“I’m excited about this year. Right now we’re happy with where our numbers are with JV and varsity and the dedication we’re seeing from the kids has been outstanding,” said head coach Jimmy Upchurch.
With more players on varsity than in years past the Wildcats plan to utilize their experienced players, which includes 13 seniors who bring a depth of knowledge and skill.
“Our biggest difference from last year is that our kids have grown up. We have a number of them that have been on varsity for four years so we’re expecting a lot from them,” Upchurch said. “Playing high school football takes a tremendous amount of time and commitment and the 13 seniors we have are really, really good football players. They’re good, solid kids that have worked hard and are very dedicated.”
The coach said he’s watched a number of players excel in preseason.
“One that sticks out in my mind is Alex Helvey. He’s grown up and matured and has gotten faster and more athletic. He’s taken on more of a leadership role and has done great all summer.”
The coach is equally pleased with what he’s seen from quarterback Alex Manley. Having already started 27 games Upchurch believes his experience sets him apart from others.
Another to watch this season will be junior Reid Fulk who led the JV team to a conference championship last season.
“We’re very pleased with Reid and he’ll certainly have the leg up to be our starting varsity quarterback next year. I’ve told Reid you’re always one play away from being our varsity quarterback so we’re going to make sure he’s prepared.”
Upchurch is confident in his defense with strong returning starters in Caustin Beckner, Matthew Craver, Alex Finney, Jacob Moore, Gavin Parker, and Jacob Rosecrans.
“We’re going to be experienced on the defensive side,” he said.
On offense, the coach said he’s waiting to see his players battle it out.
“We have several capable kids and I’ve told them we’re going to give each of them an opportunity. When we get through with all the scrimmages we’re going to name a starter and that doesn’t mean that kid’s going to start the whole year but for that game he’ll be the starter.”
After Wests’ successful JV run last season, Upchurch believes it will translate to the field on Friday night.
“We always hope to build off that. That’s one reason we take really good care of all our programs from little league, to middle school, to JV,” the coach said. “When we do that the kids are much more experienced and understand football much better.”
That dedication to the overall programs in the King community has produced 32 collegiate football players since Upchurch began coaching in 2003.
“I always tell my kids if you want to play football at the next level I will do everything I can to help you. I don’t issue the scholarships but if they’re willing to do the work I’m willing to try and help them in every way possible,” the coach said.
For now, the coach and his team are focused on opening night against Central Davidson.
“We don’t try and look down the road. We’ll take one game at a time and then move on to the next one. But I’d really like to come out of the gates strong this year.”
Amanda Dodson can be reached at 336-813-2426 or on Twitter at AmandaTDodson.