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Grace's Tillman Smith (5) celebrates after a play versus Howard during the Best of Preps Football Jamboree on Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Head coach: Bob Ateca (36-59 in nine years here and overall)

Returning starters: 3 offensive; 3 defensive

Key players: WR-OLB Tillman Smith (6-3, 175); RB-S Justin Carter (5-11, 180); OL-DL Austin Starr (6-3, 300); WR-FS Will Lehman (5-8, 165).

Team strengths: Up front on both sides of the ball is where the Golden Eagles return the most experience. Starr, an NCAA FCS prospect, is one of five seniors on the team and will be looked to pave the way.

"The line is where you want to start a program. If you can't win up front, it doesn't matter what else you do," Ateca said. "Austin is a great leader, and Noah Sebastian and Connor Brown are both third-year starters who can get the job done, too."

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Justin Carter (12) is a transfer expected to help the Grace Academy football team. Copper Basin visited Grace Academy for a pre-season high school football scrimmage on August 3, 2017.

Team concerns: Coming off the best season in program history, Grace has a tough challenge in replacing Cade Tinsley, who piled up 81 touchdowns, 4,960 total yards and 268 tackles in his prep career.

A group effort will have to replace plenty of power on both sides, including a defense that allowed just 15 points per game.

Breakout candidate: "Breakout" may seem a strange prediction for a 2018 all-state receiver, but Carter will get more chances to break big plays in his move to running back. His pass catching out of the backfield should come in handy, too, as two sophomores battle for the quarterback job.

"We are looking for big things from Carter at running back. His athleticism makes him a big threat," Ateca said. "Tillman and Will are also guys we look to make plays at receiver and help lead on defense as well."

Season outlook: Grace Academy finished fourth in a tough region last year but will host all of the 2018 top three this year — state runner-up Friendship Christian, Mount Juliet Christian and Middle Tennessee Christian.

"Our guys have to step up together and show unity," Ateca said. "It's going to take a village to win the game, not just one person. To do that you better have some team unity and love between yourselves. Our key is to have both from start to finish."

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