With the school’s football season extended by a week — the Catamounts lost 13-10 to Alexander on Friday in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs — Dalton’s boys are a little behind in answering some of the basic questions.
Like, for instance, who will fill the starting lineup.
“We’ve got a lot of questions to be answered,” Cats coach Mike Duffie said, “and I have to find the people to fill the roles. We have to establish everybody’s role. In past years I’ve had that, but this year it’s up in the air.”
Dalton finished 19-8 last season and lost in the opening round of the Class 4A state tournament. The Cats also lost three times to rival Northwest Whitfield, including in the Region 7-4A championship at Dalton’s own Cats Den.
Replacing eight seniors — and all five starters — will be the biggest challenge.
“We’ve always wanted to score 70 or 80 points,” said Duffie, who is entering his eighth season at Dalton. “I don’t know if that is our team this year. We may be a more patient team this year.”
The Cats definitely will have guard Braxton Thomas and forward Emier Bownan, both juniors, and senior guard Chris Childs.
“By January we’ll be all right,” Duffie said. “By the time region play starts, we’ll be all right.”
The Lady Cats are also without experience — as well as their head coach of a decade.
Dalton girls basketball enters a new era with Lacie Coquerille, who takes over for Jeff McKinney after he moved into the athletic director’s chair at the school. Coquerille was a four-year starter at point guard for McKinney, who had coached the program since 2002, and she served as an assistant on his staff last year, when the Lady Cats finished with a 21-8 record and took third place in Region 7-4A.
“We’ve had a lot of change with coach McKinney leaving and six seniors graduating,” Coquerille said.
One of those seniors was Maddie Howell, The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year for 2012-13.
Dalton’s only two seniors this season are guards Destinee Woods and Emily Sherrill and the Lady Cats will also rely on juniors Anna Kate Sisson (guard), Sarah Hartshorn (guard) and 5-10 post Hannah Cox. Junior posts Mia and Callie Smith — the two are sisters — also will play important roles.
“It’s hard on anybody to lose experience,” Coquerille said. “As far as being new, it’s nice to have younger kids because you’ll have them for longer than just this season.”
The Lady Cats open their season at 6 p.m. Saturday at Christian Heritage, while the boys tip off Dec. 7 against Gordon Central.