Bulldogs hope to reload, not rebuild, with four new starters

 

By KEVIN DONALDSON

CELINA-Filling the void left by four departed starters off last year’s sub-state team, along with other factors, will be a big key for coach Rob Edwards’ Clay County Bulldog basketball team this season. 

 

Despite the heavy losses due to graduation, the Bulldogs have been picked along with Jackson County as the teams to beat in District 7-A this season, which should come as no surprise. In his nine years at the helm, Edwards’ teams have developed a reputation for strong finishes and going deep into the post-season. 

 

The Bulldogs lost five seniors and four starters to graduation, but the remaining starter is certainly a good building block. Senior Shawn Garrett is a two-time member of the district’s first-team all-stars, and made the second team as a freshman three seasons ago. With four starting jobs up for grabs, several other Dawgs will get a shot at making “an impact,” Edwards said.

 

Four players–Trent Boles, Caleb Lynn, Brian Korth and Joe Adams–who saw a lot of action coming off the bench last year, are expected to step into starting jobs this season, and Edwards expects to play up to 10 people regularly. 

 

He also said defensive improvement and players contributing off the bench will be keys to the team’s success. 

 

Edwards is entering his 10th year as the Bulldogs’ mentor, and he carries a 184-106 career mark. His teams have advanced to the state tourney once, and to the sub-state level several times. He has no assistant coach this year. 

 

PHOTO ABOVE RIGHT

SENIORS-Bulldog head coach Rob Edwards is flanked by seniors (l-r)Joe Adams, Shawn Garrett, Caleb Lynn and Brian Korth. (Staff photo by Kevin Donaldson)

 

Bulldogs at a glance

Last season’s record: 27-8, 9-1 in district play. The Bulldogs won the District 7-A regular-season and tournament titles, along with the Region 4 championship. They were eliminated in the substate by longtime rival Temple. 

 

Projected starting lineup: Shawn Garrett (Sr.-PF), 12 points and 6 reb per game, first team all-district the past two seasons; Trent Boles (Jr.-PG); Joe Adams (Sr.-G); Brian Korth (Sr.-F); and Caleb Lynn (Sr.-C). 

 

Key reserves: Dylan Birdwell (Jr.), Dusty Birdwell (So.), Matt Copeland (Jr.), Jordan Strong (So.), and Alex Roach (Jr). 

 

Edwards on new faces: “With only one returning starter, several newcomers will have an opportunity to make an impact,” he said. “We have been able to go as deep as 10 players and be effective in our scrimmages thus far.”

 

Keys to season: “We have to continue to improve defensively throughout the season,” said Edwards, who has always placed a big emphasis on defense. Last year’s team was among the state leaders in all classifications in fewest points allowed. “We also must have players coming off the bench to contribute,” Edwards said. 

 

What fans can expect to see: “We will play up-tempo most nights, and we will play pressure defense,” Edwards said. 

 

Teams to beat in district: “Jackson County returns the most experienced players in the district, including a 6-7 post player,” Edwards said. “Pickett returns most starters, plus a newcomer who will improve their play at both ends.”

 

Pickett County, Clarkrange and Monterey were picked third through fifth in the coaches’ pre-season poll for District 7-A. Red Boiling Springs, for possibly the first time ever, is not in the same district as CCHS, having moved to District 8 after the new TSSAA classification. There are now only 10 total teams in Region 4-A. 

 

“Big” games: The battles between the Dawgs and Jackson County could be very interesting this season, for multiple reasons. Obviously, they will be important in the district race, and possibly beyond that, but they could also be “big” in another way.

 

Both teams will field lineups and squads that are quite tall. The Dawgs will have one of their tallest overall squads in at least a few years, with several players on the “other side” of six feet, and a recent media report said the Blue Devils could field a starting lineup with every player at least six feet tall (including the 6-7 post). 

THANKS FOR SUPPORT: “I would like to say that both the girls and boys basketball teams, along with coach (Sharon) Kimes and myself, appreciate the continued support of the community,” Edwards said. “Our county businesses continue to offer support in many ways, and the fans and students that come to the games undoubtedly give us a much-needed homecourt advantage.”

 

 

2009-2010 BULLDOGS-Team members are (seated, l-r) Eddie Roach, Austin Cherry, Shawn Garrett, Trent Boles, and Corey Hamilton. Kneeling (l-r) are Scottie Ballard, Matt Copeland, Joe Adams, Jordan Strong and Dylan Birdwell.  Standing (l-r) are Jake Edwards, Dylan Carter, Alex Roach, coach Rob Edwards, Caleb Lynn, Dusty Birdwell and Brian Korth. (Staff photos by Kevin Donaldson)

2009-2010 BULLDOGS-Team members are (seated, l-r) Eddie Roach, Austin Cherry, Shawn Garrett, Trent Boles, and Corey Hamilton. Kneeling (l-r) are Scottie Ballard, Matt Copeland, Joe Adams, Jordan Strong and Dylan Birdwell. Standing (l-r) are Jake Edwards, Dylan Carter, Alex Roach, coach Rob Edwards, Caleb Lynn, Dusty Birdwell and Brian Korth. (Staff photos by Kevin Donaldson)