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strong rock christian patriots

Promising future Returning starters give Patriots experience By Derrick Mahone

When Mark Miller first took the job at Strong Rock Christian three years ago, he played several freshmen and younger players in hopes of building the program. Now, those younger players are the leaders of the Patriots’ team. With that in mind, Miller is confident that the team will play a different brand of football. No, he is not switching from his tripleoption offensive attack, it is an intangible that Miller is sure the Patriots fans will see this season. “These guys have grown up in the program,” Miller said. “I think with the work in the weight room, they are stronger, tougher and more confident.” But will that translate into more wins for the program? Miller is confident it can. Or at least they will play some games a lot closer. He will be relying on 12 returning starters, six on each side of the ball to push the Patriots into the upper level of their region with hopes of making their first Georgia High School Association state playoff appearance. While Miller is confident in this season, he is even more excited about the prospect of next year when 10 starters return on the offensive side of the ball. “We are not overlooking anybody, but we feel we can close the gap on some of the teams,” Miller said.

Jesse Adams, left, and Ryan Butterfield will run the Strong Rock triple-option offense. According to Patriots coach Mark Miller, each bring various qualities to the position. (Special Photo: Jason Mussell)

These guys have grown up in the program. I think with the work in the weight room, they are stronger, tougher and more confident.”

“We just have stay healthy. I think we have a shot of sneaking up on some people.” The coach lists his quarterback position as a strong point with senior Jesse Adams, who is also a captain, and junior Ryan Butterfield as his leaders. Both will get equal playing time as they bring different qualities to the tripleoption system. “Jesse has three years in our system, and he is a very vocal leader,” Miller said. “Ryan can throw the ball well.” The kicking game is

2 • Wednesday, August 28, 2013

— Head coach Mark Miller

also listed as a strong point with Butterfield handling the punter and kicker duties. He booted a 47-yard field goal in the team’s scrimmage against Locust Grove. Fullbacks Logan Clark and Jake Bogan are a part 230-pounders while Zack Jones will be at one of the halfback positions. Clark is also one of the linebackers. “We have some players with a leadership mindset now on the team,” Miller said. “Some were on the JV a couple years ago, but they are now grown up. It is promising.”

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 • 3

jonesboro cardinals

Trio of tailbacks may carry Jonesboro’s fate By Gabriel Stovall

probably haven’t seen at that position since I’ve been here.” Jonesboro coach Tim And it’s just in time, Floyd is usually a fairly considering the loss of soft-spoken man of few SEC-caliber players words. Cameron Sutton (TennesBut even the pace of his see) and Taurean Ferguson voice and its volume picks (Vanderbilt). Graduation up a bit when he starts also snatched away relitalking about his new able running back Patrick stable of running backs in Petty and receiver/linethe Cardinals backfield. backer Dereon London. Returning is Kenneth Those players gave Hillman. He’s already senior quarterback Mario proven. But Floyd is Atkinson reliable targets excited about what’s to throw to. Now with emerging. Junior Artemus somewhat unproven comMitchell and sophomore modities trying to fill in Montralious Mosely give at receiver, Atkinson will Jonesboro something now have a potentially both Floyd and offenexplosive running attack to sive coordinator Nathan lean on as he takes some Wardlaw says has been time in the early part of missing from the Cardithe season to get on the nals’ offense repertoire for same page with the new sometime. wideouts. “These guys are like On the defensive side of your typical one-cut-andthe ball, the Cardinals will go type backs,” Floyd said. be young, thanks to the “There’s an extra step, an aforementioned deparextra burst and an extra tures. But there is athletiexplosion in them that we cism there, starting with

4 • Wednesday, August 28, 2013

senior linebacker Isaiah Seise. Seise is a big, fast and athletic presence in the middle of Jonesboro’s retooled defense, and he represents something that Floyd said will be a difference maker in Jonesboro’s quest for an unprecedented third straight state playoff berth. “One of the big things with us is leadership,” Floyd said. “We’ll be playing a lot of sophomores, especially on defense. When we came out of spring, we had eight sophomores scheduled to start. We’ve got some guys emerging, but leadership is going to be huge. I think Isaiah can help us there.” Isaiah Seise, right, a senior defensive end, will be counted on to help a young defense at Jonesboro as they try to make the playoffs for a school-record third straight season. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

football schedules Drew Titans Region 4-AAAAA, Div. A 9/6 — Riverdale (SC) 9/13 — at Rockdale 9/20 — at McIntosh 9/27 — at Starr’s Mill 10/4 — Forest Park (SC) 10/11 — Mundy’s Mill (SC) 10/18 — at Ola 11/1 — Mount Zion (SC) 11/8 — Region play-in

Region 4-AAAAA, Div. A 8/30 — at Chattahoochee 9/6 — Morrow (T) 9/13 — at Union Grove 9/20 — at Creekside 9/26 — Whitewater (SC) 10/4 — Drew (SC) 10/17 — Mundy’s Mill (SC) 10/25 — at Ola 11/1 — Mount Zion (T) 11/8 — Region play-in

Dutchtown Bulldogs Region 4-AAAA, Div. A 8/30 — at Griffin 9/6 — at Henry County 9/13 — Luella 9/20 — Riverdale (SC) 9/27 — Spalding 10/4 — Locust Grove 10/11 — at Eagle’s Landing 10/18 — Stockbridge 11/1 — at Woodland 11/8 — Region play-in

Henry County Warhawks Region 2-AAA 8/30 — East Coweta 9/6 — Dutchwon 9/13 — at Mary Persons 9/20 — at Luella 9/27 — Central Macon 10/4 — at Peach County 10/11 — Carver-Columbus 10/18 — at Jackson 10/25 — SouthwestMacon 11/1 — at Pike County

Eagle’s Landing Golden Eagles Region 4-AAAA, Div. A 8/30 — Ola 9/6 — Lamar County 9/12 — at Upson-Lee 9/20 — Jonesboro (T) 9/27 — Riverdale 10/4 — at Stockbridge 10/11 — Dutchtown 10/18 — at Woodland 10/25 — Locust Grove 11/08 — Region play-in Eagle’s Landing Christian Chargers Region 5-A 8/23 — at Washington County 8/30 — Briarwood Christian (Ala.) 9/6 — at Clinch County 9/13 — Hapeville 9/27 — Holy Innocents’ 10/12 — at Mount Vernon 10/18 — Our Lady of Mercy 10/25 — at Strong Rock 11/01 — Pace 11/08 — at Landmark Christian Forest Park Panthers

