Coach: Tim Daniels (70-36 here; 142-61 overall)
Returning starters (O/D/K): 4/5/1
Remember these names: Athletic quarterbacks Hagen Wilkey (Jr., 6-3, 215) and Niquia McDuffie (Sr., 5-9, 155) have a bevy of options to help on offense, including receivers/defensive backs Deres Benn (Sr., 6-1, 195) and Kameno Watson (Sr., 5-9, 170) and running back/defensive end Randal Lee (Sr., 6-1, 205). Keionta Davis (Sr., 6-3, 225) has become a monster at linebacker or defensive end and also plays tight end, and Corbin Mitchell (Jr., 5-9, 190) is another defensive force at linebacker. Ed Coker (Sr., 6-2, 235) and Tyler Phillips (Jr., 5-11, 235) are key linemen.
Will be a memorable year if: They can develop some depth and survive the young players learning on the job, especially in the offensive and defensive lines. A return to district champions is expected and not out of the question. If they get that far, though, will they stub their postseason toe again?
Aug. 25 at Soddy-Daisy
Sept. 2 at East Ridge*
Sept. 9 Walker Valley
Sept. 16 at Hixson*
Sept. 23 Cleveland
Sept. 30 Central*
Oct. 7 Brainerd*
Oct. 14 Howard*
Oct. 21 at East Hamilton*
Oct. 28 at Tyner*
* District 6-AA game
Kenny Cobble knew Tim Daniels well enough to complete his sentences.
The two made quite a team at Red Bank, Daniels as the head coach and Cobble as the defensive coordinator. Yet each knew it was inevitable that a combination that led the Lions to 53 wins in five years would end when a head coaching job too good to turn down came Cobble's way.
That happened last spring when Cobble accepted an offer from Jefferson County.
"We spent 13 years together and survived some tough times early at Red Bank," Daniels recalled. "The first couple of years were tough on him, although he grew a ton each year. He hit his stride in his third year [as coordinator], and by the fourth year he was as good as there is around."
So there's heat before the first game on Cobble's successor, former Lions standout Tyler Rich, even if Rich is the only one applying the fire. He has Daniels' endorsement.
"He has become so knowledgeable of the game," the head coach said. "He coached linebackers and the defensive line under Kenny. He's a Red Bank guy. The kids love him, and I believe that, like Kenny, he'll wind up being that guy that's a step ahead of me."
Rich, who was on the Lions' unbeaten 2000 state-championship team, said Daniels told him a couple of years ago to "learn everything you can because I don't know how long Kenny's going to be here."
Added the new coordinator: "I learned a lot from Kenny. Last year I tried to soak up as much as possible."
There's still that nagging personal doubt, however. Is he really ready for this?
"As a football coach, he's one of the fastest-learning guys I've been around," Daniels said. "I have watched him on the field. He shows a lot of confidence. He has given me reason to have confidence in him. When there's a mistake on the field, it's fixed. And if a kid has had a question, he's had the answer."
That doesn't mean, though, that Rich didn't worry.
"Early in the transition I'd wake up at night in a cold sweat," he admitted. "I prayed about it and I've been comfortable ever since. There are so many little things to do that the job is always a challenge, but I also love the challenge.
"Being a coordinator has given me perspective. I realize how important it is to have a right-hand person. Our defensive staff -- Garrett Windham, Chuck Janow and Phillip [Rich, his brother] -- have been great. They've been supportive. They've reminded me of things we needed to do. They've been upbeat and up-tempo from the get-go."
There's no year like a championship season such as the Lions had in going 15-0 in 2000. Many will remember that Class 5A state-final win over Riverdale in Murfreesboro as the "Snow Bowl" when it snowed so hard that folks along one sideline couldn't see the other.
"The snow was cool, although I was sorry I came in at halftime and got warm and then had to go back out there and freeze again," said lineman Tyler Rich, now the Lions' defensive coordinator. "What I remember more, though, was that it was the first game all season we had been behind at the half."
The team had its stars - running back Gerald Riggs signed with Tennessee, and defensive Jim Thurman became Southern Conference freshman of the year in beginning an outstanding career at Wofford - but there were other standouts. Cole Goins and Jamichael McGoy also were good running backs, for instance.
"For the most part we were all really close, and that made a huge difference," Rich said. "There wasn't a whole lot of individualism. We knew we had Gerald and [receiver] Ryan McGinnis, and Fred Holder was a pretty good QB. As for Gerald, we knew if we did our job that he'd do his."