Long Reach Lightning
Last year: 8-2 overall, 8-2 league.
Coach: Pete Hughes, ninth season (50-31).
Last playoff appearance: 1997, lost in 2A quarterfinals.
Keep an eye on: Eugene Lightfoot. Long Reach has never produced a Division I college player, but Coach Pete Hughes expects that to change this season.
That's because he expects big things from Lightfoot, a 6-foot-5, 205-pound senior who has the size and athleticism to impress college coaches.
"This kid is one of the best athletes we've ever had, and he might be the best athlete in the county," Hughes said. "There's not a lot of players who are big and strong enough to play defensive end and then fast enough to play receiver. We're looking to see Eugene make a name for himself as soon as the season starts."
Last year the Lightning came on strong at the end of the season, shutting out its last four opponents.
"We needed to play like we did at the end of the season from the beginning," said Lightfoot, who made 27 tackles and a team-high seven sacks last season.
Long Reach will be one of five area teams using the single-wing, which places four players behind the line of scrimmage and varies the person directing the offense. The offense features Ray Gilbert, Keith Richardson, Emanuel Candenedo and Logan Bolling behind the line of scrimmage. Last year Long Reach averaged 15.5 passes per game behind quarterback Trent Covington, who graduated.
The Lightning won't need to make many changes defensively and is three straight shutouts away from tying a state record for consecutive shutouts. Lightfoot will team with seniors Felipe Soto, Josh Brown and Bolling (51 tackles, five sacks) to anchor the defensive line and will be aided by linebackers Brian Taylor (104 tackles, four sacks) and John Montgomery.
"My goal is to set the example by being the first player at Long Reach to earn a college scholarship, and lead our team to the playoffs," Lightfoot said. "We came up one win away from making it last year. That's been on our minds all year, and now we have a chance to make up for it."