Beginning his 29th season at the school, Jacoway had right knee surgery during the off-season, but he’s as active as ever on the field.
“I told somebody I’ve got 50 years out of this one knee, and now I’m good for another 30 or so now,” Jacoway jokes.
Jacoway’s work ethic seems to be rubbing off on his players. He says the Wildcats have been conditioning harder this summer “more than we probably have in the last 10 years.”
“I feel good about our work ethic,” Jacoway said. “We’re real young, and I don’t think there’s a lot of people out there expecting a lot out of this team. I like that role. We’re not going to look overly impressive when we walk out on the field. This is one of the smallest teams we’ve had in
years, but the thing that has encouraged me is we’ve started figuring out how to play the game. We’ve had as good a summer attendance-wise and work-ethic wise as I can remember in a long time.”
One of the players the Wildcats are expecting to have a big season is senior all-purpose threat Sean Wylie. Like Jacoway, Wylie also feels the Wildcats have had great workouts over the summer in preparation for the 2012 football season.
“I’ve never seen that many players attempt to come to that many summer workouts out of all my years playing football here,” Wylie said. ”I’m pretty proud
of them. They seem determined to go out and have a good season this year. We seem to be together like brothers. Everybody seems like they want to win.”
Jacoway said he’s going to try to get his senior wideout the ball in a variety of ways to help offset the loss of departed 1,000-yard rusher Chad Thompson.
Jacoway calls Wylie a “wild card.”
“We’re going to throw the screen to him. We’re going to try and throw the ball downfield to him. We’re going to hand the ball to him.”
Also helping make up for Thompson’s loss in the backfield is four running backs. Senior Cameron Mackey and junior Austin Chambers will line up at the tailback positions. Junior Dustin Chambers and senior Skylar Williams anchor the fullback spots.
Williams is recovering from right knee surgery as well. He said his rehab has been going well.
“I just got cleared recently and I’m ready to get back on the field,” Williams said. “We’ve been working hard all winter, coming close as a team. We lost a really good running back in Chad Thompson and a good bit of linemen. We’re not going to be as big as we were last year, but we can do
it if we continue to work hard.”
The Wildcats also return junior quarterback Dylan Mackey, who threw for 950 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.
“He kind of got thrown into the fire last year, maybe a year before he should have,” Jacoway said. ”He had a real good 7-on-7 season. We’ve thrown more
7-on-7s than we have in any other year. You’re allowed seven days, and we used six of them. It seemed like he got better as he went along.
“We also feel he runs the ball really well at quarterback. We probably didn’t run him enough last year, but there’s going to be a lot of things schemed for him to run the football and make him a threat too. I look for him to have a good year.”
In addition to Wylie at receiver, junior Ethan Jimmerson shifts over from running back to play tight end. Jacoway also said Cameron Mackey will also see time at the position as well as junior Isaac Arnold.
“He may have the best hands on the football team,” Jacoway said of Arnold. ”At 7-on-7s, he’s caught everything that’s been thrown to him. He’s going to play a lot of snaps. We’re going to try and get the ball in his hands a lot. He just catches the ball really well.”
Senior Stethan Chandler is the Wildcats’ largest target at split end (6-foot-3). Junior Zane Farrar will also play the position.
While several experienced players line up at the offensive skill positions, the Wildcat offensive line is young and inexperienced. Senior Drake Willbanks is the only returning starter from last season, but Jacoway’s plan is to play five linemen in those spots and “that’s all they’ve got to do.”
“That gives them an opportunity to improve in a hurry,” Jacoway said. I think that’s going to give us a little bit of an edge there.”
Willbanks said the unit is “going to have to work a lot harder” to get prepared for the season.
“We lost a lot of size from last year,” he said. “We’re a lot smaller, but we’ve worked more on conditioning this year. We’ve put a lot of hard work
into running more. Running has been more of a focus this year.”
Jacoway is hoping the same one-position plan works for most of the defensive line. Jimmerson and Austin Chambers will play the defensive end positions. Junior Aaron Adkins, sophomore Matthew Tinsley and Williams are expected to play at the tackle spots. Williams could also see time at linebacker.
Wylie’s talent will also be utilized in what Jacoway calls a “hybrid linebacker/defensive back.”
“He’s small for a defensive back, much less a linebacker, but he will get after you,” Jacoway said.
Chandler will play at the other outside linebacker spot.
Junior Dustin Chambers will play one of the inside linebacker positions. Jacoway said the other inside spots have yet to be decided.
Chandler Mackey returns at safety after starting every game there for the Wildcats last season. Jacoway said the cornerbacks spots “are still a shuffle right now.”
“Zane Farrar has had a really good summer, and we feel pretty good about him playing one of them,” Jacoway said. ”(Sophomore) Chase Garrett, who is our backup quarterback, and Isaac Arnold are probably in a dead heat right now. Dylan Mackey can play back there too, but I just get a little squeamish when my quarterbacks play defense.”
The Wildcats compete in Class 1A, Region 7 with the likes of Fyffe, Ider, North Sand Mountain, Section, West End, Westbrook Christian and Gaston. Non-region teams on the Wildcats’ schedule are the season-opener at Pisgah, Plainview and Cherokee County rival Cedar Bluff to close out the regular season.
“That’s a load right there,” Jacoway said. “I’m trying to find out where our sure wins are, and I haven’t found any sure ones yet, but I feel good about our work ethic. I don’t think there’s a lot of people out there expecting a lot out of this team, but I like that role.”