Jonesboro Cardinals Region 4-AAAA, Div. B 8/30 — Mount Zion (T) 9/6 — Westover (TO) 9/13 — Griffin (T) 9/20 — Eagle’s Landing (T) 9/27 — at Woodland 10/4 — North Clayton (T) 10/18 — at Spalding 10/25 — Riverdale (SC) 11/1 — at Upson-Lee 11/8 — Region play-in Locust Grove Wildcats Region 4-AAAA, Div. A 8/30 — Union Grove 9/6 — at Ola 9/12 — Morrow (T) 9/19 — at Spalding 9/27 — North Clayton 10/4 — at Dutchtown 10/11 — Woodland 11/1 — at Stockbridge 11/8 — Region play-in Lovejoy Wildcats Region 2-AAAAAA 8/30 — Mundy’s Mill (TO) 9/6 — at Colquitt County

Mundy’s Mill Tigers Region 4-AAAAA, Div. A 8/30 — Lovejoy (TO) 9/6 — at Whitewater 9/20 — at Coffee 9/27 — McIntosh (TO) 10/4 — Mount Zion (TO) 10/11 — at Drew (SC) 10/17 — Forest Park (SC) 10/25 — Union Grove (TO) 1/1 — Ola (TO) 11/8 — Region play-in North Clayton Eagles Region 4-AAAA, Div. B 8/30 — Riverdale (SC) 9/6 — at Grady 9/13 — at Northgate 9/21 — Stockbridge (SC) 9/27 — at Locust Grove 10/4 — Jonesboro (T) 10/12 — Upson-Lee (SC) 10/25 — Spalding (T) 11/8 — Region play-in

Jonesboro coach Tim Floyd will get another shot at his alma mater Westover High when the Cardinals host the Albany school on Sept. 6 at Twelve Oaks Stadium. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

9/13 — at Alpharetta 9/20 — East Coweta (TO) 10/4 — at Rockdale 10/11 — Morrow (TO) 10/18 — at Luella 10/25 — at Newton 11/8 — at Alcovy Luella Lions Region 2-AAAAAA 8/30 — at Lowndes 9/6 — at Langston Hughes 9/13 — at Dutchtown 9/20 — Henry County 9/27 — Alcovy 10/4 — Druid Hills (A) 10/11 — Rockdale 10/18 — Lovejoy (TO) 10/24 — Morrow (T) 11/01 — Newton Morrow Mustangs Region 2-AAAAAA

8/23 — at Campbell 9/6 — Forest Park (T) 9/12 — Locust Grove (T) 9/20 — at Lee County 9/27 — Rockdale (T) 10/11 — Loveuoy (TO) 10/17 — at Alcovy 10/24 — Luella (T) 11/1 — Druid Hills (ND) 11/9 — Newton (S) Mount Zion Bulldogs Regon 4-AAAAA, Div. A 8/30 — Jonesboro (T) 9/6 — Washington (T) 9/20 — at Starr’s Mill 9/26 — Creekside (T) 10/4 — Mundy’s Mill (TO) 10/11 — Ola (T) 10/18 — Union Grove (T) 10/24 — Drew (SC) 11/1 — Forest Park (T) 11/8 — Region play-in

9/6 — Upson-Lee 9/13 — Columbia (P) 9/21 — North Clayton (SC) 9/27 — Griffin 10/4 — Eagle’s Landing 10/18 — at Dutchtown 10/25 — Woodland 11/01 — at Locust Grove 11/8 — Region play-in Strong Rock Christian Patriots Region 5-A 8/30 — at Social Circle 9/6 — Clarkston 9/13 — Treutlen 9/20 — at Crawford County 10/4 — at Pace 10/11 — Landmark Christian 10/25 — ELCA 11/2 — Mount Vernon 11/8 — Our Lady of Mercy

Union Grove Wolverines Region 4-AAAAA, Div. A Ola Mustangs 8/30 — at Locust Grove Region 4-AAAAA, Div. A 9/6 — Woodland 8/30 — at Eagle’s Land9/13 — Forest Park ing 9/20 — at Whitewater 9/6 — Locust Grove 9/27 — Northgate 9/13 — McIntosh 10/4 — at Ola 9/20 — at Northgate 10/18 — Mount Zion (T) 10/4 — Union Grove 10/25 — Mundy’s Mill 10/11 — Mount Zion (T) (TO) 10/18 — Drew 11/1 — Drew 10/25 — Forest Park 11/8 — Region play-in 11/1 — Mundy’s Mill (TO) Woodland Wolfpack 11/8 — Region play-in Region 4-AAAA, Div. A 8/30 — Walnut Grove Riverdale Raiders 9/6 — at Union Grove Region 4-AAAA, Div. B 9/12 — at Woodward 8/30 — North Clayton 9/19 — at Griffin (SC) 9/27 — Jonesboro 9/6 — Drew (SC) 10/11 — at Locust 9/13 — Grady (SC) Grove 9/20 — Dutchtown (SC) 10/18 — Eagle’s Land9/27 — at Eagle’s Land- ing ing 11/01 — Dutchtown 10-25 — at Griffin 11/8 — Region play-in 10/11 — at Spalding 10/25 — Jonesboro (SC) Stadium key 11/8 — Region play-in A — Adams, T — Tara, TO — Twelve Oaks, S — Stockbridge Tigers Sharp, SC — Southern Region 4-AAAA, Div. A Crescent, ND — North 8/31 — at Tri-Cities DeKalb, P — Panthersville

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 • 5

dutchtown bulldogs

Dutchtown’s speed excites coach Jones By Gabriel Stovall

and a Zane Fields, and coaching against guys like (former Norcross running Being a defensive coorback) Alvin Kamara and dinator for a two-time state (current consensus No. 1 champion runner-up, puts recruit) Lorenzo Carter, it’s you in front of some high hard to be impressed by caliber athletes. athletes,” Jones said. “But I When Kevin Jones was must admit, I was pleasat Lovejoy the last two antly surprised by what I years, he coached with and saw here. against some of the most “We may be small, but sought after Division I we’ve got some of that next caliber talent in the Southlevel speed over here at east — and in some cases, Dutchtown.” the nation. Brian Robertson is a Kevin Jones is hoping to build Dutchtown into the kind So when Jones got of winner he enjoyed during his stint as Lovejoy’s defen- big part of that next level sive coordinator. (Staff Photo: Gabriel Stovall) tapped as Jason Galt’s dimension of playmaking successor as Dutchtown that Jones is hoping he head coach after Galt’s can help foster into life at you’ve been dealing with departure to take the North know what to expect. Dutchtown. The diminutive “Coming from where players like a Travis CusForsyth job, Jones said he senior stands about 5-foot, tis, a Nathaniel Norwood admits that he didn’t really I’ve come from, when 6 and about 165 pounds,

