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Itâ€™s been five years since Highland played for a Six-Man (now Class 1A) state championship. But it probably feels like an eternity to Hornet fans because Highland hasnâ€™t been back to the playoffs since.
New coach Kyle Jeffrey wasnâ€™t at Highland in 2009. However, his first tour of duty with the Hornets as an assistant to Karry Owens (2000-04) began under identical circumstances as Highland played for the title in 2000 as well. And he thinks that these Hornets â€” who have come so close to a return to the postseason in each of the past three years â€” have the talent and the chemistry to get Highland back into the playoffs.
Highland missed its goal by two points in 2013, fall-ing to Hermleigh 39-38 in its season finale. Hermleigh and perennial power Ira are still in the new 1A district, along with Westbrook.
But the potential obstacles, Jeffrey says, can be overcome with hard work and dedication. â€śWeâ€™re taking it a day at a time,â€ť he said. â€śBut our chemistry has been really good. I think we can make the playoffs and give Ira a real battle.
â€śWeâ€™re going to do our dangdest to win a district championship.â€ť
Jeffrey has a lot of players with starting experience â€” five on offense and four on defense â€” and doesnâ€™t plan many changes to Highlandâ€™s offensive and defensive schemes. â€śIt will be what the kids are familiar with,â€ť he said, â€śbut the terminology is a little different.â€ť
However, a lack of depth and team speed are cause for concern, and a number of players may be used at multiple positions.
Jeffrey plans to use Jon Basye and Jacob Richburg at quarterback. Richburg will also line up at tailback along with Gaga Soedar-sono, who won all-region honors at offensive end in 2013 and will start there again with Seth Wood, last seasonâ€™s district newcomer of the year for Highland, starting at the other end. Either Shelby Howard or Garrett Muncy will start for the Hornets at fullback, but Howard can play on the line as well as can Emrick Wilson and Tristan Raw-lings. Zack Cornett will be the starting center. Howard and Soedarsono will start at defensive end with Rich-burg at middle linebacker. Basye will start at one cor-ner with either Matthew Leyba or Clyde Dent at the other corner, and Muncy will be the free safety. Wood, Rawlings, Cornett, Wilson and Travis Anderson will also be used defensively.