The Cashion High School Wildcats football team was solid last season. The Wildcats went 10-3, 5-1 in conference play and made it all the way to the quarterfinals. After a 2-2 start to the season a year ago, the Wildcats rattled off eight wins in a row, doing so with a freshman quarterback. But for as good as Cashion was last season, they somehow flew under the radar. That will not be the case this season. Cashion is now poised to take home another gold ball under Head Coach Lynn Shackleford. The Wildcats will have a bull’s-eye firmly planted on their backs this year. The Wildcats have been hard at work this off-season to make sure they are ready for the attention.
It was an off-season that Shackleford says went about as good as can be expected.
“It has been pretty good, I’ve been really pleased with the turnout this summer,” Head Coach Lynn Shackleford said. “We went to two team camps and threw some seven-on-seven, and had some individual kids go to some lineman camps and stuff like that, and we worked out. It was about as good as you can expect.”
All eyes will be on Matt Harman when the season begins and for good reason. As a freshman, the quarterback finished as the fifth best quarterback in the state. He threw for 2,754 yards and 27 touchdowns, while completing 66 percent of his passes. The freshman is now a sophomore and with the year to grow, Shackleford says that Harman not being a freshman anymore will make him even better.
“He is just a year older, there is a big difference in a 14 year old and a 16 year old,” Shackleford said. “Him getting bigger, faster and stronger has probably the biggest difference. He works really hard on his fundamentals and spends a lot of time throwing the football, but just being a year older helps. Not being a freshman probably helps more than anything, just not having that moniker of, ‘you’re a freshman’ probably helps a lot too.”
Shackleford says Harman is handling the attention and pressure just fine. Harman isn’t the type of player to let individual accolades effect his psyche.
“He handles it fine, he knows he is only as good as the other 10 guys out there on the field with him,” Shackleford said. “He is not the kind of kid or has the kind of demeanor that is going to let any kind of attention get to him. He shows up every day and gets ready to work. He will run practice just as hard as anyone else does.”
Perhaps the biggest reason that the Wildcats will be successful this season is the big boys up front. Cashion will have five seniors starting on the offensive line to help open up holes and keep Harman off his back.
“We will start five seniors up front,” Shackleford said. “We don’t have a lot of depth, but what we do have, we really like and we think they have a chance to be really good. “
The Wildcats have no shortage of play makers on this squad. They lost standout receiver Joe Neece, but they do return Peyton Maroney and Ryan Harrel. Those two mixed in with a Piedmont move-in, the receiver spot could be one of the stronger points on this season.
“We have some young kids that are pretty good,” Shackleford said. “We have a kid that is new for us, he came here at semester last year, Josh Hampton. He is a kid from Piedmont who has a chance to be really good. Ryan Harrel started at receiver for us last year and we get him back. We have just been fortunate over the years, we have had guys who have just stepped into roles and assumed those roles and continued to be productive for us. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have that again this year.”
The Wildcats will also have a full stable of backs for Harman to hand the ball off to this season. Last season, Dillon Kordeliski flew under the radar in his own way.
Kordeliski rushed for 1,444 yards and scored 22 touchdowns. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry, and 111 yards per game.
“Kordeliski had one of the quietest good years we have had in a long time,” Shackleford said. “He has gotten better, he sees the holes a lot better than he used to. He is a kid we will lean on when we have to.”
Along with Kordeliski, the Wildcats have two other running backs. With three running backs who offer a little something different, this offense could be loaded.
“We have Kordeliski back and another kid who moved in from Piedmont, Blakely Levlin who has a chance to be a really good running back,” Shackleford said. “Caleb George is back, who played running back for us last year when Dylan was hurt. We have three pretty good running backs, which all kind of have some unique things about them and can do some things different than the other one can. We have a chance to be really multiple on offense and be able to move the ball and have some success.”
The talent on this team is going to be scary for any team to face. Cashion knows when they have a special team. They have been to the big game and have come away with gold balls. The Wildcats believe that this year has a chance to be special.
“Every team is unique, every team has its own identity,” Shackleford said. “We think we have a chance to be really good. We have thought that four or five times over the last eight or nine years, that we thought if we could stay healthy and things go our way, we might have a chance. This year is like that, but this team is different than the team we had two years ago when we went to the semi-finals. I like our team, I like our kids, I like the way they get a long and fit together. We will see what happens over the next three months.”
With the talent in place and a favorable schedule set before them, what would a successful season be for this squad? Shackleford believes anything less than competing for a title would be a disappointment.
“I think it’s hard to judge a season until the end of the season,” Shackleford said. “If we stay healthy the whole year, yeah, I would be disappointed if we didn’t have a chance to go and compete for a gold ball.”