Coach: Kyle Richardson, fifth year
Career record: 44-12
Last year: 9-4 overall, 5-1 Region 3-4A; lost to Byrnes 37-36 in second round of Big 16 state playoffs
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Assistant (position) coaches: David Pierce, defensive line; Robert Hellams, offensive coordinator/offensive line; James Martin, defensive coordinator/linebackers; Mitch Walters, special teams coordinator/running backs; Bobby Page, defensive backs; Page Wofford, wide receivers; Mo Dickson, wide receivers; Ray McCleod, linebackers; Benjie Young, defensive backs; John Barrett, defensive ends/tight ends.
Returning starters: 6 offense, 6 defense
Twitter account: @NHSTrojansFB
Key players: Sr. WR Julian Shockley, Sr. C Damontre Buckner, Sr. DE Trae’von Hinton, Sr. LB Dachon Witherspoon, Jr. RB Jerry Howard, Sr. DT Jamah Mitchell, Sr. OL Yari Wright, Jr. DE/TE Logan Rudolph, Sr. WR Cory McCoy, Sr. WR Grant Kirk, Sr. WR Kirk Clayton, Jr. DB/ATH Ali Shockley, Sr. DB Myles Corpening, Soph. OL Josiah Ivey.
Nine wins might seem sort of disappointing for Kyle Richardson and the Northwestern Trojans, who have become accustomed to 10-win seasons, if not state title games. But to win nine last season, Richardson and company had to shift on the fly and battle all the way to the second round of the playoffs, before losing to Byrnes in OT.
This year’s group has more talent, depth and size, but less leadership and star power.
The Trojans are replacing four of five offensive line starters, and the fifth, Damontre Buckson, has moved to center. Still, at least three of the candidates to take over starting gigs saw playing time last season, so they’re not completely green. And with two powerful backs behind them in Jerry Howard and Daquez Harris, the O-line’s job should be a little bit easier.
“We’re a work in progress there,” said Richardson. “Could we line up and run the football successfully? Yeah, we feel good about Jerry and ‘Quez in the backfield, a good 1-2 punch, but at the same time we’ve got to be able to spread people out and throw the football. I don’t know how good we’re gonna be at either one of those factors.”
Defensive ends Trae’von Hinton and Logan Rudolph – who will focus a little more on defense this year – could be one of the best pairs in the state. With Jamah Mitchell plugging the middle of the D-line and a strong and deep linebacker corps, the Trojan defense should be very strong up front. Junior Ali Shockley and senior transfer Miles Corpening give Northwestern’s defense a pair of college football-bound erasers in the secondary.
If the Trojans can find go-to offensive players, and ones that regardless of position will speak up or lead by example when necessary, they could be in for a special year.
Aug. 21 at Byrnes
Aug. 28 Woodside (Va.)
Sept. 4 at Irmo
Sept. 11 Greenwood
Sept. 18 at South Pointe
Sept. 25 Fort Mill*
Oct. 2 at York*
Oct. 9 Open
Oct. 16 at Clover*
Oct. 23 Nation Ford*
Oct. 30 at Rock Hill*
Nov. 6 Gaffney*
*Region 3-4A game
Opponents’ 2014 records: 75-61 (.551 winning percentage)