Daily photo by Michael Wetzel|
Mount Hope head coach John Smith is counting on strong leadership and play from his three seniors, from left, quarterback Ty Linker, tailback Cody Little and fullback Chase Hopkins
Numbers are up
With only 3 seniors, Mount Hope dressing out 29
Eighth in a series
By Michael Wetzel
MOUNT HOPE — John Smith likes what he is seeing on the practice field so far.
The head coach of the Class 1A Yellow Jackets in western Lawrence County wouldn’t dare tell his players that. Let them think his temper and shouts are as hot as the weather in which they’re running sprints and drills.
Entering his fourth year at the helm, Smith has 29 players listed on the roster this year. That’s up from 25 last year and a meager 20 two years ago.
“We now have some players in this program who have some technique and a better objective of the game and what it takes to win,” said Smith, 8-14 in his three years at Mount Hope, including 4-3 last year.
The Yellow Jackets, who return only three seniors, will have to learn how to play and win on the road. Their first three games take them to Brindlee Mountain on Aug. 30, Tharptown on Sept. 6 and Parkway Christian Academy in Center Point on Sept. 14. Mount Hope will host three games all season.
The Yellow Jackets’ first home game will be against Waterloo on Sept. 21. Fans will notice new bleachers, a press box and air-conditioned concession stand and fence around the Mount Hope field separating the corn stalks from the yardsticks.
“We’re proud of our upgraded facilities here,” said Smith, who played nose guard at Auburn in the 1970s under the direction of Ralph “Shug” Jordan. “We now have enough seats to hold 500 people on each side of the field. We’re hoping to get a sprinkler system in the future.”
A busy summer workout schedule saw strong participation from the Yellow Jacket players, Smith said with encouragement in his voice.
“We have the ability to go 6-2 this year,” he said. “The attitudes and strong attendance in summer workouts have been outstanding.
“We have a good group of juniors this year. I like the 10th-graders and ninth-graders coming up, too. They just need time to grow and develop.”
Mount Hope is not dressing out any seventh-graders this year.
“When we get some players, they’re really raw,” he said. “But many times, that’s OK. We don’t have to unteach a bad habit they may have been taught.”
Smith said losing seven seniors to graduation hurts in the experience category, but added that this year’s squad has better overall speed.
Senior quarterback Ty Linker will direct the offense again this year. Joining him in the backfield will be senior fullback Chase Hopkins and senior tailback Cody Little and junior Justin Gann.
The group will try to move the ball downfield behind an inexperienced offensive line.
Smith said his team’s multiple-set offense will run to set up the pass.
“Cody and (sophomore wide receiver Vincent) Hewlette can break one any time they touch the ball,” Smith said.
Last year, the team ran the wishbone, but lost two tight ends and most of its offensive line to graduation.
The inexperience may show more on defense, Smith said.
“Five of our 11 starters on offensive and defensive return,” he said.
“We’ve got some holes to fill, but I’m real pleased with the progress we’re making with the offensive line in practice. Defense is still an unknown.”
Smith promises his players will “play hard and play with character.”
“If we win the first couple of games, the fans will keep coming back,” Smith said. “People love to watch a winner.”
Handling assistant coaching duties are Don Smith, receivers and defensive backs; Anthony Inman, running backs and quarterbacks; Bart Stephenson, running backs; Jackie Rogers, offensive line and defensive line; and Matt Williamson, statistics and equipment.
Mount Hope at a glance
Last season: 4-3 on the field, but 5-2 after a forfeit by Tharptown. No playoffs.
Head coach: John Smith (8-14 entering his fourth year).
Noteworthy: Seniors Cody Little and Chase Hopkins and junior Justin Gann each rushed between 600 and 700 yards in last year’s wishbone attack. ... When Little isn’t running the football, he’s breaking quarterhorses, which he says is easier to do in the summer heat. ... It’s been nearly a decade since the Yellow Jackets were a member of a Class 1A region. Coach Smith said he and Principal Tony Rutherford are studying the team’s options for joining a region, perhaps as early as next year.
Mount Hope High schedule, results
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|| at Brindlee Mountain
|| at Parkway Christian
|| at Vina
|Mount Hope is not in a region
|vs. Brindlee Mtn.
|vs. Lyman Ward
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