PINEVILLE —The challenges for the Pineville Mountain Lions are obvious. They’re one of the smallest school in the state to field a football team each year and they’re locked in a district with defending state champion Hazard.
“We’re always going to be a place where numbers hurt us. We’re probably the only school in the nation that can get one out of three boys to come out and play football, but still only have 27 on the roster,” Lion coach Bart Elam said with a laugh Tuesday. “But we take pride in that, we like that at Pineville. The kids know they’ve got to play everything and be tough and fight through things that other teams don’t.”
Coming off a 4-7 season, there is plenty of reason for optimism with most of the starting skill players back as seniors. In that aspect the team is similar to the 2010 squad that went 8-4 and won the school’s first playoff game in 30 years. Running back Andrew Douglas rushed for over 1700 yards and scored 14 touchdowns as a junior in 2011. Jamie Roan is back for his second year at quarterback, Byron Asher is healthy going in to the season and returns as Pineville’s leading receiver. The Mountain Lions also got a boost over the summer when Tanner Mike transferred from Middlesboro to give the team another play-making threat at either receiver or running back.
“We do have experienced skill players. We’ve got our quarterback back, Byron is playing his natural position at receiver. We’ve got Connor Ford who was a great player for us last year back and Dougie was almost a 2,000-yard rusher,” Elam said. “The addition of Tanner Mike helps a lot, obviously. We’ve got a lot of things to be thankful for.”
The coach added that the team is anxious to scrimmage against Middlesboro Friday as part of the SEKC Grid-O-Rama at Bell County.
“We’ve been practicing hard and things are going smooth, but this point you really don’t know what you need to work on or where you need to improve because we haven’t had any scrimmages,” said Elam. “We’re looking forward to Friday night — I know we won’t get a whole lot of work in, but just to get in a few series and see what we’ve got and what we don’t.”
He said there haven’t been a lot of surprises during preseason workouts since most of the skill players bring plenty of experience.
“We pretty much knew what we had going in to this year. We’ve had a real good freshman class come up and get competitive so we’ve got some kids there who can give us minutes,” he said. “We’re happy about where we are.”
Pineville kicks off the regular season on Aug. 17 with the Laurel Bowl at home against 5A North Laurel.