By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Berea Community Pirates lost eight seniors from last season’s team that finished with a 2-9 record and lost to Hazard in the first round of the Class A Playoffs.
But, coach Adam Coleman and the Pirates still have a bevy of returning players who saw significant playing time last season.
“We lost some numbers and experience, but we didn’t lose all our experienced players,” Coleman said. “We played probably 18-19 guys who played on regular downs, so everybody we have back got some experience at the varsity level.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the Pirates won’t be as big up front as they were last year, Coleman said, but the unit should be quicker.
“Sam Shearer will be our best lineman an both the O-line and the D-line, so we’ll depend on him a great deal,” Coleman said. “We’ve also moved two seniors, Chris and Robbie Watkins, to the O-line. They are athletic and aggressive kids who move their feet really well so we can pull them out and get them is space where they can really help us. And Joey Rister will be a key at center as well.”
Junior Kevin Reed will start at quarterback, replacing last year’s starter Deondre Tate, who has moved to wide receiver, while Corey Mowery and Jason Strong will be in the backfield.
“Kevin has done a good job. He has a good head on his shoulders and he did a good job managing the team in our scrimmage,” Coleman said. “And we feel good about Mowery and Strong carrying the ball for us.”
Tate will be counted on to lead the receiving corps for the Pirates. The former quarterback was switched to wideout to take advantage of his size and quickness, to help open up the Pirates’ offense. Jacob Stamper and C.J. Isaacs will also be counted on at receiver.
“We are not a spread team, (really), we tend to try to keep everything kind of tight,” Coleman said. “We are going to try to pull a lot of guys out into space and try to get as many blockers at the point of attack as we can to move piles and try to utilize our speed up front as much as we can to help our running game.”
Like most small Class A teams, Berea relies on most of its players playing both ways, so many of the same players will play key roles on defense as well.
Tate and Mowery will be counted on at strong safety, while Robbie Watkins and Jason Hall, the defense’s most athletic players, will anchor the cornerback spots.
“I think one of our strong suits is going to be our corners. We’re pretty good at corner with Robbie and Jason there. The safety spot is still up in the air, but Deondre and Corey will be playing some there,” Coleman said. “The linebacker spots are still up in the air, we have several players who are going to be used there”
Mowery will handle the punting chores, while Dustin Cates will be the place kicker.
One area of concern for the Pirates coaches is ball security. Last season, the Pirates committed turnovers in bunches in some games, something they have to limit if they are going to be successful this year, Coleman said.
“I think the biggest thing we have to overcome from last year is turnovers and special teams. They absolutely killed us last year,” Coleman said. “I think we are looking a little bit better in that area so far, but we’ve got to have some of our younger guys step up and be ready to be put in those positions and contribute for us in those situations.”
Overall, Coleman said he is pleased with his team as it heads into the season Friday on the road at Letcher County Central.
“The one thing I can say about our kids is that they work real well together. They are friends on and off the field and are a good bunch of kids,” Coleman said. “I think it’s going to be enjoyable and I think we will be able to overcome numbers and some of those things by just being good teammates and sticking together through adversity.”