HANCEVILLE, Ala. – After posting a 3-7 record with three wins on the road in 2019, the Hanceville Bulldogs are making the move from Class 3A to 4A this fall and have a new host of challenges to prepare for. With experienced names like Bo Joles, Zach Campbell, Logan Guthery, Karsen Wilbanks and others returning to the field this season, Bulldogs Head Coach Cody McCain feels optimistic about the year his team can have.
McCain says his players have done a good job of rolling with the unorthodox summer and preseason periods but admits they’re dealing with some unusual circumstances leading up to the first game.
“It’s been an unknown because we’re going through things that we’ve never really experienced before as far as the coaches and the players go. We have all the different requirements we have to do and the safety precautions we’re going through but I think the kids have responded really well to what we’re doing,” McCain said. “Normally that first week of practice is the first week that school starts back so it’s kind of your last chance to recruit kids to come out. That kind of leaves an unknown there since we don’t start school until the 20th which is also the date of our first game.”
Hanceville’s numbers are a little down from where McCain would like them, due in large part to the lack of spring training and the delayed opening of schools, but he’s just happy to see his guys get the chance to play, compete and maybe tune out the rest of what’s going for a few hours on Friday nights.
“We’re playing with the kids that we were already working out with us and everything, so our numbers are down a little bit from where I’d like them to be, especially moving into 4A. I know Some coaches at other places are experiencing the same thing so that’ll be an issue we’ll deal with, but I think sports and playing competitively kids the kids a chance to be kids,” McCain said. “With a lot of the things going on these past six months, they haven’t really had that opportunity. So, if we can do this thing and do it safely, we definitely want to give the kids a chance to go play.”
The Bulldogs found out after reclassification that they would be ramping up into Class 4A this year and while McCain knows the competition is about to get a little tougher, he and his players are excited to get the ball rolling against whoever they need to play.
“We really haven’t talked about it a lot with the kids. We talked about it when we first got that word and basically that speech was that we’re moving up, nobody is going to feel sorry for us, nobody is going to take it easy on us because we’re a smaller 4A school, we have to go out and play the teams on the schedule. The kids have approached it that way and I don’t want to use a cliché and just say we’re taking it one game at a time but we’ve really had our focus on playing Vinemont that first game and then working our way through the schedule,” McCain said. “I think obviously at the top of our region with Etowah and Oneonta we have a challenge that’s probably a little tougher than what we’ve seen the past few years but with that, two of the other better teams in our region are Good Hope and Fultondale and those are teams we’ve been playing the last two years anyway so the kids are familiar with those schools and know what we’re getting into with them. I felt like we were much more competitive with both of them last year, so I feel like we’ll be ok.”
Roster numbers may be a little down for the Bulldogs this season but that doesn’t mean they lack experience. Nearly all of this year’s projected starters have some varsity game experience under their belts and that will be invaluable for them as they prepare to move into 4A competition.
“There is a positive to having a smaller roster and that is that everyone we have penciled into a starting role right now has a lot of varsity playing experience with the exception of one guy. I think we’ve got one freshman that will probably end up starting on offense but everybody else has got a lot of game experience,” McCain said. “If you look at everyone’s roster in 4A they’ll probably have somewhere between 40 and 50 players but if you really look at those numbers, those teams are only playing 21 or 22 of those guys on the field. There are a lot of guys on the sidelines and I do feel like we have 18-20 guys that can contribute right away so I don’t feel like we’re too far behind other people in that regard. Bo (Joles) has starts all the way back to his freshman year, guys like Karson (Wilbanks) and Logan Guthery have started since I’ve been here so they’re going on their third year as starters. Zach (Campbell) got a whole season of playing experience last year, four out of our five linemen are experienced so that it is beneficial.”
Returning standouts Bo Joles and Zach Campbell both played a healthy number of snaps under center last season and the goal for McCain this fall is to get them both on the field together.
“We really hope that Bo settles in and our plan is for him to be the quarterback right now and the main reason is number one, he’s a senior and number two, our offense can be a lot more versatile if we move Zach around. Our vision for him is to kind of play a Reggie Bush/Christian McCaffrey role for us. We feel like he can play running back, he can play slot receiver, he can take snaps at quarterback, we feel like we can put him in a lot of different areas where he can hopefully take advantage of some mismatches somewhere,” McCain said. “Bo is a good athlete and he’s a good downhill runner, but I think it would allow us to do more things if he can play quarterback. Zach is our next guy in line and he’s a sophomore so he’ll have two years after this year and if something were to happen to Bo then I would have 100% confidence in Zach stepping in.”
Everyone, especially spring sport athletes, now know all too well that your season can vanish overnight. With that added perspective going into the 2020 season, McCain and his staff are excited for their seniors to get this chance to play and hopefully, finish a season.
“The biggest concern I have is just depth. As the season goes on we can’t afford to get anybody hurt and right now you really can’t afford to get anyone sick because that’s basically an automatic two weeks right now so I think there will be some unique challenges along the way but really this year should be more about, ‘How many games can we play and how can we do this for the kids?’,” McCain said. “I overheard a couple of our seniors talking and they were saying, ‘This is our last year and we just want to play’. We hope that we go 10-0 but if we don’t, we just want to play, and I feel for them. Going back to the spring, you had baseball players, softball players, track people, golfers and all of them that lost their senior year because the season got cut off and everybody’s always working to develop for that senior year to go out and have a really good senior year so I would really hate for them to not get that opportunity to play it.”
The Hanceville Bulldogs will open the 2020 season on the road against Vinemont Thursday night.
2020 Hanceville Football Schedule
8/20: @ Vinemont
9/11: @ Dora*
9/18: Good Hope*
9/25: Locust Fork
10/2: @ Oneonta*
10/16: @ Ashville*
10/30: @ Elkmont
2020 Hanceville Football Roster
#1 Barrett Hardin
#2 Dylan Twilley
#3 Zach Campbell
#4 Tyler Hughes
#5 Logan Oren
#6 Keiton Whatley
#7 Brandon Huckaby
#8 Logan Guthery
#10 Brosnan Ward
#14 Trevor Shadden
#15 Bo Joles
#21 Logan Quick
#23 Karsen Wilbanks
#24 Preston McDonald
#28 Connor Pitts
#30 Colton Buckelew
#32 Preston McClerren
#42 Brady Cleek
#54 L.J. Smith
#55 Bear Busby
# 56 Gio Bautista
#58 Caleb Stephens
#60 LaMandre Williams
#64 Kelson Moore
#75 Marvin Gonzalez
#76 David Bailey
#77 Noah Dauszka
#78 Kendrick Johnson
2020 Hanceville varsity cheerleaders
Janiya Burnett-co captain
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