SPENCER - It's a new year for the Roane County football team and the Raiders are ready to set sail on what they hope is another run at the Class AA playoffs, which is where they've been every season since 2006 aside from a one-year hiatus in 2008.
Although ex-quarterback Hunter Bradley is now leading the offense at Wahama, the Raiders are completely focused on the upcoming campaign and know they are in the more than capable hands of junior signal-caller Cody May.
"Cody May knows what he is doing," said Raider junior left guard Alex Ashley. "He reads the field real well. He knows the plays and knows what to do with the ball and how to get it into the end zone."
Photo by Jay W. Bennett
Roane County juniors, from left, Caije Nichols, Steven McGinnis, Cody May and Alex Ashley, are expected to be big contributors for the Raider football team this season.
May spent last year as a running back and also as a quarterback, but now he has control of the offense all to himself.
"I'm ready. Of course, Hunter left but I feel like I'm ready and perfectly capable of playing the position," May stated. "I've worked on it a bunch in the offseason. I'm strong and I'm faster and ready for the job.
"We've made it to the playoffs and that hasn't been a problem for us. We'd like to advance as far as we can. We just have to take them one game at a time and win them as we go."
Roane County, which features second team all-state senior wideout Tyler King, opens with three road games before coming home to County Stadium.
Last year, the Raiders went 6-4 in the regular season then bowed out of the playoffs with an opening round loss at Bluefield.
"I've got a good feeling about this year," said wideout Steven McGinnis, who is looking to have a breakout season. "I think (head) coach (Paul Burdette) is looking for me to be more of a leader this year being a junior and a returning letterman. I feel a lot more confident this year coming in.
"I've worked with Tyler King on my hands. That was the big question last year with me. We worked a lot on that, catching tennis balls and all kinds of stuff."
Even though McGinnis has another season left, he understands there's plenty of talent this year to make some noise.
"The first key is definitely staying healthy because we had a lot of injuries last year and not giving up no matter how bad the situation might get," he said.
May added that "the majority of our starters are juniors, but we've got some good senior guys playing too. I feel like we've got good senior leadership.
"Our expectations are always high and we are going to keep them that way and perform to the level we are capable of playing."
Ashley added the biggest key in his mind is "to stay one and stay cohesive. We got to be the one unit with the one goal to get to Wheeling Island."
Obviously, every team has that goal of playing for a state championship and junior left tackle Caije Nichols understands that more than anyone. At the same time, he also knows there are a lot of obstacles to get through and it's a long journey ahead.
"Playoffs, we're coming again. It's happening," he said. "We can pretty much draw our own luck. That's kind of how I'm feeling about it right now.
"I don't want to count the chickens before they hatch, but it's looking pretty good. It's going to be a good season. I can feel it."
No matter how the Raiders fare this year, Nichols also realizes injuries can be devastating and it would've been much to Roane County's benefit to have a larger roster size than 32.
"You go down and walk through the school and you see 6-foot kids and 250 and you think why don't they come out and play," Nichols said. "But, it's just kids don't have the drive anymore. They can go home and sit in the air conditioning and play Xbox and all that kind of stuff or some people, you know, they work.
"Like some seniors go out and get a job and help pay for whatever they need. You would think you're only out here four months out of the whole year, you can do that stuff (games) any other time. There is a lot of talent walking down there in the school, and yes we're only a double-A, but there's a lot of talent walking around down there."