LONG REACH LIGHTNING
3A East Region
Coach: Pete Hughes (10th season, 59-33).
Last year: 9-2 overall, 8-1 league.
Last postseason appearance/state title: 2004/none.
Returning starters on offense/defense: 6/6.
Players to watch: TE/DE Brett Covington, Sr.; QB Ray Gilbert, Sr.; RB/DB/KR Keith Richardson, Jr.; TE/LB Brian Taylor, Sr.; RB/SS Landon Tews, Jr.; OT/DE Jay Washington, Sr.
Run with it: Richardson (883 yards, 11 touchdowns) is one of the league's best players, and it will be tough for defenses to focus on him because Gilbert (1,055 yards, 11 TDs) is an effective passer. The single-wing offense is expected to churn out yardage behind experienced tackles Diop Wallace and Phillip Jones, both juniors.
Ballcarriers beware: The team will alternate between a 5-2 and 5-3 defense, but each will showcase Taylor (county-high 151 tackles, four sacks), who was the county's defensive player of the year last fall. Throw in Washington (71 tackles, 5.5 sacks) and Tews (110 tackles), and the Lightning could have the league's most talented unit.
What Hughes first looks for in a player: "Attitude. I want to see how coachable the player is. I want to see how he reacts to criticism and if he will help our team's chemistry. I've had some players who were very good, but they were only out there for themselves, and it ended up hurting the team."