Tigers want to compete in 3A

Mount Pleasant struggled to adjust to 3A football last season, going 3-8 (2-5 in the Southern Piedmont Conference) and failing to advance to the postseason.

""We were still a 2A school with 2A numbers playing 3A teams with 3A rosters, which was a big challenge for us," said Mount Pleasant coach Michael Johns.

This season, the Tigers hope to get back to their winning ways, but will have to prove they can do it against a tough schedule.

The Tigers take on a challenging non-conference schedule that includes Albemarle, Monroe and trips to South and West Stanley before making their second trip through the SPC slate.

A lot of Mount Pleasant's success will hinge on senior quarterback Hunter Cannon (6-0, 170) who is back to trigger the spread, 4-wide offense that only scored 166 points in 11 games last season.

Cannon, who started two games last year, will get the opportunity to throw a lot, but Johns hopes that the offense will be more balanced than last year.

"We threw the ball way too much last year, but a lot of times we had to," said Johns, whose team passed 30-40 times a game in 2009. "We want to have a lot more balance. If we want to win, we have to be able to establish the run."

The running game will look to juniors Ace Troutman and Junior Gonzales to carry the load. Troutman is bigger and stronger, while Gonzales is more elusive and speedy. Cannon may also get some runs out of the spread formation.

The Tigers will still want to throw the ball early and often, having the players to do so.

Seniors Chett Currie and Jake Heintz lead the receiving corps that should be deep and talented. Currie, who had 30 catches a year ago, is the possession guy, while Heintz, is the deep threat and the fastest player on the team. Sophomore wideouts Andy Hunt and Allen McDonald will also be big in the slots.

The offensive line might be a bigger challenge, having only one full-time starter back in Justin Griffin.

While the offense has a good bit of experience returning, the defense is more of a work in progress, only returning three starters from a defense that allowed 26 points per game.

All-SPC middle linebacker, Christian Cannon, who is the quarterback's twin brother, is a great building block. He had 98 tackles as a junior, and should be even better this year.

Cannon has only one other player joining him on the front seven with starting experience in defensive end Cody Crowell. The Tigers' defensive front will depend on younger players to step up quickly or it could be a long year in Mount Pleasant.

The defensive backfield should be a strong point with seniors Currie, Heintz and Jake Nolan all back. Heintz, who is expected to be a big-play guy on offense, had a team-best three interceptions last year and could be big for the Mustangs.

"When you look at our team on paper, I would expect our offense to carry us early," said Johns, who is entering his 12th season at Mount Pleasant.

"Hopefully, our defense can get their feet wet and we can be more of a complete team as quickly as possible."