By CHRIS HOBBS
Conference: South Fork 2A.
Head coach: Tom Eanes (147-187-1, 29 years; first year at Bandys).
Last season’s records: 5-7 overall; 3-4 South Fork 2A, fifth place.
Last season’s results: at St. Stephens, W 42-40, 2 OTs; Foard, L 17-23; Bunker Hill, W 33-7; Hickory, L 10-33; at MAIDEN, L 21-35; NEWTON-CONOVER, L 7-55; at LINCOLNTON, L 21-42; at E. LINCOLN, L 13-38; W. LINCOLN, W 35-23; at LAKE NORMAN CHARTER, W 42-16; N. LINCOLN, W 53-50. Playoffs: at Hibriten, L 6-57.
SCHOOL FOOTBALL HISTORY
Last season in state playoffs: 2017, 2AA.
Last state playoff victory: 2012, d. Newton-Conover 49-24, second round.
All-time state playoff bids: 23.
Conference titles (or shares of) since 1980, last: 6, 2009 Catawba Valley Athletic 2A.
BY THE NUMBERS
Returning starters: 9.
Returning lettermen: 14.
Returning starters: 4.
Leading returning rusher: Ethan Howard, 5-11, 240, Sr. (229-1,398, 12 TDs).
Leading returning passer: Lake Hojnacki, 6-1, 170, Sr. (15-35-na, 394, 4 TDs in 6 games).
Leading returning receiver: Nash Shook, 6-4, 230, Sr. (5-141, no TDs).
Other key returnees: Jacob Ellis, 5-9, 155, QB, Sr.; Elijah Clarke, 5-6, 150, A-back, Sr., Anthony Biscula, 6-1, 265, OL, Sr.; Isaiah Talbert, 6-1, 185, A-back, Sr.; Aaron Johnson, 6-1, 220, TE-DE, Sr.; Nate Mirman, 5-11, 240, OL-DL, Sr.; Carson Sigmon, 5-11, 165, WR-DB, Sr.; Ben Joseph, 5-8, 150, K-P, Sr.; Kaleb Nicholson, 6-2, 235, OL-DL, Sr.; Jared Maynard, 6-3, 295, OL-DL, Sr.; Devin McCorkle, 5-11, 205, OL-LB, Sr.
Top newcomers: Jackson Spicer, 5-11, 170, A-back-DB, Soph.; Hunter Jones, 5-10, 170, A-back-DB, Jr.; Terrell Williams, 5-8, 150, A-back-DB, Sr.; Blake Reynolds, 6-0, 180, TE-LB, Jr.; Dylan Jones, 6-0, 180, WR-LB, Jr.; Christian Sigmon, 6-0, 175, WR-DB, Jr.; Seth Mason, 5-11, 190, OL-DL, Sr.
Returning starters: 5.
Players to watch: Josh Williams, 6-2, 205, LB, Jr.; Jacob Ellis, 5-9, 155, DB, Sr.; Isaiah Talbert, 6-1, 185, LB, Sr.; Lake Hojnacki, 6-2, 170, DB, Sr.
This will be the first season in 33 years without a Lowman – first Randy and then son Trent – as head coach at Bandys, where the Butler Stadium field is named after Randy Lowman.
Trent Lowman left after five seasons to take on a new challenge as head coach at East Surry, and the Trojans hired Tom Eanes – who coached last season at Patton and won nine games – to guide their program.
Eanes brings in a new offense (multiple) and working with nine returning starters – four on offense – to see if he and his new offensive coordinator, son Drew, can best utilize some of the Trojans’ strength.
On offense, that is most noticeably some size up front (Nash Shook weighs 230 pounds, Anthony Bisulca is at 255 and Jared Maynard is at 295) plus a guy who may be the toughest dude in the lineup — senior RB Ethan Howard (240 pounds). If the Trojans needed to give Howard the ball 30 times a game and try to pound defenses, they probably could.
They also return QBs Lake Hojnacki (more apt as passing) and Jacob Ellis (a run threat) and have some other offensive threats among their ‘A’ and ‘B’ backs.
Eanes had more talent last season at Patton than he does at Bandys for his first year but mastered his way through losing a leading rusher and his QB at Patton early in the season to get to the state playoffs. Void of those injuries, it’s not crazy to think the Panthers could have been playing on Turkey Day (and beyond) last year.
Defensively, the Trojans have five returning starters, and they’ve got to reduce – by tons – their average points allowed from a year ago (408, 34 points per game).
Bandys may not be super flashy offensively – fans there fell in love with the excitement generated by top notch passing games for so many years – but could turn out to be very efficient and able to put up enough points each night to have a chance to win more games if the defense gets better.
The Trojans probably have little interest in repeats of wins like at home over North Lincoln, 53-50.
Bandys has 18 seniors and they won their final three regular-season games in 2017.
How many games the Trojans can and will win it’s a good question. There are always adjustments and transitions when a new head coach comes in, but the Trojans also have a core group of assistant coaches returning who know the student-athletes well.
Could Eanes have a tough first year, i.e. win four or five games? Yes.
Could Eanes — at his 10th school and well-versed in Xs and Os and praised by fellow coaches for making things happen – have one of the surprise teams of 2018? Yes.
To figure it all out, watch the defense. The offense will likely produce… and if you don’t see opponents suddenly breaking long plays for TDs as often as in past years, the Trojans appear to have the tools to get a step closer to their status as one of the area’s top programs.
Bandys is the only Greater Hickory area team to reach three state finals in football (all losses, though).