There is reason to be cautiously optimistic at La Vergne High this season.
Year three of the Stanton Stevens era could be the Wolverines’ best shot of reaching the high school playoffs — a place La Vergne has not been since 2006.
Stevens returns several key ingredients from last year’s 3-7 team. It is a team that started strong at 2-0, then finished strong with an upset of Class 3A state champion Christian Academy of Knoxville in Week 9.
The Wolverines will be in the I-formation for the second straight season and returns its top two rushers — Daryl James and Willie Cowan. James rushed for 468 yards with eight touchdowns on 91 carries. Cowan rushed for 462 yards and four touchdowns on 77 carries.
James will likely enter the season as the feature back. Cowan missed two games this past season due to an ankle injury.
“Daryl James is the top of our list,” Stevens said. “Willie Cowan was a bit hobbled last year with injuries. The one-two combination of James and then Cowan comes in, that’s a pretty good combination.”
C.J. Fore starts his first year at quarterback for the Wolverines. He replaces the duo of Dustin Bills and Jalen Miller. Bills is playing at linebacker this season. Miller transferred to Blackman.
Fullback Derrick Warfield will be the lead blocker for the two running backs.
He rushed for 41 yards in limited carries in 2011. J.J. Horner, Howard Greer and Antonio Cowart headline the receivers.
Stevens said the key for the Wolverines offense will rest on the line.
Kendall Adams and RaySean Reaves will line up on the left side of the line and be the Wolverines strength.
“We have to find some guys up front that we can run behind,” Stevens said. “We need to be able to do some things. We weren’t able to throw the ball under center very well last year. We’ve got to improve on that. And we were a little predictable when we threw the ball last year.
“I think C.J. can throw it from more different places that Dustin did last year. Having C.J. back there should give us some flexibility.”
The Wolverines defense will be designed around speed. That starts up front with defensive ends Cahlen Fuller and Warfield along with Bills and linebacker L.J. Dismuke.
The secondary will be led by Cowart and David Emmanuel.
Stevens said there has been an emphasis on the punt game, specifically protection. Stevens said he estimates the Wolverines had 11 punts either blocked or returned for a touchdown.
“It was a huge problem. It was a problem, a flat-out problem,” Stevens said. “Sometimes that’s just coaching. I didn’t do a good enough job getting our guys ready. I’m taking that on personally to try and get that fixed.”