6 • Wednesday, August 28, 2013

but he runs and plays like he’s 6-foot-3, cornerback Brandon Durden said. “He’s little, but he plays with that swag that just catches on with everybody else,” Durden said. “That just gets the whole team pumped up.” Robertson made big plays across the field during Dutchtown’s 23-20 scrimmage win over defending Class A champion Eagle’s Landing Christian. He scored two rushing touchdowns, one from the running back position and another as a wildcat formation quarterback. He also made several plays as a receiver. Jones said Robertson was kind

of buried in the depth chart last year as a junior, but he quickly turned the heads of the new coaching staff. “Robertson was one of a couple of kids on JV last year who we evaluated and said, ‘Let’s put him in a place to make Dutchtown football exciting to watch,” Jones said. Jones added that while his offense is clicking well, he’s looking for more consistency from the defense. Only two starters from last year’s bunch return. And with sophomore K’lin Epps replacing Donovahn Jones at quarterback, Jones said his first Bulldogs squad will be young but promising.

GIVE THEM THE BALL Big-play receivers rule the offensive landscape

By Derrick Mahone

Eric Tate is that guy for the Tigers as he plays a perfect compleThey are often the ment to standout quarterback’s best running back Rodney friend in tight situaSmith, who rushed for tions on the field. 1,575 yards last season. A big-play wide As quarterback Rodrireceiver can be the dif- cous Gates continues to ference between a big develop, look for Tate’s gain, or a busted play. stats to rise. “A quarterback needs Last season, Tate had a guy that he knows 20 receptions for 326 will be open,” Eagle’s yards and three touchLanding Christian downs as the Tigers quarterback Dalton offense featured Smith. Etheridge said. “You “I’m real excited have to have that go-to about the season,” Tate guy that is open.” said. And fortunately for Eagle’s Landing’s Etheridge he has that offense has a pair of person in Davis Cartop receivers in Warren randi. Wright and Cymeon But Etheridge is Burden. Both are also not alone, as sevstandout track and field eral big-play receivers participants. Burden have emerged in the has already committed Southern Crescent this to start-up Kennesaw season. State. “If you are going to Last season, Rashad keep a defense honest, Canty had 30 recepyou need some receiv- tions for the Riverdale ers that can make a Raiders, who made the play,” Mundy’s Mill playoffs for the first offensive coordinator time since 2005. The Patrick Smith said. 6-foot-4 wideout is ex“Having that reliable pected to have another receiver opens up the big year with the develplay book some.” opment of quarterback

Eric Tate of Mundy’s Mill, Davis Carrandi of ELCA, Rashad Canty of Riverdale and Preston Williams of Lovejoy are among the top receivers in the Southern Crescent this season. (Staff Photos: Derrick Mahone)

Despite missing the majority of last season, Lovejoy junior wide receiver Preston Williams has several major colleges interested in his services.

Big things are expected from Riverdale senior wide receiver Rashad Canty this season after hauling in 30 receptions as a junior.

Greg Taylor, and the receiving mates Trey Sanders and Gerrod Gober. Taylor is excited to have three reliable targets. “It brings a big spark to your offense,” Taylor said. “All these guys can make big plays, and get you out of bad situations.” Although he is being recruited as a safety, Locust Grove senior Cortez McDowell is a playmaker on the other side of the ball. Listed as the top safety in the state by several online recruiting services, McDowell is one of the Lions’ top offensive players last season. The same can be said about Stockbridge defensive back/wide receiver Kendarius Webster, who is the highest recruited player in school history. “I really don’t favor one position over the other,” Webster said. “I just like playing.” And like the rest of the top receivers, he likes making plays.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 • 7

lovejoy wildcats

‘Cupboard is not bare around Lovejoy’ Wildcats reload for another run at title By Gabriel Stovall

graduation. Defensive end Zane Fields. Versatile nose guard Nathaniel Norwood, LOVEJOY — Al Hughes the entire secondary. has been trying to convince But what’s returning — anyone who would listen the majority of an often that this season’s version of overshadowed offensive line Lovejoy football may not be — and what’s emerging, 2,000 yard rusher, Jeremiah what you’re used to seeing. After all, the Wildcats are Kirkland, who transferred three-time defending region from Class A Landmark Christian. And the rise of champions. They are the first team in Clayton County another Custis in safety/ wide receiver Montrell history to find its way to Custis suggests that Lovejoy back-to-back state champifootball may not drop as far onship games. They have built a reputa- as some think. “The cupboard is not bare tion as having one of the around Lovejoy,” Hughes nastiest defenses anywhere said back in June as the in the state. And they have the stability of Hughes, who Wildcats were coming out of spring ball, headed into is entering his 13th year summer. at the helm of the Wildcat And sure enough, with program as the Southern linebacker (and Ole Miss Crescent’s longest tenured commitment) Demarcus football coach. Gates, defensive linemen Yet, at both the Clayton Randy Anyanwu and 6-footCounty football media day 5 wideout Preston Williams, and the Clayton County Rotary Club sponsored Cry- Lovejoy looks like it has ing Towel luncheon, Hughes reloaded, rather than rebuilt. Hughes and offensive had only this to say about his coordinator Craig Chatlatest Lovejoy bunch: man has watched, with “We’re small, but slow.” intrigue, a three-man race Each time the chuckto fill Bennifield’s spot at les heard by coaches and quarterback. And while no others with area football one is giving up any names knowledge might as well as to who the front runner have been interpreted as a is between Quintin Neely resounding, “Yea, right.” Kahlill Rogers and Camaron Sure enough, Lovejoy is losing some pieces — espe- Hill, Hughes said nothing is being held back or curtailed cially in its skill positions. from his young signal callGone is quarterback Aleers. jandro Bennifield, all-time “We’re kind of a scratch leading rusher Travis Custis, the itch sort of offense,” talented receivers Arshad Jackson and JuMichael Ra- Hughes said. “We’ll move the ball with whatever perJeremiah Kirkland has big shoes to fill as he gets set to replace all-time Lovejoy leading rusher Travis Custis. (Staff mos. And on the defensive sonnel is at our disposal.” side, more holes to fill via Photo: Derrick Mahone)

