Here are Caldwell County high school football preview, as compiled by Observer correspondent Jay Edwards
CALDWELL COUNTY PREVIEWS
Head Coach: Clay Lewis (8th year as Hibriten football coach/65-28 at Hibriten).
2016 Record (Conference): 14-1, 7-0 in the Northwestern 3A/4A.
2017 Conference: Northwestern Footballs/2A.
Returning Starters: 10
Returning Lettermen: 26
Key Returning Starters: Charles Tassinari, Sr., LB (6-0, 234); Noah Haney, Sr., DE/P/K (6-2/233); McKinley Witherspoon, Jr., RB/CB (5-11, 181); Miles Simon, Sr., RB/FS (6-1, 196); Skylin Thomas, Jr., SS/RB (5-9, 177).
Key Newcomers: Aaron Logan, Jr., CB/RB (5-10, 165); Marqwone Jones, Jr., FB (6-0, 210); Karson Pilkenton, Jr., WR/DB (5-9, 145); Wynton Horton, Jr., LB (6-1, 177).
Outlook: The Panthers were a perfect 14-0, when their season came to halt in a 26-0, 3A state semifinal loss to South Point. This year, they take on a new challenge in the Northwest Foothills 2A conference, where they have the pieces on offense, RB McKinley Witherspoon (1,055 yards rushing, 17 TD’s) and defense, LB Charles Tassinari (84 tackles), DB’s Miles Simon (six interceptions), Skylin Thomas (seven interceptions) to be state championship contender, again.
Head Coach: Marc Kirkpatrick (1st year as South Caldwell football coach/19 years as assistant coach).
2016 Record (Conference): 2-9 (2-5 in the Northwestern 3A/4A).
2017 Conference: Northwestern 3A/4A conference (4A).
Returning Starters: 9 (5 offense; 4 defense).
Returning Lettermen: 23
Key Returning Starters: Colton Kirby, Jr., OL/DL (6-6, 323); Nate Monroe, Sr., DB/RB (5-9, 168); Harley Sullivan, Sr., LB/RB (5-10, 183); Keyshawn Hopper, Sr., OL/DL (6-0, 302).
Key Newcomers: Austin Reynor, So., DB/WR (6-1, 183); Jason Martin, So., QB (6-0, 194); Aaron Kirby, So., DB/WR (5-10, 158).
Outlook: The Spartans suffered through a 2-9 season last year, including a 0-8 start. Longtime South Caldwell assistant, former Spartan player, new head coach, Marc Kirkpatrick, will try to help his team move back up the Northwestern 3A/4A standings. South Caldwell and senior leaders, senior OL/DL’s Keyshawn Hopper and Colton Kirby, face an uphill task with a first-year head coach and a young team in a tough conference.
Head Coach: DeVore Hollman (1st year as West Caldwell football coach/22-21 overall).
2016 Record (Conference): 10-3 (6-1 in the Southern District 7 (SD7)).
2017 Conference: Northwestern 3A/4A conference (3A).
Returning Starters: 16 (8 offense; 8 defense).
Returning Lettermen: 20
Key Returning Starters: Isaiah Helms, Jr., OL/DL (6-4, 260); Dalton Stepps, Sr., OL/DL (6-4, 290); Taye Dula, Sr., LB/RB/Slot (5-11, 200); Elijah Brooks, Sr., WR/DB (5-9, 165); Kaleb Dula, Sr., QB/DB (5-11, 165); Jeremy Boyce, Sr., DE/RB (5-11, 190); Jadakiss Hendrix, Sr., WR/LB (5-10, 170); Will Gause, Jr., HB/LB (6-1, 205).
Key Newcomers: N/A.
Outlook: The Warriors enjoyed one of their best seasons in recent history, going 10-3, tied atop the SD7 standings with Lincolnton. This year, they have a new challenge in the Northwestern 3A/4A conference. But with 16 starters back, West Caldwell has a lot of reasons – led by senior playmakers, RB Jeremy Boyce (1,488 yards rushing, 15 touchdowns), WR/DB Elijah Brooks (786 yards receiving; four interceptions), QB/DB Kaleb Dula (four interceptions) – to be a major factor in the league race and into the 3A state playoffs.