SKYLAND – Some things are more important than football.
Roberson players have already gotten that hard lesson, well before their first game under new coach J.D. Dinwiddie.
The team’s top returning rusher was shot during a July 13 dispute at Asheville’s Pisgah View Apartments.
Senior Dezmond Moorman (772 yards, 10 touchdowns in 2015) is expected to need at least two months to recover from his injuries.
The shooting has obviously cast a pall over the team. But Dinwiddie, who led North Henderson to its first winning season since 2000 last fall, has a good feeling about these Rams.
“First and foremost, it’s a great group of kids and they all get along really well,” Dinwiddie said.
“We’ve got some leaders emerging and kids who have really bought into the weight room philosophy. They are developing some mental toughness that I think we needed badly. They are eager to learn the system and come in every day with a great attitude and mindset. They hold each other accountable, and that’s all the things you look forward to as a coach.”
Dinwiddie went 15-30 in four seasons at North Henderson including last fall’s 7-5 mark. He won’t have to wait long to see his old team — the season opener for both schools is Aug. 19 in Hendersonville.
Dinwiddie expects sophomore Ty Gossett to be his starting quarterback that night. Gossett is the son of Erwin girls basketball coach Terry Gossett.
“I think (Ty Gossett) is going to be a special player,” Dinwiddie said.
Roberson has a big stable of backs to choose from while Moorman is on the mend.
That group of potential ball-carriers includes Tristan McAfee, Shaquille Gist, Jerome Pulley and Lejuan Rush. Receiving options begin but don’t end with Barshia Young, Micah Jenkins, Jackson Gibson and Seth Hutzler.
Returning All-MAC and All-WNC lineman Dayquan Watkins should be most of Western North Carolina’s most effective blockers once again. Watkins will get some experienced help up front on offense from Orion Dunbar, Brodie Sanford and Seth Rowe.
Logan Wells should continue to be a difference-maker on defense. He averaged 11.8 tackles per game as a junior in 2015.
Note: The Citizen-Times will publish its annual Western North Carolina football preview in the Aug. 14 print edition. A complete preview of Roberson will be available then.