8 • Wednesday, August 28, 2013

henry county warhawks

Starr hopes to revive the Warhawk program By Derrick Mahone

Morris Starr was on the Stockbridge staff the last four years as they transformed the program into a legitimate state contender. It is with that confidence that he was hired at Henry County to prevent the Warhawks program into sliding back into an also-ran. Last season, Henry County missed the postseason for the first time in five years, and only won one game in Joe Dupree’s only season at the helm. Dupree took over a program that was coming off a second-round playoff appearance, but had graduated 38 seniors, including a trio of Div. I signees. While the administration at Henry County is willing to be patient with Starr as he tries to get the program back on solid footing, Starr is hoping for instant success. “The administration has been real understanding,” said Starr, who was head coach at Tri-Cities for two seasons prior to joining the Stockbridge staff. “I think I’m the only that is putting a lot of pressure to win now,” he said. Starr arrived after spring practice, which he said hurt the team’s offseason program. He said now that school is back in, several players have started to come back out. “These kids are smart and they are starting to understand there is a method to my madness,”

Morris Starr says the Henry County team is buying into his methods as they hope to become a state playoff contender. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

flexbone. Upon taking the job, he said he was told that Henry County was a little thin in the offensive line department. “We want to run the ball, and this gives us the best shot,” Starr says of the offense. Senior T.J. Freeman will run the revamped flexbone offense that Henry County will Senior T.J. Freeman employ this season. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone) will likely be the trigger man at the quarterback he said. “They have into discipline and hard the offensive and defen- position while running made a commitment to work.” sive schemes. He has back Derrick Powell is buying into what we are Starr has made a com- scratched the Warhawks being counted on to be doing. They are buying plete overhaul of both spread offense for the the featured running

back. “Since school has started, we have had some more linemen come out,” Starr said. “I think we will be OK on the offensive side.” Defensively, the Warhawks will be a 4-3 base, instead of the 3-3-5, which was employed by the previous staff. “We know we might be missing some parts, but I think this will be best for us,” Starr said.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 • 9

woodland wolfpack

Experience makes Woodland a possible contender but we do. But you have to be honest. You can’t build a program without experiScott Schmitt finally has ence. It’s just too much to what he said makes for expect young guys who the building of a good — haven’t played to just go possibly great — football out and be good.” team. With eight starters comExperience. ing back on both sides of Although the Woodthe ball, including quarland Wolfpack lose senior terback Tyler Poff, and running back Malcolm four out of five returnees Miller, perhaps one of the on the offensive line, the best tailbacks many hadn’t Schmitt said the stability heard about last year, they is a welcome sign. welcome back loads of ex“We’ve only got 12 perience on both sides of seniors this year,” he said. the ball — eight starters “The last few years we’ve to be exact — and a quiet Scott Schmitt is entering his seventh season at Wood- been graduating big senior land with high expectations for the team. (File Photo) confidence from Schmitt classes, 17 and 18 kids. that the ingredients for We were young last year to win,” said Schmitt, who program’s only leader in a special season could and we took our lumps is entering his seventh school history. “I know it finally all be in place. because of it.” “Every year you expect year as head coach — the sounds cliche to say that, One of those seniors, By Gabriel Stovall

10 • Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Miller, paced the Wolfpack offense last year rushing for over 800 yards. But, Schmitt, after watching what his talented trio of tailbacks did in their 35-7 scrimmage against Jackson, said he feels good about his stable of backs — which is no slight to who he had in 2012. “After that scrimmage, I can say we’re going to be even better than what we had last year,” Schmitt said. “I’ve got three guys that I’m really pleased with back there.” Those three are freshman Tre Allen, sophomore Devin Pate and senior Terrell Kinlaw. Schmitt said each tailback ran for

about 50 yards on “seven or eight carries apiece.” And with center R.J. Gilkey coming back to anchor that veteran line, Woodland might be fine to pound the rock often this season. But when Schmitt does need to call on Poff to put it up, he’s got a pair of junior receivers in Justin Strozier and Connor Hedgecotch who he feels can make plays. All in all, Wolfpack football looks poised to make noise, says Schmitt. “Kids have done a good job since January out here, and on through the summer,” he said. From here it’s just a matter of going out, practicing and getting in place for success.”

luella lions

Luella looking for a breakout year By Derrick Mahone

When Nick Vasilchek first took over as the Luella coach, the current senior class was just entering high school. The coach is hoping that the togetherness of his 28-member senior class will produce a state playoff berth. Vasilchek said it’s been “too long of a drought” since the Lions last appeared in the postseason. It was 2008 to be exact. “Being our fourth year together, we have that goal of getting over the hump, and getting back to the playoffs,” Vasilchek said. “It’s been too long of a drought for this program. This class has been through a lot together.” Because they came in when Vasilchek took over for Paul Burgdorf, who left for rival Union Grove, the coach says they know each other, and what is expected of them. “They don’t know anything else, but what we have been teaching over here,” Vasilchek said. “It hasn’t been hard for them to buy into our system.” Of the 28 seniors, 18 have been in the program the last four years. The rest have either transferred in or decided to play football in their final year at the school. “We are a senior dominated team,” Vasilchek said. “This group is frustrated with the losing, and seems ready to turn the corner. They know its their last season, and they

Luella is looking for senior Trae Bonner to continue to be a big playmaker for the Lions in their quest for a state playoff berth. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

want to go out with a playoff berth.” The Lions return five starters on defense and four on offense. Like last season, the schedule is top heavy in nonregion games to begin the season. The first three games are on the road at powerhouse Lowndes, Langston Hughes and Dutchtown. Vasilchek said the schedule was purposely set up that way in case the team did make the postseason. “We wanted them to be used to that type of playoff atmosphere since none of them have been to the playoffs,” he said. “They will know what to expect.”

Opponents can expect a heavy dose of senior Trae Bonner this season. He will turn up everywhere on the field — on the offense, defense and special teams. In addition to him being the team’s best player, Vasilchek is also hoping that he will produce enough highlight-reel-worthy plays that some major colleges will make an offer. He comes into the season with offers from Wofford, Gardner-Webb, Mercer and Samford. “Trae has always been a playmaker for us,” Vasilchek said. “He is going to do it all for us.”

