The 2019 campaign looks promising at Statesville. Putting the cart before the horse is not an option though in Greyhound land. At least not if head coach Randall Gusler has anything to say about it.
“I think we have a really good chance—I don’t want to get ahead of myself—to have a competitive season,” Gusler said. “We should make a really deep run.
“We have to stay focused, keep working hard, keep our heads level and stay healthy,” he continued. “But this is a very talented group of kids.”
The Greyhounds return 16 starters from a 9-4 squad. They have nine or 10 back on offense depending how it’s assessed. Offensive lineman Jabril Williams graduated and is at Elon, and Dorreco Davis was part of a three-man rotation at running back that included returnees Caylon Imes and Chavion Smith.
Imes and Smith combined for more than 1,700 yards the previous season.
Quarterback Nebanye Moore will direct the offense again. He became a full-time starter at the position last season and threw 19 touchdown passes and for nearly 2,000 yards.
Moore has weapons at his disposal in the passing game, too. Ky’Wuan Dukes and Jasaiah Gathings return. The duo combined for 11 touchdown catches and almost 1,200 yards receiving in 2018.
On defense, Statesville features six returning starters.
Last season, the Greyhounds were ferocious on that side of the ball, allowing only five touchdowns and three field goals in five North Piedmont Conference games as they earned a share of the NPC title with South Iredell. Opponents combined for a mere 78 points over the course of 11 regular-season games.
Quite a few players from that group were seniors, including linebacker Kobe Turner, the NPC Defensive Player of the Year and R&L County Football Player of the Year. Defensive lineman Justin Bailey, Tacari Clark and Jaheim Simpson were a handful to block as well.
“Defensively, that was a talented front,” Gusler said. “Those are guys that had several years’ experience. The defense carried us several times last season. They were consistent all year. It was good for our young offense.”
Smith, a junior who was recently offered a college scholarship by Kentucky, also played some at linebacker as a sophomore. He registered six tackles for losses and 31 total.
But Gusler said he’s leaning toward not using Smith as much on defense. “We’re trying to keep people fresh and healthy,” he said.
Gusler enters his 14th season leading the Greyhounds needing one victory for his 100th as Statesville head coach.
Smith is happy to see him so close to reaching the milestone.
“He’s a hard-working coach,” Smith said.
Gusler is 99-76 since taking over in 2006.
“I think it’s really cool in this day and time because so many coaches move around nowadays,” Gusler said. “It’s been really nice to be here, to be in one place.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Nebanye Moore: This will be the 6-foot-3, 205-pound junior’s second full season as the starting quarterback. The experience gained behind center on Friday nights as a sophomore should only help him. Last season, Moore completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,971 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Jason Shuford: The senior returns to the defensive line but with an increased role. He largely played behind a senior-laden unit a year ago but still saw notable time on the field. His 10 tackles for losses were tied for third-best on the team. Shuford is listed at 6-foot-3, 295 pounds, Gusler said, noting “He’s a man.”
Seth Williams: He represents the heart of the group lining up in the trenches on offense. Williams is a 6-foot-4, 320-pound versatile offensive lineman. The senior can play any position. This year he moves to right tackle. As a junior he lined up at center and left tackle. Williams excels as a run and pass blocker. He committed to Appalachian State.
GREYHOUNDS AT A GLANCE
Head coach: Randall Gusler, 14th season
Gusler’s record: 99-67
Assistant coaches: Don Sparks, Jason Moore, Tony Lellie, Danny Renwick, Greg Stewart, Scott Norris, Cedric Mayberry, Bill Long, Shad Martin
Returning starters: Offense 10; Defense 6
2018 Record: 9-4 (4-1)
Hickory, W 30-15
Lake Norman, L 2-0
Northern Guilford, W 34-7
West Iredell, W 42-0
Walkertown, W 33-0
Anson County, L 14-0
South Iredell, L 20-19
North Iredell, W 55-0
Carson, W 49-7
West Rowan, W 34-28
East Rowan, W 53-3
East Rowan, W 7-6
Kings Mountain, L 35-21
Aug. 23 at Hickory
Aug. 30 at Lake Norman
Sept. 6 at Alexander Central
Sept. 13 vs. West Iredell
Sept. 20 vs. Concord
Sept. 27 vs. Concord J.M. Robinson
Oct. 11 at South Iredell*
Oct. 18 vs. North Iredell*
Oct. 25 at Carson*
Nov. 1 vs. East Rowan*
Nov. 8 at West Rowan*
*-North Piedmont Conference game