First-year coach John Barrett is confronting Great Falls football’s thin roster with a combination of defiance and humor. What else is there to do?
With less than 20 players, it could be a tough season for the Red Devils, especially playing in Region 2-A with heavyweights Lamar and McBee and an improved Lewisville. The non-region schedule looks a bit easier this fall, with non-traditional schools like New Covenant and the Carolina Wildcats, out of Anderson, on the slate along with Blackville-Hilda, Whitmire and Ware Shoals, all schools with small rosters of their own.
Barrett - the former head man at York, Clover and briefly Westminster Catawba - brought some new ideas with him to Great Falls, including a hybrid form of the Air Raid offense, a big shift from the school’s traditional double-wing. The Red Devils will run four and five wide receiver-sets, giving junior QB Connor Henson plenty of passing targets.
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Speedy senior Aaron Rice could be a featured offensive player; he finished fourth in the state last spring in the 100 meters and will start at running back in what will most often be a one-back scheme.
Seniors John Hall and Shann Roberts and juniors Zack Roberts and Tommy Belk, a first-year player, figure to contribute at receiver. Junior Gage Spinks and a pair of freshmen, Kell Brown and Kelton Talford, will also play on the flanks. All of the Great Falls skill players will play defense too, either at linebacker or in the secondary.
Likewise for the linemen. Barrett has nine of them, including seniors ZyKevious McIlwain, Corey Roof and Luke Spires.
Cross-training players will be one way for the Red Devils to combat their lack of depth. This year’s players - “We’ve got some really good young men,” said Barrett - will be familiar with several positions in case they’re called in to duty at a certain spot.
Returning starters: 5 offense, 5 defense
Key returning players: Jr. QB Connor Henson; Sr. RB/WR Aaron Rice; Sr. WR/K John Hall; Sr. OL/DL Corey Roof; Sr. OL/DL ZyKevious McIlwain; Sr. OL/DL Luke Spires; Soph. LB/RB Trent Isenhower; Jr. OL/DL Artez Blackmon; Sr. WR/LB Shann Roberts; Jr. WR/DB Zac Roberts; Jr. WR/DB Tommy Belk.
Coach John Barrett (1st year at Great Falls)
Career record 11-31
Assistant coaching staff Scotty Steen, assistant head coach/offensive line; Mike Bradley, defensive coordinator/linebackers; Antonio Artis, defensive line; Taylor McSwain, receivers coach; Walter Lamar, secondary; Quinton Lamar, head middle school coach; Terrell Hutchison, middle school coach.
Last season 1-10
Last 10 years combined 61-55 (52.5 percent)
School state championships 2 (1934, 1991)
August 19 New Covenant; 26 Whitmire*
September 2 at Blackville-Hilda*; 9 Ware Shoals; 16 at Carolina Wildcats; 23 at North Central; 30 Timmonsville*
October 7 Open; 14 McBee*; 21 at Lamar*; 28 Lewisville*
▪ Great Falls’ opponents won 43 percent of their games last season; star denotes 2015 playoff team; cursive denotes Region 2-A opponent
Numbers to know
1999 the last season Great Falls played football with a head coach not named Kenneth Schofield.
19 players turned out for the Red Devils squad this fall.
10.77 seconds for Aaron Rice to run the 100-meter dash last May at the 1A track and field state championship. Rice finished fourth; his speed should make him a game-changer for the Red Devils this fall.
25 years since Danny Sawyer led the 1991 Great Falls Red Devils to a 15-0 season and a 1A state championship.
1 win for the Red Devils in the last six meetings with rival Lewisville.