Coming off of a 2-8 season in 2017, the Hazel Green Trojans enter 2018 with new life and a new head coach.
Smitty Grider arrived to the Tennesee Valley after amassing a 38-9 overall record in four seasons at Park Crossing and has been impressed with the talent on this Hazel Green roster, especially at quarterback where he'll lean on Chase Starling to set the tone for the team on that side of the ball.
"He started seven games last year, he's had a great summer and fall camp," Grider said. "We're expecting a lot out of him. He's an athlete but he's also a very heady player (and) he's a great leader for us on the offensive side."
Defensively, the Trojans return four starters and throughout camp coach Grider has seen a handful of guys step up and take on leadership roles in that group.
"Garrett Cross is playing inside linebacker for us and he’s been a great leader along with Don Shackelford and Dakota Hill and then Dylan Avery, our nickel, has come a long way since the spring and we expect big things out of him," he said.
While he's been impressed by many things since taking over this Hazel Green team, there's one group in particular that really had him scratching his head when he arrived, the offensive line. Senior Chris Carter is the lone returner with any meaningful varsity experience along the line but throghout camp it's that group that's grown the most.
"There's a lot of new faces, we've got a sophomore and a guy that was only a kicker (last year) but they've come a long way," Grider said. "We're getting better every day and I've been really proud of the hard work they've put in along with their coach, coach Davis, and those guys have probably made the most improvement of any group on the team."
The true test of that group's growth will come when the Trojans open the 2018 season against Grissom on Aug. 23 at 7:00 p.m.
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