CEDAR BLUFF – The last couple of seasons for Joe Carpenter at Cedar Bluff have gotten him accustomed to the word ‘change.’ Whether that was dealing with rebuilding the boys team or adjusting to the competition in Class 2A, it presented challenges to Cedar Bluff that they overcame with the best of their ability.
This year isn’t going to be much different for the Tigers when it comes to adapting to change – whether it be the pandemic affecting the world, the graduation of several key seniors on both the boys and girls end, shifts on the coaching staff, and of course the move back down to 1A. With it all comes new challenges, which Carpenter doesn’t shy away from.
“The girls have got a lot of newcomers,” Carpenter said. “We’ve got one girl (Maggie Clowdis) coming back that played a significant amount last year, and we got three that were eighth graders last year (Hayden Cannon, Za’niya Kyle, and Miracle Guzman). We have eight of them that never really ever played before, so it’s a new beginning for them, and so it’s almost like you’re starting over.”
Adjusting to losing top talent to graduation will a huge challenge for Cedar Bluff, which includes all-county selections Alexis Smith (15 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists per game), Hannah Cosby (11 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist), and Kyla O’Neal (4 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists).
Carpenter does remain optimistic about his girls.
“They’ve done real well trying to pick up some things,” he said. “We’ve still got a long way to go obviously but so far so good. I’m proud of them. They’ve given a good effort and they’re trying to learn some things.”
Seniors Russell Givens and Erin McFry will bring their own level of leadership to the court, and the newcomers will look to continue building off last season’s 14-15 team.
The Tiger boys, which no longer feature the likes of Samuel Cosby and Trey Stitts from last year’s 3-25 team, are dealing more with the challenges of a short preparation period and the effects of the current pandemic climate.
“On the boys’ side, we haven’t had them out here but maybe a week yet due to football,” Carpenter said. “We started a little later to give them some time off. So far they look good, though we’ve got some kids that had COVID exposure that haven’t been able to come out to practice, so that’s kind of deterred us a little bit. But they’ll get out there eventually. So far they’ve been doing the things that we’ve been asking. They’re really quick.”
Senior Anbre Leek returns, with junior football quarterback Jacob Burleson also bolstering the roster, along with sophomores Alex Leek, Dylan Kinard, and Kade Browning. Four freshman (Michael Adams, Carter Dillingham, Elijah McFry and Jaydon Ware) will also look to make their own impacts for the Tigers.
When it comes to adjusting to preparations under the COVID guidelines, one of the biggest things that has been tough for the Tigers to deal with has been the ways to keep their players hydrated.
“Little things like trying to remind them they need to have their own water…logistic-wise it’s just a nightmare trying to make sure they have water and it stays with them and nobody else. Basketball isn’t like football. With them, we ended up pouring it in their mouths.
“The other thing with it is of course the fans and the situation with the gyms. You hear different things. We haven’t been anywhere yet, but some places go more by the guidelines, some places aren’t going by anything. It’s definitely weird and nerve wracking, to be honest with you. It makes you anxious. It’s not as comfortable as it used to be given the circumstances.”
While Cedar Bluff will return to Class 1A, where a lot of the Tigers’ success on the court has come over the years, the talent Area 13 (Gaylesville, Skyline, Woodville and Valley Head) is something they are not looking over.
“Some of them, they are a lot better than a lot of 2A schools, and even a lot of the 3A schools,” Carpenter said. “The change in classification thing … yes we won’t be playing Spring Garden in 1A and we won’t be playing Sand Rock in 2A, we won’t be playing Collinsville in 2A, but we’ve still got Skyline sitting there, Woodville is there, Valley Head is really good, and Gaylesville is doing pretty well with what I’ve seen.
“I don’t know how we are going to match up. It’ll be tough for us anyway. We’re coming off of two rough years with the boys and heading into a rebuilding year for the girls. We’ve got our work cut out for us, but I think we are up for the challenge.”
Cedar Bluff will start its season on Monday at Faith Christian and Tuesday at Coosa Christian.
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