Every year, Two Rivers battles a general lack of numbers, size and strength, and that won’t be any different in 2013.
But with eight starters returning on each side of the ball, coach Josh Harrison thinks his team could make the playoffs for the first time since 2009 — their first since moving up to Class 3A.
“Our conference (the 5-3A) is a two-headed monster with Glen Rose and Fountain Lake, and then Jessieville,” Harrison said. “Everybody else is battling for 3, 4 and 5.
“Last year we lost to Benton Harmony Grove, 27-22, and Centerpoint by a touchdown. We think we can compete with those guys. If we can squeak by those two, we should be able to make the playoffs, and for our team’s lack of size and strength, that would be a great year for us.”
The Gators finished 3-7 last year, including 1-7 in league play. Their only conference win was 39-7 over Bismarck.
“We lost a couple of close games in the fourth quarter,” Harrison said. “Although the record doesn’t show it, we had a competitive year. We had some close games.”
He said his team’s strengths in 2013 would be a core of experienced skill players who have seen significant playing time since they were sophomores. The same weaknesses apply as always — lack of size, strength and speed.
“And we don’t have a whole lot of depth,” he said.
The Gators will run a multiple offensive set with a 3-5-3 defense.
The offense will start with senior quarterback Tyler Green (6-1, 170), who passed for more than 1,700 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior. Although a three-year starter, he has only played in nine high school games, between a broken arm as a sophomore and a knee injury last year.
“We’re expecting him to put up some big numbers,” Harrison said. “He had a big 7-on-7 summer. He has a tremendous, accurate arm, and he’s very smart. We like to throw the ball quite a bit, but once he learns he can use his legs, he’s going to be a complete quarterback. He’s a difference maker.”
Green will also play safety. Other key players include senior receiver/safety Gary Morrison (6-2, 170); senior running back Matt Burnett (5-10, 195); junior running back/defensive end Taylor Smith (6-0, 175); senior running back/receiver Caleb Lisenby (6-0, 190); senior linemen Blake Sink (6-0, 170), Dylan Piles (5-10, 160) and Scottie Hicks (6-3, 280) and junior center Austin Long (5-9, 165) and lineman Ryan Horn (6-2, 240).
“Morrison was double teamed a lot last year but still managed almost 700 yards receiving,” Harrison said. “He’s long and lanky and has big-play ability. He’s got great hands, and his speed is deceptive. He’s not fast, but he’s got a big stride. He catches about everything you throw his direction. Burnett is another difference maker. We think we can make a playoff run if he does what we think he can do.
“Taylor Smith was our leading rusher last year. He’s a big, strong physical kid who loves football. Put him anywhere on the field and he’ll play.”
With just two linemen over 200 pounds, the Gators are undersized but feisty.
“We’ll have a slew of other kids who will contribute at wide receiver,” Harrison said, mentioning sophomores Morgan Yates and Colby Whitlow and junior Dylan Blair. “Defensively, most of ours will play both ways. We lack size, so we’re going to put speed and tacklers out on the field and a different style of defense. We’ll put our smaller, faster tacklers on the field.”
The five LBs look to be Smith, Sink, Piles, Lisenby and Burnett.