Trion's inexperienced Bulldogs trying to learn quickly

The Trion Bulldogs take the field before their first-round playoff game against Dooly County last year, when they finished 7-4.
The Trion Bulldogs take the field before their first-round playoff game against Dooly County last year, when they finished 7-4.


Head coach: Justin Brown (40-26 in six years here and overall)

Returning starters: 2 offensive, 3 defensive

Key players: WR/LB Brett Brown (5-11, 180), OL Jake Hayes (6-5, 305), FB/LB Braden Johnson (5-10, 195), OL/DL Tucker McCoy (6-0, 255), WB/CB Hagen Willingham (5-10, 160).

Team strengths: The Bulldogs expect to start five seniors on the offensive line, and the tight end makes six. Despite their age, they are not an experienced group overall, but they could be a talented one if they learned from last year's line, which ate up a lot of playing time because of its skill. Hayes started at tackle last year as a junior, and now the Division I prospect is being counted on as a leader.

"You have a guy," Brown said of Hayes, "that can be a little bit vocal and settle guys down when maybe it's not going the right way, and maybe give them a pat on the back and an encouraging word, tell them to up their game a little bit."

Team concerns: Depth, which is at least a minor worry for most Class A programs, and creating a hedge of protection around Willingham. His health must be guarded because he's being asked to do so much, but that's what makes keeping him 100 percent such a challenge. He'll rarely leave the field, starting on offense and defense, returning punts and kicks and even serving as the holder on extra points and field goals.

Newcomer to watch: Middle linebacker Ross Moore is a junior, but he's starting for the first time. The hard work he put in during the offseason and the comfort he has shown at the position so far has Brown believing Moore could be due for a breakout season in his first opportunity.

Season outlook: The combination of running the wing-T, which demands precision, and replacing most of the offensive starters might seem like the sort of thing that would keep a coach up at night. That's not the case at Trion, where Brown has had time to establish his system.

"It's not something we just put in in the spring," he said. "These kids have been running this since middle school. Some of them have been in it since before middle school in the rec league."

The trigger man is sophomore Lincoln Maddux (5-9, 150), who replaces three-year starter Jarrett Gill at quarterback and has "made some really good strides," Brown said. Johnson also takes over for a three-year starter at fullback, Logan Blevins, with Willingham solid at wingback and competition strong at Z-back.

"All hope is not lost for the Trion Bulldogs," Brown said. "It's just a matter of trying to get these guys to get some confidence in themselves and build chemistry."

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