It’s not all about making it through the heat. The sweatshirt also serves as a visual reference. It lists the Tigers’ recent years of winning a region championship. The last year listed is 2006.
That’s a drought the Tigers are looking to end.
Every football season, the expectations are pretty high at Cedar Bluff. With 16 seniors on this year’s Cedar Bluff squad, those expectations have been raised a little higher.
“This is the biggest senior class at Cedar Bluff in football I can ever remember,” head coach Jonathan McWhorter said. “Of course, the numbers alone don’t mean anything. If those guys don’t step up and produce like they’re capable of, then we could very easily be average. That’s kind of the test in front of us. Most of those guys are multiple-year starters. If not, then they’ve played football for multiple years. There are several of them who are four-year starters. It’s really up to them as far stepping up to the plate.
“If the leadership develops, and they step up and get it done on the field, we could have a special team.”
The Tigers certainly have a lot of explosiveness offensively. Senior quarterback Levi Mintz returns after leading the area in passing last season. He completed 121 of 227 pass attempts for 1,874 yards and 21 touchdowns.
His top target was senior receiver/tight end DeAngelo Hardy, who had 35 receptions for 744 yards and nine scores.
When Mintz and Hardy weren’t picking apart defenses through the air, fellow senior Robert “Bam” Henderson was bashing out yards on the ground. He tallied 1,090 yards on 185 totes with 14 touchdowns.
“All three of those guys have had great seasons the past two years, but we’ve got some other guys who either didn’t play last year or didn’t play much at all who are going to step up and fill the void for us there,” McWhorter said. “I feel like we’re as talented as far as the skill players that we’ve had, definitely since the past couple of years.”
And the Tigers are top-heavy with seniors on the line as well, including Curtis Abernathy, Tyler Abernathy, Russell Adams, Skylar Cagle, Eli Dutton, CJ Gilreath, Lee Hughes and Matthew Sharp.
“Up front, we’ve got three guys who were starters last year returning and a fourth one who was our sixth guy,” McWhorter said. “We’ve got a couple of guys with some inexperience who have really come on and had a really good summer.”
Cagle, for one, wants to end his career on a strong note. He’s had surgery twice on his right ankle and wants to make up for the time he lost this season.
“I’m not expecting any trouble out of it,” he said. “It’s been holding up pretty well.”
Henderson gives credit to guys like Cagle for helping him get his 1,000-yard rushing total last season. He hopes they can help him gain even more in 2012.
“Every day, they come in and work hard and do the conditioning just like we do,” Henderson said. “It was a great honor to rush for 1,000 yards last year, and I’m really looking forward to getting the number a whole lot higher this season. It’s a great accomplishment to reach that goal.”
Many of the guys who block for Henderson also pull double duty on defense. The one place the Tigers have some new wrinkles is in the secondary, which will feature three new starters.
“I feel like if the secondary develops quickly, then we can be very good on that side of the ball,” McWhorter said.
The secondary won’t be the only thing revamped in 2012. The Tigers will be playing on a newly constructed home side of L.D. Bruce Field. New bleachers, an upgraded concession stand, and a new press box highlight the facelift of L.D. Bruce Field. The project expects to be finished by the Tigers’ fall jamboree on Aug. 23.
“It’s going to add a lot to our Friday night experience,” McWhorter said. “This has been a special place for so many people so long here. They (Brian McKinney Construction) tell me we’re on schedule, and we’re really excited about it.”
Following the jamboree, the Tigers open the regular season on Aug. 30 against longtime rival Gaylesville.
“It’s very, very different,” McWhorter said on opening with Gaylesville, a game traditionally scheduled at the end of the regular season. “It’s not a just a region game, but it’s a rivalry game. That adds a little to it. The first game is always a big game, but when you’re playing a rival, that just adds that much more to it.”
In addition to traditional games against the Trojans, Collinsville, Spring Garden, Valley Head and Woodville, three new teams have been added to Class 1A, Region 7: Donoho, Jacksonville Christian and Coosa Christian.
“We’re used to the big 3A and 4A (out-of-region) games, but I think it will be a nice slow down for us to have some more 1A competition,” Mintz said. “We haven’t played Donoho, Coosa Christian and Jacksonville Christian in a long time. We don’t know a whole lot about them, but I think we’re prepared and will be all right.”