Cumberland Teams Look to Dethrone Burton

John. I Burton Raiders 

Last seasons record – (10-3) 

The J.I. Burton Raiders return 15 starters from last years Region 1D runner-up team. That team was led on both sides of the ball by Cumberland District Player of the Year Mikey Culbertson. Culbertson was also the Region 1D Defensive Player of the Year and was named to the VHSL All State first team. Also leaving a void is All Region selection Najee Steele who was one of most dynamic playmakers in the area. Returning for Coach Jacob Caudill’s Raiders is junior quarterback Jaymen Buchanan, a dual threat, threw for nearly one thousand yards last season and tossed six touchdowns while rushing for three scores on the season. Also returning is junior playmaker Esau Teasley. Teasley averaged nearly 16 yards per carry last season en route to 866 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground while catching 13 passes and two scores. He also took back three kickoffs for touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball most linemen and much of the linebacking corp return as well as sophomore defensive back Trey Keys. All the pieces are in place for the Raiders to claim their third consecutive Cumberland District crown.

Castlewood Blue Devils 

Last seasons record – (6-5)

With 19 starters returning for Chris Lark, the Blue Devils have high expectations this season. Last seasons two leading rushers return in Jeremiah Allen and Mikey Carter. Allen rushed for over one thousand yards and 13 touchdowns while Carter nearly ran for 500 yards and 6 scores. Allen was also second on the team in tackles with 89. One change for Castlewood this season is the transition of Ben Neece who moves from guard to the backfield to form a bruising one, two punch with Allen while the electric Carter brings the speed. The offensive line suffered a tough blow as 6’4 230 pound tackle Gavin Monk suffered an ACL injury during basketball season. However, the likes of Peyton Couch, Brandon Buetler, Dalton Fields, Hunter Neece and Kaden Lasley return to anchor the offensive line. On defense Allen and Ben Neece return to their linebacker spots, Neece collected a team high 90 tackles last season while Landen Taylor returns to lead the secondary along with Mikey Carter. If the Blue Devils stay healthy they could find themselves in contention for a Cumberland title.

Thomas Walker Pioneers

Last seasons record – (6-5)

Last season the Pioneers scorched out to a 6-1 start before losing their last four games of the season which included a 47-0 loss at Chilhowie in the opening round of the class 1 playoffs. After not allowing any of their first seven opponents to score over 26 points and averaging 35 points themselves, the Pioneers gave up 37, 35, 44 and 47 over those last four contests while only averaging 7 points per game in those four losses. There are weapons aplenty for the Pioneers and it all starts with Kenny Ball. Ball led the Cumberland in rushing last season with 1,218 yards and 16 scores. Ball will have most of his offensive linemen back to run behind this season as Xander Spears, Trey Miller and Dakota Stables return to anchor the line. Tight end Jason Warf returns and brings an edge and toughness while Jason Cowden returns at his wide receiver position. Junior quarterback Zack Kidwell is back to lead the offense after passing for over 1,000 yards and tossing 10 touchdowns. Coach Nicholas Johnson returns seven starters on the defensive side of the ball. Linebacking corp is led by Zack Lowe, Warf and Ball while Noah Alsup returns to the secondary. Stables and Spears return up front for the Pioneers to anchor the defensive line. Look for the Pioneers to exhibit more toughness down the stretch this season and be back in contention for a playoff spot.

Twin Springs Titans

Last seasons record – (6-4)

After narrowly missing out on a playoff spot last season, Coach Keith Warner has his Twin Springs Titans trending in the right direction. The Titans lose their top two leading rushers from last season in Corbin Kilgore and Preston Larkins while also losing their leading receiver Christian Hinkle from last season but return quarterback Mason Elliott and sophomore tailback Ryan Horne. Elliott tossed 11 touchdowns last season and over 500 yards. Senior Connor Gilmer returns where he is a staple on both sides of the ball. Gilmer can handle rushing duties and is known to catch passes from time to time. On defense he tallied over 80 tackles last season. Kyler Ford and Eli McCoy return to the secondary for the Titans while Carter Sloan and Kye Hale return to the line. Warner is expecting a lot of younger kids on the roster to play key minutes and contribute this season. Look for the Titans to remain competitive night in and night out in hopes of claiming a playoff spot.

Rye Cove Eagles

Last seasons record – (4-6)

Cheyenne Osborne and his Eagles have put together back to back 4-6 seasons and are hoping to lay claim to their first winning season since 2011. Returning is do it all senior Mason Hardin who accounted for 19 touchdowns last season. Hardin rushed for over 1,100 yards and 15 touchdowns while passing for nearly 300 yards and 4 touchdowns. The offensive and defensive line return a bulk of starters that include Jesse Barnette, Chris Duty and Ashton Starnes. Osborne is excited about some newcomers that have surfaced from the basketball team as 6’6 Ethan Chavez along with speedsters Zack Baker and Matthew Rhoton. The Eagles are hoping to have a mix of youth and veteran leadership to rely on in hopes of having their first winning season in nearly ten years.

Eastside Spartans

Last seasons record (5-6)

Mike Rhodes enters his third season at the helm expectations are once again high for the Spartans. While they have lost the Whited brothers (Grayson, Garrett) and one of the states best linebackers in Evan Bellamy, Eastside retains Will Stansberry who was named all district and all region at the quarterback position while being named to the all state team as a defensive back. Stansberry has only given up 12 completions his entire career. He threw for over 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns last season while rushing for nearly 400 yards and 4 scores. Nick Raymond and Ethan Hill return as Raymond rushed for over 500 yards and 6 touchdowns last season. Braden Hensley returns to anchor the offensive line as he missed the larger portion of last season with a broken leg that was suffered in week 2. All Cumberland selections Jordan Sexton also returns to the line while Jordan Gray (6’1) and Eli McCoy (6’6) will hold down the receiver spots and give Stansberry reliable targets. Trevor Sanders returns to the defensive line after collecting 63 tackles last season while Bryson Shepard looks to man one of the linebacker spots while Ben Ward, who has been a weight room warrior, will man the middle linebacker position. Gray will join Stansberry in the secondary while Coach Rhodes is looking for youngster Jaxsyn Collins to earn viable reps as his versatility on both sides of the ball will have a big impact this season. The Spartans got off to a slow start last season thanks in large part to having one of the toughest opening portions of the schedule in Southwest Virginia. The Spartans were able to win 5 of their next 7 games before falling in the opening round of the playoffs at home to Holston. Look for the Spartans to get off to a quick start in hopes of clinching their fourth straight playoff spot.


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