Monday, August 19, 2013

Young Tigers Expected to Step Up

Football 2013
Story by Kelly Caldwell
Photos by Christy Fordham

Plagued by injuries for most of the 2012 season, the Handley Tigers are looking for more this year, but they will have their work cut out for them filling voids left by graduation.
"You can't lose a player like Brad (Bozeman) and not feel it," Handley Tigers coach Mike Battles said. "He was the bell cow for the offensive line and you have Trae Kyles that was Mr. Athlete.
"We had some good seniors last year, but we were bit by the injury bug all season."
The Tigers fell short in the second round of the playoffs and ended the year with a 7-5 record. Five players off that squad signed to play college football including Bozeman who reported to the University of Alabama earlier this month.
Battles and the Tigers have been preparing for the 2013 campaign since the 2012 season ended and are more than ready to take the field.
"When you play football at Handley, you have to be committed to get that red jersey," Battles said. "We have a year-round weight program and that's where it starts. It doesn't hurt anyone to work out with weights. It doesn't matter if you are a football player or on the debate team. It makes every competitor better."
Battles was impressed with his younger players during spring training, and they have continued to show improvement so far this fall.
"We have some young kids that have made up time because they are so smart," Battles said. "They just understand the game and it makes  it easy on us as coaches."
Cody Foster will be the field general for the Tigers this season and has experience in the role for his senior year.
"He played quarterback some last year," Battles said. "He has the experience but this will be the first time he is that role as a starter."
Connor Smith and Eric Velazquez will anchor the offensive line.
"They have been starters for us some time," Battles said. "Both of these guys were starters for the championship team."
Beau Robinson, Colton Murphy, Marcellous Floyd and Seth May will also see time on the line.
"Our coaching staff tries to package offense and defense where the best players are on the field at all times," Battles said. "And, if we can keep those 300 pounders fresh, we are ahead of the game."
Others that will see action for the Tigers on offense include Shane Anderson, Allen Kelley and Quincy Morris.
Jerreion Williams, Damien Ware and Damien Harris will more than likely handle running the ball for the Tigers.
"All these guys had a really great spring," Battles said.
The defense will see more familiar faces helping the Tigers.
"Damian and Jarrion will be on the outside," Battles said. "And Luis Velasquez and Robinson will be at tackle."
Tez Watkins will see time at middle linebacker but there will also be some new faces in the mix.
"Malik Meadows and Jay Brown are two starters," Battles said. "They stepped up in the spring and will be an asset for us.
"We have some younger players that can go in and give our other guys time to rest."
Marquise Watkins will play strong safety for the Tigers, that is once he and Damien Harris return from National Guard basic training.
"At the beginning of the summer they reported for duty," Battles said. "They came to me in the spring to let me know and their lockers are right where they left them waiting on them to return.
"They both did a good job for us in the spring, and if they are mature enough to give up their summer to do this, then the least I can do, is make sure they have a place on the team when they return. They left here are boys but they are coming back as men."
The Tigers will also see a new face in the kicking game. Hudson Burns will handle the duties for Handley this season.
"We are confident in him for our kicking game," Battles said. "He takes a lot of pressure off us because he can make that football talk. Kicking for us is top priority, we just have to keep him healthy."
The Tigers will face Randolph County in their fall jamboree  on August 23.
"We are excited about that," Battles said. "It's close to home and will be good for the community. We like playing close to home any chance we get. We shouldn't have to drive 200 miles to play a regular season game like we have in the past. Hopefully we will get to schedule some closer non-region games next season."
The Tigers travel to Beauregard for the season opener August 30 before hosting Holtville on September 6 to open region play.


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