respectively. Jared Philpot and Dalton Ledbetter are the primary subs at the skill positions.
Pineville has also shown some I-formation looks the past couple of seasons and a few times in last week’s scrimmage Ford lined up as the tailback with Douglas at fullback. Ford also serves as the primary backup quarterback with Mike also getting some looks in a wildcat package.
“We’ve always been multiple in our sets. One week we might be run heavy and then we might be pass heavy the next. With the spread offense — even the last couple of years when we’ve been run heavy — we take what the defense gives us and that’s the way we still are,” Elam said.
Senior Jacob McGeorge anchors the offensive line at left guard with juniors Matt Hubbard (right tackle) and Jesse Patterson (right guard) also returning as starters. Junior John Robbins also saw plenty of time last year when Hubbard was forced to play tight end and enters as the starting left tackle. Junior Ryan Miller is the center and Tyler Evans is the primary sub along the O-line.
On the defensive side of the ball the Lions employ a 3-5 scheme with McGeorge, Patterson and Evans starting along the line. Asher, Ford, Douglas, Hubbard and Ledbetter provide a nice blend of size and speed at the linebacker positions with Capps, Philpot and Roan making up the secondary.
Pineville opens up the season Friday at home against 5A North Laurel in the Laurel Bowl. Next up is a trip to 3A McCreary Central on Aug. 24, then a meeting with Williamsburg at Bell County for the City/County Bowl. The Lions have home games against Lynn Camp (Sept. 7) and Paintsville (Sept. 21) around their Sept. 14 open date and close out the month at Allen Central.
With October comes district play and the Lions are at Jenkins on the 5th and at Harlan on the 12th. Defending Class A state champion Hazard comes to Pineville on Oct. 19 and the Lions close out the regular season on Oct. 26 at home against Leslie County.
Elam says the Lions are focused on the opener against North Laurel on Friday and adds that Pineville found itself with few choices for an opponent after their successful 2010 season.
“We play them because everybody dropped us after we had a good season. You know at Pineville you never get to play a down week, when you’re as small as we are you have to fight and scrap for every win you can get. We started having a little success and the Bereas and Jackson Counties dropped us,” he said. North Laurel is a good test, win or lose week zero with that type of game you just want to get better and see what you’ve got. It’s a good measuring stick for us. And if you can sneak up and beat a big school like that it’s really huge for your season.”
Friday’s kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.