|NTL FOOTBALL: LEADERSHIP WILL PLAY KEY ROLE IN ATHENS' SUCCESS IN 2018 (2018-07-31)
BY TIM TAYLOR
Valley Sports Report
WAVERLY — Athens expects to be young, but competitive in the 2018 season. That’s the impression head football coach Jack Young gave at NTL Media Day Tuesday.
Right now, the Wildcats are expecting to head into preseason with six seniors and seven juniors from a team that went 8-3 overall last year.
Athens will look to the trenches for key support this fall.
“You know, we say it all the time, but this year probably more than ever it's about up front,” Young said. “We’re going to be young. I think we’re going to be OK.
"We’ve just got to continue to build depth. We’ve got a good, solid sophomore group at line and they’re going to be the core. I’ve got one senior lineman in Jared Williams returning. There’s going to be a lot of weight on Jared’s shoulders because he’s going to be the leader.
“This senior group, we’ve got Kaden (Rude) and Nick (Watkins), we’ve talked since last season and over the summer that leadership is going to be huge, because we’re going to have to count on a lot of young kids," said Young.
With a young group, injuries could factor in as well.
"This guy gets nicked up and it’s going to be even a younger kid or less experienced guy,” Young said.
Preseason preparation is also key for Athens.
“We’ve been going hard since we went to team camp and when we get started on Monday, it’s got to be full bore, because we’ve got to be ready,” Young said.
Still, Young believes his squad will be competitive.
“We’ve got some tough kids in the backfield that can make plays,” he said. “You take a Nick Watkins, you take a Damien Hudson, two playmakers.
"David Galasso is going to be in that backfield, probably at fullback a little bit. And then we’ve got two pretty good wide receivers in Eric Westbrook and Keegan Rude. They’re both big kids that can run. They’re both athletic as heck.
"So, I think we can compete with anybody," added Young. "Obviously, you’ve got to get some breaks. We’ve got to work hard and try to force some breaks to go our way every Friday night. That’s kind of the name of the game. We’ve just got to be as fundamentally sound as we can be, but I think we can compete with anybody.”
Young is very impressed with the NTL’s head coaches and their staffs, and how hard they work every season. He noted that North Penn and Wellsboro look tough, and Canton is no slouch either
“I think everybody here is competitive,” he said. “I’d be surprised if anybody runs the table. I really will. When your look at all these teams, they’ve all got playmakers. They all got guys that can make plays. They’ve all got guys that can really secure down defense and do that kind of thing for each other. I think it’s going to be a real competitive league. I think it’s going to be a fun league this year."
IN PHOTO: Athens' Nick Watkins (left) and Kaden Rude (right)
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