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Low numbers, high hopes for Owen football

Young offense, kicking game could pose challenges for feisty Warhorses

9:59 PM, Jul. 31, 2012 EDT

Owen football coach Kenny Ford speaks with a player during a recent seven-on-seven workout with Pisgah. / Mark Vanderhoff/CITIZEN-TIMES PHOTO


Everyone must change with the times.

Even longtime Owen football coach Kenny Ford has adapted when it comes to his always-colorful take on the sport.

Ford knows that a young offense and uncertainty in the kicking game might be problems for his team this season. He's also cognizant that the Warhorses will play the majority of their games on artificial turf this season.

"I think we're going have to go for it every time (on fourth down)," Ford said.

"Our offense may be three yards and a cloud of rubber pellets."

Those pellets provide the cushioning for the turf fields, and the Warhorses will need to avoid any hard falls. Their roster is expected to contain less than 30 players again this season (Owen took the field with just 23 at the end of 2011).

Senior Tate Gardner is a newcomer to the starting lineup at quarterback. Fullback Cole Leighton rushed for 308 yards as a junior.

Their success will be largely dependent on how quickly the line grows around two valued, returning blockers -- Caleb Chandler and Jose Garcia.

Hard at work

Tight end Eddie Slye and wideouts Dev Brown and Jager Gardner combined for nearly 900 receiving yards in 2011.

"I've worked hard all four years and I'm ready for this," Gardner said.

"It's a great feeling to be called to lead this team. I know that everyone has been working hard. Workouts have been going to good, we get better after every one."

A half-dozen returning starters are back on the defensive side of the ball to help the Warhorses chase their first conference championship since 2006.

Defensive end Adam Lunsford made 86 tackles last year while Slye had 76. Emmanuel Hollifield (55 tackles), Leighton (49), Gardner (35) and Tyler White (30) all had 30 or more last year.

"A lot of these kids had to play last year when they weren't ready because we just didn't have the numbers," Ford said.

"And we're not going to have great numbers this year. We've got to try and take our strengths and get the rest of the kids caught up as quick as we can."

Ford is the winningest coach in school history with 203 career victories.

He is the only active Buncombe County football coach with more than 200 wins and has been at the county's smallest public school for the past 26 years.

The Warhorses open their season Aug. 17 at Brevard. Owen easily won the nonconference matchup, 27-7, last fall but later had to forfeit the game for using an ineligible player.




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