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2022 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Mitchell moves to backfield to help Trojan playmakers

Gaylesville’s Briley Mitchell, right, sets up for a block outside of the backfield for runner Seth Lee at a recent practice. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

GAYLESVILLE – Gaylesville senior Briley Mitchell is hard to miss on the football field. His 6-foot-1, 270-pound frame is perfect for a high school lineman, but fourth-year head coach Brian Knapp is experimenting with Mitchell at a little different position in 2022.

Mitchell will be lining up in the backfield to block for the Trojan playmakers.

“He’s still a glorified lineman, but we’re moving him around,” Knapp said. “Him at the point of attack gives us the best chance to be successful. That’s why I’ve done that. I’ve got a background in the Notre Dame box with my dad years ago, and that’s basically what Briley’s doing. It’s a way to run the box I guess.”

Mitchell said he’s willing to do what it takes for his team to be successful, especially since it’s his last hurrah.

“Basically I’m going to be a sniffer,” Mitchell said in describing his new position. “I might get to touch the ball a little. They moved me into the backfield so I could block either side. It’s an advantage instead of me being stuck to one side. I think Coach Knapp made the right decision on that. We have a few people behind me who have grown up a little bit. If I need to take air for a few plays, they can step in.”

Senior quarterback Tanner Eads is quite comfortable seeing Mitchell’s presence in the backfield with him. He allows him more time to make good decisions.

“I can do more things,” Eads said. “He helps us out a lot instead of playing on one side of the field. He can move around more.

“It’s been good (at practice). Some of the plays we’ve run, we’ve got to run them over and over because Briley is in a new position. Sometimes it’s a counter play. You can run it right up the field.”

“I feel like he’s definitely a good blocker,” senior running back/tight end Keylon Higgins said. “He’s an amazing player, on defense and offense. If he focuses on his position, we’re definitely destined for greatness.”

The Trojans experienced a little greatness during the 2021 season. They finished 6-5 and made the Class 1A state playoffs for the first time since 2013. If Gaylesville makes the playoffs this year, it will be only the fourth time in Trojan history they’ve secured back-to-back postseason berths. The other times were 1990-91, 2006-07, and 2009-11.

“We were able to bust through the door (last season),” Knapp said, who’s seen his win total improve by two games in each of the past two seasons. “It’s been since 1980 since a Gaylesville team has won at least eight ball games. I think that the key here is injuries. Here, if you lose one or two, it sets you back.  You have to play an eighth grader or seventh grader. We were able to stay healthy last year, so if we can do that this year, we can achieve our goals.”

The Trojans certainly have the tools to achieve many goals in 2022, starting with their seniors.

Joining Mitchell, Eads and Higgins as Trojan seniors is Bailey Glassco, David Glenn and Seth Lee. Glassco moves from right guard to right tackle this season. Glenn started last year at center. Lee is a receiver/defensive back and punter.

“All six of these seniors can’t leave the field. Fortunately they’re battle tested,” Knapp said. “When I first got here, I had two seniors. My second year I had four. Last year I had five. Now we’ve got six,” Knapp said. “This senior class has been with me ever since they’ve been in the ninth grade, so they’re familiar with me. I’m familiar with them. That goes a long way. When I say something now, they understand what it means. When I adjust things, they understand what it means. We have slowly built, and every year our record has gotten better.”

Glassco takes over Mitchell’s spot on the Trojan line.

“That’s a big responsibility, big shoes to fill, but I think I can do it,” Glassco said. “I think our most experienced area is our line. We’ve got some new faces, but nothing too crazy. I think a lot of us have physical maturity, and I think we’re going to do well.”

Knapp also expects big seasons from juniors Kyler Bradley, Brayden Sharp and Eli Bryson, and sophomore Hunter Allmond.

“Kyler is the most versatile football player we have,” Knapp said. “He’s Mr. Everything. He plays receiver, quarterback and running back. He’s the guy who really makes things go. He’s the guy who takes that pressure off Briley and Keylon.

“We’re looking for big things out of Brayden. He’s a tight end and a tackle. He’ll be a three-technique on defense. He’s a great kid who has come a long way in the weight room. When I first got here he was a quiet young man, just scared to death not knowing what to do. Now he’s really blossomed. I’m looking for this year to be a coming-out party for him.

“Eli Bryson will be our left guard. He’s played a ton of football. He’s another unselfish, great young man who works hard. He does what you ask him to do.

“Hunter Allmond was a free safety for us last year. At one point he led the county in interceptions. He did a lot of good things for us last year, so we really need for Hunter to have another outstanding season in order for us to be successful.”

The Trojans have a lot of familiarity in Region 7 with Cedar Bluff, Coosa Christian, Valley Head, Woodville and Appalachian. The only newcomer to the region this season is Decatur Heritage.

Following Thursday’s scrimmage with Douglas, Gaylesville opens the 2022 season at home against Class 2A West End of Walnut Grove on Aug. 19. It’s the first meeting between those two schools since 1979.

“There are some tough teams out there, but we still know what we’re up against and the challenges they bring, and what we’ve got to do better,” Lee said. “It’s a big senior class. I love the energy everyone has here. I think we all keep each other going. I think we can pull through. We just have to be in good shape and keep going.”

Gaylesville’s Kyler Bradley snags a pass at a recent Trojan football practice. Photo by Shannon Fagan.
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