In his 11th season as the head coach at Northeast, Bruce Mullen is a believer in good things coming in small packages.
The problem is, Mullen’s package keeps getting smaller as the student enrollment at Northeast continues to dwindle. And while the players he does have display a lot of heart, they generally aren’t physically large.
“Everybody we play is gonna be bigger than us,” Mullen said. “It’s going to be hard, but if we can win three of our first five games, we’ll be OK.”
That might be easier said than done, although the players Mullen has seem to respond well to his exhortations during preseason practices.
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For starters, he has only seven returning starters, including just three on offense, and 12 seniors on a squad that finished with a 7-3 record last season.
“Everybody we play in the first half of the season is in a higher classification than us,” Mullen said.
The Raiders, who call GHSA Class AA home, begin their 2014 quest for success by hosting Bibb County rivals Southwest and Rutland, both Class AAA teams. Then Northeast goes on the road for its next three games against Class AAAA Upson-Lee and Class AAAAA Shaw and Manchester, which is in Class AA.
Also, on the schedule for Northeast are region opponents Lamar County and Macon County.
Replacing quarterback Davion Anderson, who has gone on to Charleston Southern where he’s projected to play defensive back, will be Tekorian Denson, who is looking forward to the challenge after being the backup quarterback last season.
“He’s been working hard, it’s his time to lead,” said Mullen of Denson.
Backing up Denson as the signal-caller will be Chris Spencer, who, like most players, goes both ways for the Raiders, doubling as a linebacker. Spencer, a junior, was a wide receiver on offense last season.
Other key senior players for Northeast include Audie Farley, a 6-foot, 180- pound wide receiver/defensive back, and Dequarius Johnson, a running back who also puts in time at linebacker. He will share tailback duties with sophomore Jerome Grayer.
The Raiders’ defense will be led by linebacker Quinterrius Harvey, who led the team last season with 96 tackles.
Described by his head coach as “dynamite,” Harvey is a junior who has been a starter since his freshman year,
“We’ll be tested early,” said Mullen, who said many times opposing coaches have admired how his undersized, undermanned teams play hard. “It’s not the size of the cat in the fight, it’s the size of fight in the cat.”
NORTHEAST IN 2014
Head coach: Bruce Mullen (58-47 in 10 seasons overall and at Northeast).
2013 record: 7-3.
2014 region: GHSA 4-AA.
Returning starters: 5 on offense; 4 on defense.
Players to watch: Dedtravius Jones (C); Jerome Grayer (RB); Tekorian Denson (WR); Dequarius Johnson (RB); Audie Farley (WR); Quinterrius Harvey (MLB); Eddie Gibson (DT); Johnny Hoskins (DE); Tarako Braswell (LB).
Aug. 29 vs. Southwest
Sept. 5 vs. Rutland
Sept. 12 at Upson-Lee
Sept. 19 at Shaw
Sept. 26 at Manchester
Oct. 10 Putnam County
Oct. 17 at Lamar County
Oct. 24 Macon County
Oct. 31 Bleckley County
Nov. 7 at Monticello