Editor's note: This story is part of The Daily Citizen-News' 2019 High School Football Preview. Pick up a copy of Thursday's paper, Aug. 22, or stop by our office for a physical copy of the special issue.
TUNNEL HILL -- This year's Northwest Whitfield High School football team might not score an average of nearly 40 points a game as it did last season, but it's that kind of success that coach Josh Robinson can use to to motivate his team.
A team Robinson said has the potential to improve a great deal.
"We have a lot of youth, especially on offense," he said. "I need to see improvement from week to week. And even though we have the experience on defense, we still need to get better with that to help our offense out."
The Bruins will start a freshman quarterback in Owen Brooker, something Robinson has never done. Brooker will have looks to a few sophomore receivers, including Cade Fisher, Brayden Morrison and Ray Morrison, adding to the youth and making up the core of the offense with no clearcut running back.
For the Bruins to improve as much as Robinson hopes they can, it starts small. Things like playing with the correct technique, having the correct placement on blocks and securing the ball as much as possible will be key.
"We know those little micro things will lead to the macro," Robinson said. "Understanding game situations will lead to big boards. I think the growth really is there, too."
There's room for improvement for everyone, too, not just the younger players. The Bruins are senior-heavy with multiple returning starters on defense including Jeb Brooker, Zach Costlow and Chase Humble.
"Senior leadership can go a long way, but I think this group has the chance to be more vocal," Robinson said. "But as far as work ethic and not getting in trouble, I feel really good about that.
"That typically leads itself to wanting to be coached and wanting to get better, so they also have the chance to continue to do that."
With things still taking shape, Robinson said he feels confident that the things he knows need attention -- like possible turnovers -- are very fixable. If the Bruins are able to keep everything together, the players can improve in other aspects of life, as well.
"We want them to feel what it's like to be in tough situations and how to handle that," Robinson said. "Our success on the field helps us catch onto the things that we want to teach them in life."
As the season goes on, Robinson said he plans to make sure he notifies groups when he does see improvement, hoping others will catch on and continue the trend. On the flip side, he is also ready dish out group punishment.
"As a coaching staff, we have to constantly evaluate," he said. "If a kid's not getting it, we're not just going to give up on him. If they act right and do what they are supposed to, we are going to do what we can to adjust what we do so they can have a chance to get on the field and learn."
Coach: Josh Robinson (ninth year)
2018 record: 9-2, 4-1 in Region 6-4A
All-time school record: 260-200-1, first season in 1975
Region championships: one in 2000
State championships: none
2017 record: 6-5, lost in the first round of playoffs for Class 4A
2016 record: 8-4, lost in the second round of playoffs for Class 4A
2015 record: 7-4, lost in the first round of playoffs for Class 4A
2014 record: 5-5
Impact players: Matt Redmond (junior, receiver/defensive back) -- Three carries for 59 yards and one touchdown with 22 receptions for 257 yards and one touchdown last season; Zach Costlow (senior, lineman) -- 64 tackles, six tackles for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery last season; Chase Humble (senior, lineman) -- 65 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, eight sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery; Logan Akins (senior, linebacker) -- 70 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, four sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery last season
Keep an eye on: Owen Brooker (freshman, quarterback); Ray Morrison (sophomore, receiver); Cade Fisher (sophomore, receiver); Reade Chadwick (senior, lineman); Dayten Cowart (junior, lineman); Logan Akins (senior, linebacker); Hayden Pack (senior, defensive back); Jacob Sanders (senior, defensive back/receiver); Bailey McQuaig (senior, linebacker/running back)