Stars in the spotlight
Odds are that the star in the spotlight will be Colton Johnson. He’s a three-year starter at inside linebacker and the team’s top tackler.
“He makes our defense go,” Lawrence County head coach Rich Dutton said.
Lay of the land
The Red Devils compete in Class 5A, Region 7 with Corner, Dora, Hamilton, Hayden, Jasper, Russellville and West Point. Jasper won the region championship and advanced to the third round of the playoffs.
Lawrence County's out-of-region games are with 5A powerhouse Madison Academy in the season opener on Aug. 30, at Decatur on Sept. 27 and at home vs. Rogers in the season finale on Nov. 1.
Dutton is starting his eighth season at his alma mater. The Red Devils have gone 29-44 with three trips to the playoffs.
Lawrence County was 2-1 after three weeks and then lost seven in a row to end up 2-8. That snapped a three-year run of playoff appearances. The Red Devils averaged 21.1 points while giving up 31.9 points. The eight losses were the most in one season in Dutton’s seven seasons as head coach.
Last three seasons
The Red Devils have gone 12-20. The last winning season was in 2015 with a 6-5 record.
Words to grow on
“This season we are going to do as much as we can to keep from playing so many players on both sides of the ball,” Dutton said. “Playing guys both ways really hurt us in region games. We could compete in the first half and into the third quarter, but we didn’t finish strong.”
Senior Ty Hutto takes over for the graduated Austin Blankenship, who played in 32 games in his career. Hutto missed most of last season while recovering from a knee injury sustained during the 2018 spring game at Jacksonville State.
“Ty’s a great athlete and a great leader for our football team,” Dutton said.
The offensive line has two starters returning in seniors Brody Franks and Ki Pointer. Franks is a three-year starter and Pointer is moving over from the defensive line.
Malik and Tayi Strickland are the top returning receivers. Juniors Allen Johnson and Gage Dutton are the running backs.
“Last season we had to throw the ball a lot,” Dutton said. “This year we are going to have a major focus on running the ball. It’s going to be ground and pound.”
The defense will have several first-year starters surrounding Johnson.
Lane Fuller leads a young defensive backfield with cornerbacks Mac Phillips and Kaden Edwards. Izayah Fletcher played safety last season as an eighth grader.
After opening the season with the home game vs. Madison Academy, the Red Devils jump into region play with a home game vs. Hayden. Winning that region opener could be a huge momentum builder.
“Our region is strong and it’s hard to predict how it will go,” Dutton said. “Our non-region games with Madison Academy in the season opener and Decatur in Week 5 will be real tests. It’s going to take a strong team to get through that.”
— David Elwell