• 72°

McKenzie football loads up for 2010

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series of articles concerning local high school football teams as they head into spring practice. Coming Saturday: Greenville High School.

Spring football is an opportunity to find replacements for last season’s starters, but McKenzie head coach Miles Brown knows he has a luxury few coaches do: four returning offensive linemen in 2010.

Football, it’s said, is won in the trenches so returning a cohesive unit on the line is a good situation for the Tigers, said Brown. Jody Halford, Ethan Davis, Dean Dungan, and John Windham all return for McKenzie. The fifth likely starter on the line, Kendrick Ball, also saw significant playing time last season, said Brown.

McKenzie finished 10-2 last season and the bulk of that team returns. The Tigers lose starting quarterback Calvin Henderson, bruising fullback Freddie Banks, and wide receiver Melvin Owens, but return an electrifying all-purpose player in rising senior Emmanuel Johnson. Johnson returned punts, kicks, and played wide out, running back, and quarterback for the Tigers on offense last year.

So how will Brown utilize Johnson’s unique talents this year?

“I don’t know where I’m going to play him,” said Brown. “It’s a good problem to have.”

But Brown said Johnson will likely share quarterback duties with his brother Sir Wallace Presley (see inset).

Brown said the main focus this spring, on offense, will be building continuity, especially among the wide receivers. Brown’s spread offensive scheme relies heavily on the wide receivers to catch the ball, yes, but also block and run equally well.

Especially the inside receivers, he said. Seniors Cliff Pugh and Chuck Thompson have been moved in as slot receivers, said Brown, after playing outside last season.

“Playing inside is a lot more complicated,” said Brown. “There’s a lot more running and catching, especially on screen plays.”

The Tigers kicked off spring practice on Wednesday.