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 • 11

drew titans

up to the

Challenge Drew ready to take a new approach to season

By Derrick Mahone

For those who are used to seeing Drew with speed and talent, Titans coach Jarrett Laws cautions that won’t be the case this season. He said the team is taking a different approach this year. “Coach says we are going to be a hard-working, non rah, rah type of team this season,” said Brandon Pearson, who will get his first opportunity as a starter. Pearson has played the last two seasons behind Jay Murray, who is now a freshman at Benedict College in South Carolina. The Titans were supposed to have a stable of running backs for Pearson, but the injury bug and a transfer has depleted the backfield. Junior Marquis Terry is the lone returning running back from a team that boasted four last season. Senior Lester Knauls and Tracy Gaston are out with leg injuries. Jordan Metts transferred to rival Riverdale in the spring. But that hasn’t dampened the team’s spirit of getting back to challenging for a playoff spot. “We are working hard,” senior linebacker DeAnthony Love said. “We all know that one person on this team is as important as the other person.

Drew coach Jarrett Laws says this season’s team doesn’t have the “superstar type” players that his past group has so extra attention to detail will be important. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

We are going to be a good team.” Laws said he and his staff have concentrated on doing the little things to help mold this into a playoff caliber team. Attention to all details have been covered, according to Laws, who started the program in 2009. “With this group, we have to concentrate on the process,” Laws said. “Some teams look at the big picture too much, we have to concentrate on the small picture

12 • Wednesday, August 28, 2013

to get us to the process. We don’t have that bigtime D-1 talent. We have to focus on the effort.” And a lot is being asked of Pearson. The senior says he is up to the challenge. “Jay taught me a lot about leadership,” Pearson said. “He remained even keel through everything. I hope to be the same type leader for this team. We are really hungry. Want to prove a lot of Marquis Terry, who rushed for 570 yards and seven touchdowns last season, will get people work, and let people more carries as injuries have depleted the Drew backfield. (Staff Photo: Derrick Maknow we are here to stay.” hone)

north clayton eagles

Soza looks to get program back to playoff status By Derrick Mahone

When Carver-Atlanta coach Darren Myles first hired James Soza as a volunteer assistant in 2005, he immediately became impressed with the young coach. What Soza lacked in experience, he more than made up for in enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. That’s why in a span of three years, the Yale graduate quickly rose to the ranks of offensive coordinator as Carver became a playoff contender. And that’s why Myles said he is confident that Soza can turn around the misfortunes of the once-

James Soza will try to get North Clayton back into playoff contention this season in Region 4-AAAA. This is his first year at the school, but his second stint as a head coach. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

proud North Clayton program that struggled to a two-win season last year. “He studies the game,” Myles said. “He pays a lot

of attention to detail and really prepares for practice and games.” This will be Soza’s second stint as a head coach.

He was at Chamblee High in DeKalb County for two years as the Bulldogs program compiled a 6-14 record during the 2010 and ‘11 seasons. Myles said that shouldn’t be a concern for the North Clayton fanbase. “You always learn from your first job,” Myles said. “He is motivated, young and energetic. Coach is hungry to win and very confident in his ability. He will definitely be a good addition to that school system.” Beside learning under Myles, Soza spent a couple years on the staff of legendary coach Buck Godfrey at Southwest DeKalb.

To build the Eagles back into a contender, Soza has nine seniors on the roster and has installed a new offensive and defensive scheme. The Eagles’ traditional Wing-T offense has given way to Soza’s I-formation set, which will feature running back Chris Weems. Sophomore Jamarcus Sanders will trigger the offense from the quarterback position. “This system is a difference from what they have been running,” Soza said. “I’m blessed that I was able to bring over an experienced group of coaches that have been teaching this system to the players. We have a group

of dedicated coaches and players.” While Weems will likely get the majority of the carries, Soza said they have a good stable of running backs that will work into the rotation. “There is competition for carries, but Chris is the most experienced of the players in the backfield,” Soza said. “We will need for others to step up to lesson his workload.” On the defensive side of the ball, North Clayton will go from a 3-5 set to a 4-3 front, but employ the same coverages in the secondary. “We still want to be aggressive and pursue the ball,” Soza said.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 • 13

SOUTHERN CRESCENT 12 MOST WANTED Each season the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald sports staff combs the Southern Crescent area to chose the 12 best players. This year, the group is one of the most diverse with a player from almost every position. Photos by Derrick Mahone

Randy Anyanwu

Rashad Canty

• School: Lovejoy • Position: Defensive end • Why Anyanwu: Has emerged as a top defensive line prospect on a team that has a top Class AAAAAA defense.

DeMarquis Gates

• School: Riverdale • Position: Wide receiver • Why Canty: Last season, he had 30 catches for the playoff team. Has already committed to Appalachian State.

Trae Bonner

• School: Luella • Position: Running back/ defensive back • Why Bonner: Accounted for 914 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Had 29 tackles in the secondary.

14 • Wednesday, August 28, 2013

• School: Eagle’s Landing Christian • Position: Quarterback • Why Etheridge: In a word — winner. Was standout in football and baseball team’s state titles.

Rodney Smith

• School: Locust Grove • Position: Safety/wide receiver • Why McDowell: Rated as the top safety prospect in the state. Has committed to play at Tennessee.

• School: Lovejoy • Position: Linebacker • Why Gates: Has committed to Ole Miss. Was a standout among an abundance of talent for the Wildcats.

Dalton Etheridge

Cortez McDowell

Corey Holloway

• School: Eagle’s Landing • Position: Running back • Why Holloway: Last season, he rushed for 1,370 yards and nine touchdowns. One of team’s leading tacklers.

Kendarius Webster

• School: Mundy’s Mill • Position: Running back • Why Smith: Is one of the area’s top leading returning rushers after gaining 1,575 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Sedrick Palmer

• School: Eagle’s Landing • Position: Running back/ linebacker • Why Palmer: Will get a chance to showcase his talents better in the Golden Eagles’ high-octane offense.

• School: Stockbridge • Position: Defensive back/ wide receiver • Why Webster: Is the highest recruited player in school history. Is recruited by several ACC and SEC teams.

Maetron Thomas

• School: Stockbridge • Position: Running back • Why Thomas: Has committed to upstart Charlotte. Was big part of Stockbridge’s deep playoff run in 2012.

Andrew Williams

• School: Eagle’s Landing Christian • Position: Defensive line • Why Williams: He is considered one of the top defensive prospects in the state by many online recruiting services.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 • 15

SOUTHERN CRESCENT 12 MOST WANTED Each season the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald sports staff combs the Southern Crescent area to chose the 12 best players. This year, the group is one of the most diverse with a player from almost every position. Photos by Derrick Mahone

Randy Anyanwu

Rashad Canty

• School: Lovejoy • Position: Defensive end • Why Anyanwu: Has emerged as a top defensive line prospect on a team that has a top Class AAAAAA defense.

