By Stephen Henderson
It is early August and the athletic teams at Patrick County High School have already made it through the first week of fall sports practice. The official beginning of practice was last Monday, August 1, and all four fall sports teams had great turnouts for the season.
The largest turnout for the opening week of practice was for Cougar football. According to Coach Derrick Jones, a total of 76 players have been on the practice field. That includes 29 varsity, 18 junior varsity and 29 middle school players. That number is the largest in many years.
One of the things Jones is most happy with is the returning seniors this season. “We have a great group of seniors that we are looking for a lot out of,” he said. “One is leading receiver Matt Amos from a year ago, leading rusher Tyvin Martin from a year ago. We get back our second leading rusher who got hurt midway through the season—Aaron Radford.”
Also returning this season are running backs Colt Martin, and Tyler Stanley and defensive leading tackler Zach Strole. Offensive line starters Will Taylor and Duncan Merritt are also returning.
“We also have some outstanding juniors—Hunter Lawless, Seth Scott, Hunter Kenyon and quarterback Logan Hutchens—returning to the Cougar lineup,” Jones added.
A positive that has come to light during the first week of practice is the Cougar offense. “It looks like our offense will be a lot more explosive than last year. We have some more depth and more athleticism across the board,” he said.
Once again, the Cougars hope to make it to the playoffs this season. “We are looking forward to improving our 2-8 record from last year—I feel like we can do it,” Jones said.
The Cougars scrimmage Eastern Montgomery this Saturday starting at 10:30 a.m. They will host a benefit game August 19, against Staunton River starting at 7 p.m. The first home game is August 22, against North Stokes.
Assisting Jones this season is David Morrison, defensive coordinator; Lewis Carroll, special teams coordinator; Jeff Houchens, backfield coach; and Justin Bowles, backfield and weight room coach. Tim Barnwell is head JV coach and Tony Mosely is JV defensive coordinator. The middle school staff includes Nathan Keen, head coach, and Frank Petway, Eric Volt and Brad Dalton.
Lady Cougar volleyball:
Coach Heidi Moore is excited about the upcoming Lady Cougar volleyball season; she has nine returning varsity players from last year.
“Abby Hutchens, Piedmont District player of the year and First Team All-Conference, is ready to begin her senior season,” Moore said. “Melanie Roberson made First Team All District last year and is ready,” she added.
“Our two other seniors, AK Scruggs and Hanna Hylton, have worked extremely hard during the offseason and will also be a huge impact on our team as well,” Moore said.
“It is really difficult to name players in a team sport knowing they have all worked extremely hard to improve for this season!” Moore said.
Because of this, Moore knows that the team will have an amazing season and improve on their record from last year, which was 13-7.
After the first week of tryouts and practice, Moore said the team is working on all aspects of the game. She particularly noticed the team members listening to the coaches and each other. “I am really pleased with the effort I’m seeing!” she said.
Moore said that she hopes the team improves with every game. “We would like to improve our record from last year, serve more aggressively with more aces and learn to pass better and hit the ball more consistently,” she said.
Moore’s assistant coach is Nikki Handy; Ashley Strickland is the JV coach and Libby Ragsdale coaches the middle school team.
The Lady Cougars scrimmage Floyd County Thursday at home. Their first home match is August 22, against North Stokes.
“We have great team chemistry and enjoy the game of volleyball—it is going to be a great season!” she said.
Cougar cross country:
Twenty runners are out for this year’s Cougar cross country teams—10 boys and 10 girls.
According to Coach Danel Slaydon, the boys will have one senior, two juniors and the rest underclassmen. For the girls, there are no seniors, five juniors and the rest are underclassmen.
“Juan Cisneros will be leading the way for our boys’ team this season,” Slaydon said. “He is a distance specialist who has established himself as one of the best junior runners in the 3A State division last cross country and track seasons. He will look to keep moving up the ranks against his competition..
“Monroe Morse has made huge improvements this past spring track season and has had a good summer spent getting stronger,” Slaydon said. “We are excited to see his improvement this season,” he added.
“Junior Macie Rogers will ease her way into the season after an injury this past spring, but she is a major talent and looks to establish herself as a top runner in the state,” Slaydon said.
“Sophomore Montana Moorefield had a breakout season during cross country and indoor track last season. She has the ability to challenge the top runners in the state,” he said.
Slaydon is enthusiastic about the energetic young team and its leadership from upperclassmen. “We have been impressed with their work ethic this summer and are looking forward to seeing everyone improve this season,” he said.
The team will be running all over the county to prepare for the variety of terrain the team will encounter this season. Not only do they run at the PCHS track and surrounding campus trails, but they travel to Kibler Valley, DeHart Park trails in Woolwine, Stuart’s DeHart Park, the Mayo River Trail and Stuart Elementary School.
“We are extremely grateful for all of the work done by Patrick County Parks and Recreation and several other community members to enhance the trails and greenway systems in the county. We are looking forward to logging lots of miles all around the county this season,” Slaydon said.
Slaydon’s hopes for the team include establishment of new personal best times by every runner for the 3.1-mile race, at least four individual qualifiers to the state championship and have two First Team All-State athletes.
The Cougar runners scrimmage at the Smith River Sports Complex Tuesday, August 16 at 5 p.m. Their first meet is September 1 at the SRSC. The first home Cougar meet is October 12, at Rotary Field.
Slaydon is assisted by Kali Slaydon, Justin Adams and Johnny Miller (strength coach).
The Patrick County High School golf team consists of nine players, including one senior, two juniors and six sophomores. Philip Steagall is once again leading the golf team; Bob Helms is working with the JV team.
It is hoped that once school starts, more underclassmen will try out for the team.
The Cougars have already competed in one district match and had two scrimmages against Floyd Monday and Tuesday.
According to Steagall, the team “looks good at this point in the season. We need to work hard in the scoring area to trim a few shots here and there,” he said.
“I am looking forward to a good season; this is a fine group of young men who we expect good things from as the year goes by,” Steagall said. “We want to be able to compete in the top of the district and conference this season,” he added.
The team practices at Gordon Trent Golf Course and plays many of its matches at Olde Mill Golf Club.
The Cougar golfers host a conference match Monday, August 13, at Olde Mill Golf Club against Abingdon and Chatham.