Highland has a new head football coach, Jeff Shelton, this year, and he inherits some good talent from former coach Karry Owens, who left Highland after 18 seasons and a 147-56-3 record to become the head coach at Water Valley.
Highland managed just a 2-7 record for Owens in his final year, but was practically starting over with a slew of youngsters after graduating most of the top talent from the 2009 squad that reached the state finals.
Now many of those players are back with a year of varsity experience under their belts, including four who earned all-district recognition as underclassmen — Ron Covington, Michael Hyde, Peyton Howard and Jordan Rowan.
Shelton comes to High-land after two years as New Home’s head coach. Prior to that, Shelton served as Jay-ton’s defensive coordinator for three years from 2006-08 and the Jaybirds reached the playoffs all three years, making it all the way to the state finals in ‘06 and the semifinals in ‘07.
Now he is hoping to get the Hornets back into the postseason, but is well aware there will be an adjustment period as he and the players get to know each other.
The Hornets will be starting the 2011 season with only three seniors and two juniors on the roster, but Shelton said he likes what he’s seen so far. “These guys have got the ability,” he said. “We’ve just got to get them believing in each other.
“If we work hard, things will take care of themselves one way or another.”
The offense will include Ethan Wilson (124) or Covington (157) at quarterback, Toby Falcon (221) at center, Jordan Rowan (209), Michael Hyde (115), Steven Tester (170) or Garrett Stewart (172) at end, Tyler Falcon (166) at fullback and either Tester or Peyton Howard (157) at tailback. Shelton said he will use either a 3-2 or 2-3 defensive setup with Rowan and Howard at the ends, Toby Falcon at noseguard, Tyler Falcon at linebacker, Covington, Tester or Hyde at cornerback and either Covington or Hyde at safety.
“A lot of spots are still open because we are so young,” Shelton said.
“I think our kids are working hard and paying attention. They want to learn, and I think the young kids’ prior experience will help.”
Staying healthy is also a priority. “We don’t have a lot of depth,” Shelton said.