By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
Coach Danny Miller and the Hanceville football team entered the 2012 season with the tall task of replacing one of the best running backs in Cullman County history — Diamond Simmons.
However, despite losing Simmons’ amazing production on the ground, the Bulldogs' running back corps didn’t miss a beat, using the combo of Sheldon Lewis and Torrey Green to rip through opposing defenses week after week en route to a 7-4 year and first-round playoff appearance.
As the Purple and Gold prepare to faceoff against county-rival
Fairview on Aug. 30, Miller isn’t quite feeling the same heat as he was a season ago, despite having to replace yet another departing senior from the backfield in Lewis.
“I thought we had more depth at the running back position this spring than we have any other year I’ve been here,” Miller said. “We ended up having three strong backs.”
Among those three include the returning Green, as well as senior Carlos Chacon and eighth-grader B.J. Smalls — who’s coincidentally the step-brother of the aforementioned Simmons.
“Both Carlos and B.J. had really good springs for us,” Miller added. “We’re excited about them.”
Starting at quarterback will be senior Caleb Hurst, who returns after a year under center a smarter and stronger player for Miller’s Bulldogs.
The sixth-year coach is hoping his signal-caller will be able to make some plays of his own this season.
“There are some things he can do to take the pressure off our running backs,” he said. “He’s definitely gotten bigger since last year. I think we are also going to have some good wide receivers and tight ends to throw to as well.”
It’s not all a walk in the park for Miller, however, as the coach knows he still has a long way to go in rounding out a roster.
According to Miller, the Bulldogs can put 11 solid players from each unit on the field at any given time. The rub, however, lies when he’ll have to give some of those starters a breather or replace them due to potential injury.
“We just don’t have a lot of depth top to bottom right now,” Miller said. “We’ve got to develop it over the season. That was a big goal for us this spring.”
Defensively, the Purple and Gold will also need to replace the production of Lewis, who earned All-State honors his senior season with 161 total tackles, including 18 for loss.
The Bulldogs will look to several players to fill Lewis’ shoes in the defensive backfield, including Green, Charles Tatro and Issac Hart.
“You can’t replace Sheldon and what he did for us,” Miller said. “But we’ve got several kids we feel can step up and be productive for us.”
Hanceville got off to a rocking start in its first live competition in several months, defeating Parrish and Phil Campbell 24-6 and 22-0 in respective halves of the Bulldogs’ jamboree game back in April.
A big part of Miller’s plan heading into the spring was simple, focusing on his own team and what it wanted to accomplish. A large part of that included working on the simple things — drills, fundamentals, tackling and blocking — in order to be better prepared for when the season actually starts.
“It’s never a bad thing to work on that stuff,” Miller said. “I was pretty pleased overall with how the spring went and how we played in our jamboree game. Our coaches did a good job of getting the kids used to what we expect from them going forward. I feel really good heading into the fall.”
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at email@example.com.