Ringgold's expectations remain high despite graduation losses

Staff file photo by Matt Hamilton / Ringgold senior Ty Gilbert, left, is part of a football program that has come to expect to win under coach Robert Akins, with the Tigers totaling 10 victories last year.

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Head coach: Robert Akins (90-71 here; 262-141 overall)

Returning starters: 7 offensive; 4 defensive

Last year's record: 10-2 overall, lost in GHSA Class AAA first round

Key players: Peyton Williams (5-11, 190) Sr. RB, Ty Gilbert (6-0, 165) Sr. WR, Jaden Parks (5-11, 245) Sr. OL, Clint Carlock (6-0, 255) Sr. OL, Ross Norman (6-7, 190) Sr. WR/DB, Jacob Garnica (5-9, 160) Sr. WR/DB, Bryson Bethune (5-10, 180) Sr. DB, Brady Gray (6-2, 225) Sr. DL

Season outlook: High expectations are a good thing to have as a football coach. Living up to them depends on a myriad of factors.

For Ringgold, those expectations are understandably high despite graduating 23 seniors from last season's 10-win team. That 12 of those players will be suiting up on college sidelines this fall underscores how much production the Tigers must replace. Akins has been in similar situations during a four-decade career, so he's comfortable embracing the expectations.

"We've come to that point where we expect to win, which is always great to see," Akins said. "That mentality is in effect with our kids. We lost a big senior class - but we have 17 this year - and my biggest hope is that our kids learned a lot from those seniors. They saw what we are capable of doing if you put in the work, and this group is doing that."

Similar to last year, the Tigers will have playmakers all over the field

That starts with Williams, a big-play threat wherever he lines up. He'll share backfield duties with newcomers Haddon Fries, Judah Smith and Kishaun Taylor, each of whom will also see time at receiver along with returning players Gilbert, Norman and Garnica. Sophomore Garrett Edgar is set at quarterback, where his athletic ability will add another dimension to the offense.

They will work behind a line that includes three returning starters.

The defense has more holes to fill.

"Defensively we lost the most," Akins said, "but we feel the kids who were in backup roles last year will be able to step in."

The secondary is the strength on that side, led by Bethune, Garnica, Gilbert and Norman, while Trent Baldwin and Beau Boozer lead an inexperienced linebacker corps and Gray is the only returning lineman.