Bulldogs look to build on late-season progress

Published 12:48 pm Monday, August 8, 2022

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Contributing writer

It was a tough season in 2021 for the Claiborne Bulldogs as the team stumbled to a 1-9 mark and missed the TSSAA 3A state playoffs.

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Although the first part of the season saw some lopsided final scores, the Dawgs progressively closed the gap on their competition, beginning with a tight district loss to Johnson County on the road 29-26, at Unaka 14-12 and at home to Chuckey Doak 39-20.

Their grit was never more evident than the Dawgs upsetting Claiborne County archrival Cumberland Gap 18-16 in Arthur to end the 2021 campaign.

With that win as a catapult into 2022, Claiborne is looking to build momentum into what they expect will be a much more successful season.

According to coach Nathan Medlin, CHS has gotten off to a solid start to the new season.

“We have had a good preseason so far,” Medlin said. “We have had one scrimmage with our jamboree coming up on August 12, anxious to see how the players have learned and grown so far this year. We only lost a few seniors, so I am hoping to see the experience that our guys gained last year and moving forward come to fruition and show itself as we move into the season. Our first five games are on the road this year, so we will have to show a lot of maturity with so many away trips to begin the season.”

Claiborne’s 2022 schedule is once again a tough slate for any squad, especially with the Dawgs competing in Class 3A District 1. Non-district tilts include Union County, Northview Academy, Thomas Walker (Virginia), Unaka, Grainger and Cumberland Gap. Medlin knows how this season opens up is crucial to turning the fortunes of his club.

“I think that we have to have some guys step up and we have to show more maturity this year,” he said. “I wish that being close in games counted, however, it’s the nature of the beast, if you are competing and winning it is hard to convince our boys they are doing a good job. I think that the leadership that we have with this team will help us be able to overcome some of the adversity that we faced last year, and will probably face again this year.”

On offense, the returning experience will have a hand in the rebuilding of the team.

“Offensively this year, our offensive line as a unit has to be a key group for us,” Medlin said. “They are all returning starters, with most having multiple years of starting under their belts, and they will be key to any amount of success that we will see. Josh Bolton is a returning starting running back, who is a very dynamic player, and will be exciting to watch this year. We have several other good backs that should all see a lot of carries. Tyrell Miles, Korbin Hatfield, and Landen Poore will all be targeted by our Quarterback in the passing game, “ Medlin added.

Defensively, Medlin expects that the same core of experience will help guide the team’s fortunes this season.

“Defensively we play a lot of the same guys that we do on offense,” he said. ‘Our linebacking core will be the strength of our team I think this year, Jaris Bunch is the leader of that group that will hopefully give us an opportunity to keep the other team’s offense in check. Josh Bolton is an outside linebacker that we are hoping will be able to disrupt the opposing team’s game plan, with Tyrell Mile, Cole Jones, Jake Smith, and Korbin Hatfield filling out our secondary and helping with pass coverage.

“Our defensive line is the most experienced group on defense, Justin Robinson at defensive end does a great job of setting the edge for us, with Dalton Long and Ethan Short playing on the interior and Landen Poore at another end.”

Overall, there seems to be a renewed optimism around the CHS program, one that Medlin hopes to translate to success on the gridiron.

“This group will be very exciting to watch,” Medlin said. “It is a very close group who I know will lay it on the line every game and hopefully they will be able to see success from all the hard work and growth that they have been able to do all offseason.”

Claiborne opens the 2022 season on Aug. 26 at Union County.

2022 Bulldogs Schedule

Aug. 26 at Union County

Sept. 1
West Greene*

Sept. 9
Northview Academy

Sept. 16
at Unicoi County*

Sept. 23
at Thomas Walker VA

Sept. 30
Johnson County*

Oct. 7

Oct. 14 at Chuckey Doak*

Oct. 21 Grainger

Oct. 28 Cumberland Gap

* District game