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File / The Outlook Horseshoe Bend's Kendall Penwell (51) is expected to be one of the top linebackers for the Generals this season.

Although a new coach is at the helm and Horseshoe Bend has had its struggles on the football field lately, there are certainly going to be some standouts for the Generals.

And the best part about Horseshoe Bend’s players to watch is there’s a nice mix of upperclassmen and younger players. But their grades aren’t necessarily indicative of their experience, as some of Horseshoe Bend’s youngest competitors have the most experience and their seniors are brand new to the sport.

Holt Tidwell, quarterback

Just a rising sophomore, Tidwell will likely be the starting quarterback for Horseshoe Bend this season.

After the departure of Nywanski Russell midway through the 2018 season, Tidwell was thrown into the fire, splitting time with now-junior Cole Johnson. Tidwell’s biggest strength seems to be his speed and agility which was shown off during the Generals’ intersquad scrimmage in the spring. Tidwell moves well and has a talent at making something out of nothing, which is exactly what the Generals will need as they groom a new set of offensive linemen.

Tidwell can also be moved to play multiple positions as he was a receiver and defensive back last year as well.

Cole Johnson, wide receiver / safety / outside linebacker

“Don’t be surprised if we see Cole any time at quarterback though,” Horseshoe Bend coach Jeremy Phillips said.

If Johnson needs to, he can easily move into the quarterback position with Tidwell moving out to wide receiver. But for now, Johnson will be a staple on the defense playing both safety and outside linebacker.

A three-sport athlete and a coach’s son, Johnson has a knack for being a well-rounded athlete.

“Cole’s biggest strength is he’s smart and he has a high football IQ,” Phillips said. “He knows the game and knows how to play ball.”

Kendall Penwell, linebacker

Heading into his senior season, Penwell brings a good amount of experience. Playing at linebacker, Penwell came on especially strong during the spring scrimmage, and he’ll be relied upon not just for his playing abilities but also his leadership skills.

“He’s been around for a while and he has a good football instinct,” Phillips said. “He just has a nose for the ball. He’ll make plays for us when we need it. He’s also going to have a major leadership role especially on the defensive side of the ball, getting us lined up and getting the calls in.”

Trent Cotney, fullback/safety

Like most Generals, Cotney will have a big role on both sides of the ball this season. His speed is one of his biggest strengths, and Phillips said Cotney has shown a hard-working attitude all summer.

“I think he’s going to be able to have an impact in all the games we play in,” Phillips said. “He’ll be a guy we really rely on when it comes to crunch time.”

Jose Martinez, nose guard

Although Martinez is entering his senior year at Horseshoe Bend, this is his first time playing varsity football. Despite that, Phillips said he has seen tremendous growth from Martinez, who has been a standout all summer.

In Horseshoe Bend’s new defensive scheme, Martinez will be relied upon heavily at nose guard.

“He’s really progressed in the weight room and he’s learned to have that grit about him that I always talk about,” Phillips said. “In our defense, nose guard is one of the major positions because he has to control two gaps but I think he’ll produce.”

Wes Young, offensive tackle/defensive end

One of Horseshoe Bend’s biggest points of contention a year ago was its offensive line. The line struggled to put up consistent blocking, making it hard for the offense to get anything going.

With Phillips being a previous offensive line coach, he’s hoping all that’s going to change this year and it starts with Young. A rising junior, Young will play both offensive tackle and defensive end, and Phillips has been especially impressed with Young’s commitment this offseason.

“He hasn’t missed a workout and he’s just been a good leader,” Phillips said. “All the linemen really look to him. He does what the coaches ask him to do and does it to his fullest ability. He’s going to be one of our more reliable guys.

Horseshoe Bend opens the season Thursday, Aug. 22 at Dadeville.

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.