Fans in Union Grove have reasons to be excited this season. The Lions look like they have a team under third-year head coach Roger Adams.

The program returns 17 starters from a young squad that did enough to clinch a playoff berth last year despite sharing a rough district with Arp, Frankston, Hawkins, Garrison and Winona.

Even without a heavily experienced team, Union Grove would have looked good for the postseason. Hawkins, Harleton and Simms Bowie have upside in the newly aligned District 9-2A Division I, but Big Sandy and Ore City went winless last year and round out the league with four playoff spots available.

This season is about contending for a district championship as part of the top four.

Can the Lions do it? There are a lot of good signs.

There's Garrett Bowery for starters. He recorded 72 tackles last season, including 10 sacks, as a defensive lineman. Those are extremely high numbers for the position.

Field goals won't be automatic for opponents this season. Bowery blocked six attempts last year as well.

The offense has a good mix of athleticism. Senior quarterback Tristan Thompson performs well in open space and wrapped up 2013 with 11 touchdowns.

Running back Corey Sturrock looks promising after rushing for 803 yards and six touchdowns while splitting time in the backfield.

Non-district games against Carlisle, West Rusk, Mount Enterprise, Bogata Rivercrest and Beckville provide challenges, but Union Grove likely will be feeling good about itself heading into league play. The team can likely cement its spot in the postseason with games against Big Sandy and Ore City wrapped up by the end of the third week of the district schedule.

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