WILLIAMSBURG — After head coaching stints at both Lynn Camp and Berea, Eric Swords has returned to his alma mater with hopes of leading Williamsburg to its first region title since 2015.

Swords built Berea into a contender, and now he’s ready to do the same with the Yellow Jackets. “It’s been great,” Swords said when asked about taking over as head coach at his alma mater. “It has always been a dream of mine to coach here and I feel that we will be able to build a great program for the long haul.

“I haven’t got to see the football guys in action but I believe we will be a deep team that can shoot it once everyone gets out and we get a flow going,” he added. “We believe we have a team that can be competitive in all those areas but we don’t have a lot of experience so it will take some time.”

Despite graduating two of the top three scorers in school history (Caleb Rose, Slaht Hunter), Williamsburg will return a solid nucleus of players.

“We have two guys that split time as starters in Micah Steely and Gavon Thomas,” Swords said. “Larry Bray is the other guy that was in the rotation from last year. We will have five seniors on this year’s team. Steely is as versatile as anyone in the region, he can play inside and out. Great kid who can score and make his teammates better. Bray is an athletics defender and competitor. He will be a huge key for us defensively. He may also be the best shooter on the team. I believe he will surprise people with how much he has improved. 

“Dalton Davenport is a point guard that can handle the ball and make people better,” he added. “He is still getting his legs under him as he hasn’t played in a couple of years. Gavon, from watching film last year, is a kid that will fit in great with how we want to guard. He will have to make a quick transition from football. Chase Potter is another player. I don’t know much about him as he is a football kid. He hasn’t played but is a great athlete for the football program.”

Swords said he will also be counting on Bronson Bates, Jayden Rainwater, Clayton McFarland, Drew Damron, Ben Hatfield, Sydney Bowen, Jordan Perkins, and Cade Hatcher.

“I think the two biggest keys are how well we guard and bring pressure, and how well we share it on the offensive end,” Swords said. “We will have a lot of bodies and shooters. I worry about our inexperience and transition from football.”

Swords likes his schedule. He said it’s mixed up with some home and home games against All ‘A’ schools combined with tough district matchups and games against some regional opponents.

“We are playing most All ‘A’ schools home and home, so that will give us a good feel to where we stack up with those,” he said. “The six district games will give us a feel of where we are with those. Road games at Mercer County, Hazard and Bell County should also provide a great challenge for us.”

The 50th District will be one of the toughest districts in the region again this season but many feel there isn’t much of a gap from top to bottom compared to years past. 

“Corbin and South Laurel have been at the top of the district for a long time,” Swords said. “So I think those are the teams we are gunning for. Whitley didn’t lose anyone from last year so they should be much improved. We are just taking it one day at a time but I like the direction we are headed. 

“In the region, I think you have Knox Central, North Laurel and Harlan County that have separated from the pack a little,” he added. “I think the region is very talented and I think by the end of the year multiple teams can be in the mix as there isn’t much separation. It would be big if we could roll off a few wins early but we understand that it will be a huge transition with the number of football kids coming out. We are just taking one day at a time to put ourselves in position by the end of the season.”

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