DeMarquis Gates

• School: Riverdale • Position: Wide receiver • Why Canty: Last season, he had 30 catches for the playoff team. Has already committed to Appalachian State.

Trae Bonner

• School: Luella • Position: Running back/ defensive back • Why Bonner: Accounted for 914 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Had 29 tackles in the secondary.

14 • Wednesday, August 28, 2013

• School: Eagle’s Landing Christian • Position: Quarterback • Why Etheridge: In a word — winner. Was standout in football and baseball team’s state titles.

Rodney Smith

• School: Locust Grove • Position: Safety/wide receiver • Why McDowell: Rated as the top safety prospect in the state. Has committed to play at Tennessee.

• School: Lovejoy • Position: Linebacker • Why Gates: Has committed to Ole Miss. Was a standout among an abundance of talent for the Wildcats.

Dalton Etheridge

Cortez McDowell

Corey Holloway

• School: Eagle’s Landing • Position: Running back • Why Holloway: Last season, he rushed for 1,370 yards and nine touchdowns. One of team’s leading tacklers.

Kendarius Webster

• School: Mundy’s Mill • Position: Running back • Why Smith: Is one of the area’s top leading returning rushers after gaining 1,575 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Sedrick Palmer

• School: Eagle’s Landing • Position: Running back/ linebacker • Why Palmer: Will get a chance to showcase his talents better in the Golden Eagles’ high-octane offense.

• School: Stockbridge • Position: Defensive back/ wide receiver • Why Webster: Is the highest recruited player in school history. Is recruited by several ACC and SEC teams.

Maetron Thomas

• School: Stockbridge • Position: Running back • Why Thomas: Has committed to upstart Charlotte. Was big part of Stockbridge’s deep playoff run in 2012.

Andrew Williams

• School: Eagle’s Landing Christian • Position: Defensive line • Why Williams: He is considered one of the top defensive prospects in the state by many online recruiting services.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 • 15

mount zion bulldogs Freshmen will get chance to prove themselves early By Gabriel Stovall

kind of player he is. If he isn’t getting it done for whatever reason, it probably just won’t get done.” Freshman and sophomores litJohnson’s presence, combined ter the landscape for Mount Zion with nose tackle Demonte Jefcoach Ervin Starr. ferson should actually create But it’s not all about the young- a formidable run-stopping and sters, as Starr enters his second pass-rushing duo on the Bulldogs’ season at the helm of what has interior —something that a young been a recently struggling Mount secondary can benefit from. Zion program. Starr does have the benefit of Among the newcomers are a a senior at quarterback, as well. couple of ninth-graders that may Devonte Dudley will get the nod pass for upperclassmen in some as the starting signal caller in eyes. 2013. Lennox Copeland and Anthony “Devonte got some time for us Crider, both 6-foot-2, 185-pound last year,” Starr said. “We’re pretty players who look a lot more maconfident in what we think he can ture than their age, are going to do for our program.” be counted on to make plays early He won’t have 6-foot-4 wide and often. If they can get past the receiver Carlton McCrary to throw experience hump — often a big to as originally planned. McCrary “if” in high school football — then recently transferred to Dutchtown. Mount Zion could become sneaky This gives even more opportugood. nity for a player like Copeland to But don’t forget the fact that rapidly emerge. Copeland often there are still some experienced looked like a man among boys players returning to the Bulldogs, during his last year at M.D. Robstarting with defensive end/tight erts Middle School. end Alexis Johnson who is returnNow at the next level, he’ll have ing from a season-shortened 2012 to depend on more than just his campaign. size and speed to help him get free Starr said he’s looking for John- to make plays. son to shine in his senior year. Starr doesn’t believe it to be a “Alexis is the kind of player problem. to where if there are going to be “These guys are already athletic, any defensive plays made on that already gifted and already strong,” defensive line, it’s going to be him Starr said. “The future of Mount Mount Zion second-year coach Ervin Starr will be depending on a lot of incoming freshmen and doing it,” Starr said. “That’s the Zion football is already here.” sophomores to help rebuild the program. (Special Photo: Jerry Jackson)

16 • Wednesday, August 28, 2013

morrow mustangs

Morrow coach Leroy Foster finally a full offseason to work his group after being hired a week into preseason practice last season. (Special Photo: Jerry Jackson)

‘Better product’ to hit the field for Morrow By Gabriel Stovall

tween now and then is like night and day,” Foster said. “This is my Courtney Heard has a first year to finally have quiet confidence about them full time. They are himself that he says is starting to learn how to indicative of what finally be football players. They having a full year under are beginning to learn the coach Larry Foster has game. They are becoming done for the team. intelligent in the system.” “We are believing that That’s something that we can really do some a full winter of condithings to turn things tioning, an entire spring around here at Morrow, ball setting and buffet of and get us back to where summer opportunities has we should be,” Leavy done for the Mustangs, said. who last year, went 1-9 The senior is going to — its lone victory combe the full-time starter ing against winless Forest this year at quarterback. Park — but started showLast season, he split time ing signs of being able to with a couple other signal compete as the year went callers as the entire Mus- along. tangs’ crew was simply Morrow has some just trying to feel its way experience returning, through at times, durnamely seven starters on ing a tumultuous start to offense and six regulars Foster’s tenure. on defense. “The difference beAnd Heard has an

impressive looking group of receivers that the dual-threat quarterback can toss to in Foster’s up-tempo style offense. Among them is 6-foot-4 DeMarcus Loman as well as Derwin Jackson and Tyler Moore. Now with an extra year of experience under their belts, the Mustangs are hoping to use the rematch as a measuring stick for improvement. “I can promise you we’ll have a better product out on the field for people to see this year,” Foster said. “We had to go back to some basics and teach them we should’ve been able to implement last summer if I were here. But I think we’re ready to start moving this program back to its days when it competed for state championships.”

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 • 17

18 • Wednesday, August 28, 2013


stockbridge tigers

Expectations Stockbridge Tigers looking to build on last season’s success

By Derrick Mahone

There is good reason for high expectations at Stockbridge this season. The Tigers are coming off an 11-2 season that produced a trip to the Class AAAA quarterfinals and a final ranking of No. 5 in the state after their recordsetting season. Stockbridge returns nine players on the state’s top defense in its classification. “It’s the preseason, and everybody talks about a state championship this time of year,” Stockbridge coach Kevin Whitley said. “Our main goal is to get better with each week. The biggest thing is to keep the guys humble and not believe all those press clippings. We have to get better in every area.” But the players realize that lofty expectations have been placed on them this season after winning the first region championship in school history. That championship came courtesy of its win over Griffin, which was the first time that a Henry County school had ever beaten the Spalding County powerhouse. Stockbridge advanced to the AAAA quarterfinals and suffered a 15-7 loss to Marist to end its 11-game winning streak and its season.

