For the second straight year, Nitro coach Zach Davis won’t be seeing too many familiar faces in the locker room.
Davis, a teacher at Nitro, took over for the Wildcats in 2018 after a short stint at Riverside and is looking to replace six starters at skill positions from last year’s 3-7 team. He’s also welcoming an incoming freshman class of 15.
Luckily for Davis, one recognizable face will be lining up under center as Trevor Lowe — last year’s Kanawha Valley Rookie of the Year — returns at quarterback. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound sophomore completed 83 of 147 passes (57 percent) for 1,026 yards and four touchdowns against just four interceptions a season ago. He also ran for three more scores and spent time at linebacker.
Davis said Lowe is poised to make his name much more well-known around the state.
“Trevor is probably the hardest working kid on our team,” he said. “He’s a very driven young man, and he wants to be a great football player. He’s put on about 20 pounds of muscle, and I think he’s going to have a year that’s going to show his work.
“I think he’s earned the right to be one of the top quarterbacks in this area, and he’s going to show people why he is one of the top quarterbacks.”
Lowe will have his work cut out for him as the Wildcats look to replace their four top receivers from last year, including Joel Sweat and Jay Poindexter, who led the team in receptions.
“It’ll be a multi-faceted approach,” said Davis. “We’ll have [senior] Dallas Hazelett (5-8, 134) touching the football for us. [Junior] Logan Vest (5-7, 153), [junior] Anthony Jackson (6-1, 175), [junior] Trey Hall (5-10, 155) — just some guys that didn’t play much for us at the skill positions last year but I think you’ll see them step up and have a good year for us this year.”
Davis said Lowe and the new crop of receivers have worked hard in the offseason to develop chemistry and work on execution.
“We threw a lot in the summer, and we’ve had a really good last couple of weeks of practice,” he said. “Those receivers are learning all their routes, and more importantly, learning how to run their routes. They’re getting better and better every day we throw the football.”
The Wildcats’ backfield took the biggest hit in the offseason as Orange Dyess (608 yards, 11 TDs) graduated and Tay Calloway (1,009 yards, 8 TDs) transferred back to Capital, but Davis is hopeful that senior transfer Cameron Davis (5-8, 190) will make an impact at tailback.
Up front, seniors Nathan Murray (5-9, 233) and Hunter Humphrey (5-10, 253), junior J.C. McKay (6-3, 299), sophomore Caleb Allawat (6-2, 255) and freshman Scott Worstell (5-8, 188) are expected to start on the offensive and defensive lines.
With so many new faces sliding into starting roles, Davis has had to familiarize himself with his new personnel – something his job makes easier.
“Being a teacher at Nitro is an awesome job – I get to be around our kids every day and get to know them on a personal level,” he said. “I’ve got to try and figure out what they do best, and I think we do a really good job of that as a staff where we’re trying to identify how to really maximize their strengths.”
The Wildcats bolstered their offseason workouts and even participated in team camps at WVU and Marshall to help Davis learn more about his roster.
“Our offseason program has gotten a lot tougher, and we’re continuing to trust our process,” said Davis. “Our kids have bought into the toughness it takes to win football games. We’re working hard, I think we’re getting better, and I think we’re becoming a tougher football team, we just have to execute a little better, but that will come with time.”
Defensively, senior Austin Wines (5-9, 167) is expected to start at middle linebacker and senior Charlie Cooke (5-9, 150) will start at safety to lead the secondary.