The big question mark for Thomson's junior varsity football team this year is much the same as it is for the varsity Bulldogs. JV Coach Chris Hodges said his backfield is solid, but he wants to know how well the offensive line will block.
His team of mostly ninth-graders will play a seven game schedule this season. And the questions won't get answered easily as the junior Dogs take on a traditionally strong Washington County today in the Brickyard to kick off the season.
"We're throwing them in the lion's den right off the bat," Coach Hodges said.
But the season really doesn't get easier from there. On consecutive Thursdays, the team plays Lincoln County, Greenbrier, Washington-Wilkes, Lakeside, Burke County and Washington County again to close out the season.
"Their all going to be tough," said Coach Hodges, whose opening season as JV coach last year netted only one loss, to Burke County. "We got our work cut out for us, that's for sure."
The success of those games depends in part on how many sophomores currently on the varsity roster are allowed to play in JV games, Coach Hodges said. Several of those make a big impact on the defense as well.
"It's hard to say right now," Coach Hodges said. "I probably won't have either of my two linebackers because they're dressing out and playing on Fridays. ‚Ä¶For the most part we've got kids playing there that haven't necessarily been playing there at linebacker."
He said the pure athleticism of Shardeveric Parker will prove beneficial while he substitutes for the promoted linebackers after being moved from split end. Coach Hodges is concerned with whether the largely untested defense will step up and play to its potential.
"We've got some talent over there. It's hard to say when you just practice against yourself all the time," he said.
As for the offense, a trio of freshmen will lead from the skill positions. Marquis and Jeremy McGahee will swap time at halfback, and Brandon Turman will start at quarterback. Darius Eubanks and Will Anderson will be the ends, Coach Hodges said.
And help in the backfield may come from Friday's Bulldogs. Coach Hodges has his eye on the varsity squad's sophomore third-string fullback, Carlton Martin, who he said would help tremendously on offense.