Skyline finished under .500 for the first time since 2010 last year after going 3-7 and ending the season with a 36-18 loss to Tipton in the Class 1 District 4 Quarterfinals.
Coach Brandon Shelby brings back a solid group of players from that team that are aiming to get Skyline back it its winning ways.
“The one thing the kids bring is that they really enjoy being out there. They understand the leadership and the roles that they need to take in that in order to make sure that things go the right way. And also, when things get tough in games, how to work their way out of it,” Shelby said. “Last season left a bitter taste in our mouth. Hopefully we can come out and turn things around for us this season.”
Leading the charge is senior quarterback Trevor Russell who was an honorable mention all-conference quarterback last season.
“I think Trevor is going to have a really good year. We have done some things this year offensively to really fit him a little better. We have tailored the offense around him and things he can do instead of things we have done in the past; things we asked him to do last year that maybe weren’t in his comfort zone,” Shelby said. “I think that is the biggest change and I think it is going to really help him this year. He has worked really hard and had a really good offseason.”
Junior Gage Gunter will join Russell in the backfield after rushing for almost 1,000 yards as a sophomore. He enters his third season as a starting running back coming off of an all-region honorable mention selection at the position.
“The biggest thing about Gage is his toughness. He is a hard-nosed kid and he plays very hard,” Shelby said. “I think he has matured a lot. He has gotten stronger and gotten a little bit bigger. We are really excited about him.”
Tanner Swearingin and Preston Scott will return to start at wide receiver. That duo will combine with Russell and Trey Swearingin to form a strong defensive secondary. Swearingin, who is one of the area’s top track athletes, was a second-team all-region selection at defensive back.
“In track he (Swearingin) is one of the faster guys in the area in the small classes,” Shelby said. “We are going to try and do a lot of different things with him this year to allow him to be successful.”
Up front, Paden Hodges and Lane Lacey return to start on the offensive line at center and tackle, respectively. Lane’s twin brother Garrett is back healthy for his senior season after tearing his ACL on the opening kickoff last year and will also be on the offensive line. The twins will also be the key to the center of the defense at linebacker along with Gunter.
“They aren’t real big guys but they like to hit and play hard,” Shelby said. “I think getting Garrett back there is going to be a big deal.”
The defensive line will be anchored by Brayden Whiteside at defensive end coming off of a strong sophomore season.
“He (Whiteside) is a fast, athletic guy. He should have a tremendous year for us,” Shelby said. “He has all of the skills where he is capable of having any type of year that he wants to.”
Shelby’s goal for the Tigers this year is for them to play up to their potential.
“Our goal is to be as good as we can be whatever that is,” Shelby said. “I think that is what has driven us just having a consistent outlook on things. What we have is a bunch of kids that work hard and we just want to be as good as we can be.”
Skyline opens the season on Aug. 24 at Forsyth.