Kevin Whitley’s fifth season at Stockbridge includes high expectations after the Tigers reached the Class AAAA quarterfinals a year ago. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

But there is no doubt that the Tigers are brimming with confidence coming into the new season. “Our goal is really to win a state championship,” said senior running back/linebacker Maetron Thomas, who has committed to Charlotte. “We know we can make it further than we did last season.” A big question mark has been with the offense, which has only five returning starters. The Tigers must replace quarterback Trenton Earl. Whitley will be relying on sophomores Malachi Brown and Cameron Maddox to guide his run-oriented offense. Maddox will get first shot at replacing Earl, who didn’t throw an interception all last season. So far, Maddox’s teammates have

been impressed. “He has come along way since the start of practice,” Thomas said. “Our job as seniors is to encourage him, and make his job easier. We have told him that we will go as far as he will lead us.” The biggest missing piece on the defense is coordinator Morris Starr, who left in the spring to take the job at Henry County High. Kenny Barrow will take over the coordinator’s duties. Prior to coming to Stockbridge, Barrow was head coach at M.L. King, Douglass and Mundy’s Mill. “We are in good shape as far as the defense,” Whitley said. “We have a person that has head coaching Stockbridge sophomore Malachi Brown will get a shot at leading the Tigers’ offense experience, and knows the this season. He will have five starters returning to help in the transition. (Staff Photo: system.” Derrick Mahone)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 • 19

forest park panthers

Forest Park coach optimistic for new season By Gabriel Stovall

John Diehl is the latest coach that will try to turn around the struggling Forest Park program, which has had 12 straight losing seasons. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

20 • Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. Forest Park heads into a new season, with new optimism generated by a new coach who pledges that things will be different this time around. Except this time, at least by the looks of things, there seems to be more verifiable proof that a change could be headed to Pantherland. Forest Park has suffered 12-straight losing seasons, and seemingly as many coaching changes. Last season in Don Williams’ only year as head coach, the Panthers

finished 0-10. But Williams, who is still on staff coaching defense for the Panthers, did help bring a different intangible morale to the team. Now it’s on new head coach John Diehl to match those intangibles with victories. So far, the Panthers are looking the part of a team that is on the road to recovery. “We’ve had several players reaching the 1,000-pound club as lifters this summer,” Diehl said. “We’re noticeably bigger, faster and stronger than we were when we began. We are at the place where I think we’re going to be as fast as we’re going to

be and as strong as we’re going to be. Now we just have to learn to play.” Forest Park returns at least a half dozen performers on both sides of the ball from last year’s bunch which, according to senior quarterback Carlos Dowdell, is a group that shouldn’t be taken lightly. “We have speed,” Dowdell said. “We have talent. We just need the opportunity to show it. We want to have that opportunity when we get out on the field to show that we’re not just the same old Forest Park.” Said Brandon “Magic” Williams: “We’re ready to go now. We’ve been working hard. We have a differ-

ent chemistry. Coach Diehl has given us tools that we need to be successful.” Williams, Dowdell and fellow quarterback Kyle Bailey are all excited to power up in Diehl’s WingT-type offense. Diehl said that other players — some returning to the program after taking a year off — are adding to what he believes will be a much more competitive version of Forest Park football. Dowdell thinks that his Panthers are primed to be a surprise team in the region 4-AAAAA, Div. A race. “We’ve got ability in places that people might not think,” Dowdell said. “I think we’re going to shock some people.”

riverdale raiders

New coach embracing high expectations

By Derrick Mahone

Riverdale coach Terry Herrod is not shy when it comes to talking about his team. The first-year coach knows that there are some high expectations placed on them based off of last season’s performance. Riverdale returns nine offensive starters and seven defensive regulars from a team that reached the state playoffs for the first time since the 2005 season. Those expectations were sparked when the Raiders went to powerhouse Cairo last season and lost a close firstround state playoff game in a hostile south Georgia environment. “I will tell you that I embrace those expectations,” Herrod said. “When a lot is given to you, there is a lot that is expected. Now, we just have to go out and perform. It is going to be a challenge, but we welcome the opportunity.” Herrod spent the past six years at Dutchtown, the last three as the team’s defensive coordinator, before accepting the Riverdale job last spring when Olten Downs left for a similar position at Creekside High in Fairburn. The Raiders will have 25 seniors, including nine who have already been tabbed to play on the next level, to provide leadership. “In high school football, you win with good leadership,” Herrod said.

At left, Riverdale coach Terry Herrod says the return of 16 starters from a playoff team last season has placed high expectations for the season. Above, quarterback Greg Taylor will direct an offense that returns nine starters, including several college prospects. (Staff Photos: Derrick Mahone)

“We have definitely grown from last season’s experience,” senior defensive end Tykeem Bethea said. “We know this is a process, and that

receiving offers. Jordan Metts transferred from Drew, where he was part-time starter. He will team with Deon Jones to give the Raiders no one is going to give us son. He has a stable of a dual threat at running anything.” good receivers in Rashad back. The offense appears Canty, Gerrod Gober and Because the offense solid with the return of Trey Sanders. Canty, who has received so much Greg Taylor, who was a has committed to Appala- preseason hype, the part-time starter last sea- cian State, is constantly defense comes in sort

of underrated, which is fine with the returning players. “I know a lot of people are sleeping on our defense, and that is OK,” said defensive end Chinedu Okonya, who has committed to Furman. “What we lack in size, we will more than make up in speed.”

