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By Marlana Smith
The North Shelby Raiders come off a 9-3 season returning seven starters in the eight positions on each side of the ball.
New to the Raider football program is David Stuckey, bringing 29 years of coaching experience.
“It’s such a great group of kids here and I’ve been so welcomed by everyone in the community. It’s definitely a football community,” said Stuckey. “Friday nights mean a lot to everybody. It’s just genuine excitement about seeing the kids do well.”
Stuckey has been either a head coach or an assistance coach of two state semifinals, six quarterfinals and nine district titles.
The 29 Raiders, with 12 seniors, started practice August 9. The team lifted all summer, went to two team camps and had two 7-on-7 nights of competition.
“It’s more than just winning games, it’s about creating young men and even women, who are managers in the program, and teaching them to be self-leaders and things like that,” Stuckey continued, “Whether it’s in the home, their entrepreneur, their own farm or business. A lot of times it all starts and ends with them.”
You can’t talk about our the offense without talking about senior quarterback, Cale Stoneburner.
Stoneburner has passed 679 yards for 15 touchdowns and rushed for 885 yards with 17 touchdowns last season.
“He brings a lot to the program. He has really taken into studying the game,” said Stuckey. “I think he has really improved his knowledge of the game sufficiently. He is a leader by his performance, the way he works on the field and in the weight room.”
Running back Justin Lunsford, a senior, rushed for 1,123 yards and 20 touchdowns.
“Every kid leads by example by how they practice. That is one of the strengths of this program Stuckey said. “You can’t talk about being good offense without talking about our offensive line.”
Luke Schwanke, Dylan McEwen and Brayton Cook have a lot of returning experience.
“We talk about those weapons, but we leave out, Noah Greenwell, Kyle Smith, Landon Bender, Rob Uhlmeyer and Carson Orr. Our team is rather deep this year. Each one brings rather unique gifts to the table,” Stuckey said.
The Raiders have four receivers they feel comfortable throwing the ball to and a couple to run the ball.
Newcomer and sophomore Riley Hill is going to play nose guard for the Raiders.
“He is really strong in the weight room, and he is starting to convert that and starting to learn how to play the game and take his strength and convert it into athleticism on the field,” Stuckey expressed.
Senior Andrew Wiley WR/DB and juniors, Brendyn Miles WR/DB, J.D. Rich DB and wide receiver Brendyn McDaniel will all see some depth times.
A lot of kids that are just coming on, that won’t necessarily be starting, but when on the field will step in during critical situations and give rest breaks.
Stuckey’s goals are the same every year, create successful programs.
“Number 1, give your honest effort, 100 percent. If you can look at the man in the mirror at the end of the game and you played as good as you could,” Stuckey continued, “We have very high goals to go as far as our talent takes us. One of the ways we achieve that is, being three plays better than we were the game before.
Stuckey said the Raiders know they want to win a state championship, but talk is cheap.
“We need to keep the mindset, keep the focus and don’t talk about winning. We talk about doing the things that create winning. When you do the things that create winning over and over again, success will find you,” Stuckey added.
“All of our focus and energy is on what we can control, which is do our performance on Friday night. We can’t control what another good team does, or a bad team. We take care of what we take care of, and good things will happen.”