The infusion of 12 or 13 ninth graders has Great Falls football in much better shape headed into 2017 compared to last season. The Red Devils started last year with 19 players and things spiraled downhill from there in a winless campaign. Coach John Barrett left and longtime Red Devil Scotty Steen was promoted into the top job.
Great Falls’ one-year dalliance with the spread offense didn’t suit the program’s low numbers so Steen is shifting to a pistol formation. Great Falls will have over 30 bodies to start the year with, including Trent Isenhower and Kell Brown, who will both get chances to run the offense this season at QB.
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Steen’s team needs some luck with injuries but has good size, especially in 6-foot-4 sophomore Kelton Talford and 6-foot-3 linebacker Zac Roberts, who will be used at TE in the pistol offense. The Red Devils lost speedster Aaron Rice to graduation but have sophomore Quay Bowzer, who was the only member of the track and field team that could keep up with Rice, and Gage Spinks ready to take over the ball-carrying load.
Coach: Scotty Steen, 1st year (0-0)
Assistant coaches: Mike Bradley, assistant head coach and defensive coordinator; Antonio Artis, offensive line; Walter Lamar, defensive backs; Floyd McCrory, offensive backs; Randy Worthy, wide receivers; David Rice, defensive line; Chalmers Gaither, inside linebackers; Wes Welch, outside linebackers.
Last season: 0-10
Last 5 years: 18-37, 4 playoff appearances
Playoff wins last 5 years: 1
Returning starters: 16 (9 offense, 7 defense)
Key number: 73 - The Red Devils averaged just 7.3 points per game in 2016, a figure they should improve upon this year with a more familiar offensive identity and nine returning starters.
Key returning players: Jr. QB Trent Isenhower, Sr. OL/DL Artez Blackmon, Sr. OL Cody Spires, Jr. OL/DL Dustin Smith, Soph. OL Anthony Cunningham, Sr. OL Jamie Craig, Soph. WR Kelton Talford, Soph. ATH Kell Brown, Sr. ATH Tommy Belk, Sr. TE/WR/LB Zac Roberts, Jr. WR Travis Payne, Sr. ATH Gage Spinks, Soph. RB Quay Bowzer.
Weakness: Experienced depth will still be an issue for Great Falls, though it’s in nowhere near as desperate a situation as 2016.
Strength: Steen thinks his team will be improve simply because it will be better up front, especially on the offensive line where it returns five starters. The pistol formation will allow Great Falls to do what it’s always done best - run the football - while also borrowing some of the spread ideas infused during Barrett’s year.
Coachspeak: “It’s a tremendous middle school class. Targeted them early, retaining them early, including them in everything I could. Those rising ninth graders are gonna be a big part of our team.”
August: 17 York (JV); 25 at Whitmire
September: 1 Blackville-Hilda; 8 at Ware Shoals; 15 Bye; 22 North Central; 29 at Timmonsville
October: 6 at Andrew Jackson; 13 at McBee; 20 Lamar, 27 at Lewisville
- Great Falls’ opponents won 57 percent of their games in 2016 (59-44) and include six playoff teams.