Coach: Tad Baucom, fifth season (31-20 at Sun Valley, 123-106 in N.C.)
2017 Record: 11-4, 4-3 in Southern Carolina Conference
Returning Starters: Offense 4; Defense 4
Graduation took a toll on a Sun Valley football team that went 11-4 and fell in the 3AA Western Regional final in 2017, but it appears the Spartans will just reload. Sun Valley is led by one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and the Spartans have playmakers on both sides of the football.
The Spartans offense will be led by Florida State commit Sam Howell, who is one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country.
Last season as a junior, Howell threw for 3,372 yards and 36 touchdowns. Averaged 241 yards passing a game and rushed for 1,594 yards and 24 more touchdowns. He rushed for over 100 yards nine times and had 201 yards on the ground in a victory over Porter Ridge.
One of Howell’s top targets will be sophomore receiver Gavin Blackwell. Blackwell, who already has seven college offers, averaged 23.4 yards a catch a year ago after catching 23 passes for 538 yards and five touchdowns. Junior running back Tacory Robinson is back after rushing for 992 yards last season, while sophomore Deuce Wilson is also expected to carry the football.
Senior Cesar Minarro will anchor an offensive line that was hit hard by graduation. Michael Larbie is also expected to help on both the offensive and defensive lines.
Defensive end Preston Doody (6-2, 208) is back after recording 102 tackles and seven sacks as a junior.
Linebacker/free safety Christian Joe also returns after tallying 55 tackles and two interceptions. Jack Wilton (6-1, 180) will also bring experience to linebacker.
Cameron Maddox is another playmaker in the secondary after having 73 tackles and four interceptions. Sun Valley had 10 interceptions last season, including eight by returning players.
Jacob Bowman and Nick Bartolomeo return after both handled kicking duty last season. Bowman, who is a sophomore, made 38 of 47 PAT kicks last season and the team’s only field goal. Bartolomeo was 19 of 22 on PAT kicks.