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 • 21

union grove wolverines

YOUNG GUNS By Derrick Mahone

New players must step up for team’s success

The last time Union Grove made a playoff run like it did last season, the current senior class was still a year away from entering high school. Many of the contributors to last season’s 10-2 finish and second round playoff appearance are back. With what coach Paul Burgdorf calls “good senior leadership,” an even deeper run through the Class AAAAA playoffs doesn’t seem out of reach. “Our returning players are proud of the fact that we went 10-2 last season,” Burgdorf said. “The guys have been demonstrating a quality work ethic like last year’s team. There was a lot of trust among the team last season, and I get the same sense with this group. The team is coming together, and we have some good leadership.” What the Wolverines don’t have this season is running back Derrick Craine. However, Union Grove returns six offensive starters in addition to five regulars back on the defensive unit. But Craine, who was the Henry Daily Herald Offensive Player of the Year in 2012, has graduated. And he took his 2,105 yards and 26 touchdowns to Tennessee-Chattanooga. Burgdorf is confident

Jonathan Slade will be called on for his leadership and passing ability as Union Grove tries to make another playoff run. (Special Photo: Jeff Hurndon Photography)

that he will have a good stable of rushers to take off the slack as the team tries to defend its Region 4-AAAAA, Div. A title. Union Grove finished runner-up in the region after losing in the championship game to Whitewater. Looking to replace Craine will be juniors Luke Parker and Chad Reeves along with fresh-

22 • Wednesday, August 28, 2013

man Trevor Gear. All three are getting plenty of reps during the preseason practice with the first and second units, according to Burgdorf. “It is going to be difficult replacing someone like Derrick,” Burgdorf said. “I don’t know if you can replace him because he worked so hard. He had some good intangibles. We got several players that

Freshman Trevor Gear has an opportunity to get some early playing team this season as Union Grove tries to replace 2,000-yard rusher Derrick Craine, who graduated. (Special Photo: Jeff Hurndon Photography)

will help, and they will get their opportunity. We will be a running back by committee this season.” Burgdorf said much will be asked of junior quarterback Jonathan Slade, who

passed for 1,068 yards and 10 touchdowns a season ago. “Last year we ran the ball a lot to take the pressure off him since he was a sophomore,” Burgdorf

said. “We have a lot of good chemistry on the team,” Slade said. “We are getting good leadership from the seniors and some of the underclassmen.”

mundy’s mill tigers

Smith, Tigers looking for ‘respect’ By Gabriel Stovall

A seven-minute video posted on the Clayton News Daily Sports’ Facebook fan page showcased highlights of Mundy’s Mill’s Aug. 16 scrimmage against Upson Lee. The opening title that came across the screen announced that No. 1 is back for the Tigers. No. 1, of course, being the jersey number donned by Mundy’s Mill running back Rodney Smith. Perhaps the Southern Crescent’s most surprising player, Smith rushed for 1,545 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior in 2012 — a season that was cut short due to a torn ACL during the Tigers’ season finale against Ola. Smith was injured early in the first half, and already had 109 rushing yards. Mundy’s Mill still won, and missed its shot at a playoff berth by losing its play-in game against Northgate. It’s easy to surmise that had No. 1 been in the game the Tigers may have been able to beat Northgate and claim their first playoff berth since 2007. But such talk is pure speculation. The only thing sure now is that not only is Smith back, but so is a talented and more experienced supporting cast, growing in confidence to begin coach Greg Manior’s second year. That cast includes junior quarterback Rodricous Gates and wide receiver Eric Tate. This duo, added to Smith and rapidly emerging offensive lineman Darius “Pancake” Anderson

Greg Manior begins his second season at Mundy’s Mill with hopes of his team reaching the postseason. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

gives Mundy’s Mill hope that it won’t just be a one running back show on offense. “We’ve definitely gotten better and gained more confidence in the system over the spring and summer,” Manior said. “Rodricous has grown as a quarterback. We already knew he had a strong arm, but now he’s out there making better reads and getting the ball out to where our receivers can make plays. That can only help us.”

What also helps is that Smith is back to, in his words, “about 90 to 95 percent” healthy. He says he still has to work on not thinking about the knee. But he’s on a quest to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke for him. “I still feel like I haven’t gotten as much respect as maybe I would if we had a better record last year,” Smith said. “But we’re just out as a team to show that we can go even further than we did last year.”

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 • 23

eagle’s landing christian chargers

ELCA tabs as favorite in Class A again

By Derrick Mahone

Last season, Eagle’s Landing Christian presented Henry County with its first Georgia High School Association state title when the Chargers won the Class A private school championship. Now, can they be the first county team to repeat? If the preseason polls are any indication, the Chargers looked to be the favorite again. For the second straight season, ELCA enters the season ranked No. 1 in the Class A Associated Press poll. Chargers coach Jonathan Gess is happy, but don’t expect any overcelebration on his or his team’s part about poll expectations. “Honestly, my guys don’t really get caught up in all of that,” Gess said. “We are just looking to become the best football team we can possibly be.” To do that, the Chargers will have to replace some talent on both sides of the football, starting

Senior Andrew Williams, who has several college scholarship offers, will be counted on to anchor the ELCA defense, which returns five starters. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

with Keyante Green, who is now a freshman at Purdue. Green played both linebacker and running back, where he rushed

24 • Wednesday, August 28, 2013

for more than 5,000 yards in his four-year varsity career. ELCA has six offensive starters returning and five

Gess brought in Zach Davis from a private school in Florida to run the unit this season. While the talents of Isaac Rochell (Notre Dame) and D.J. Curl (Charleston Southern) are gone, he still has plenty to work with. Andrew Williams is a highly recruited defensive line that will anchor the front. The linebacker corps is solid, which includes the return of Josh Shockley, a two-time preseason allstate player. “I don’t know if our defense will be as dominating as last year,” Gess said.”It wasn’t until the eighth game last season that our defense really started playing great.” On the offensive side, Dalton Etheridge will shoulder a big load from the quarterback spot. He will rely on running backs Lane Timpson, ELCA defensive coordinator Zack Davis was hired this Cam Stewart and Carl spring after last year’s coordinator Derek Chastain left White to help replace for Class AAAAAA Grayson. (Staff Photo: Derrick MaGreen. hone) “It is going to be an on defense. For the secinteresting season,” dinator Derek Chastain ond straight season, the is now the defensive line Etheridge said. “I think Chargers will have a new coach at Class AAAAAA we will be OK. We have some young guys that are man calling the defensive powerhouse Grayson in willing to step up.” shots. Last year’s coorGwinnett County.

locust grove wildcats

Locust Grove star power could push ’Cats to playoffs By Gabriel Stovall

Clint Satterfield, the only coach in Locust Grove’s five-year history, is hoping this is the breakthrough season in which his team makes the playoffs. (Special Photo: Jason Mussell)

Locust Grove has been playing football for only four years. But as they enter their fifth year of competition, the Wildcats boast something that some schools that have been around as long as the state of Georgia itself can’t say they’ve ever had. One of the nation’s top high school players. You’ll find him in the personage of Cortez McDowell. The 6-foot-2 safety/wide receiver is listed as a consensus top-10 recruit in all of the national recruiting services — not to mention the No. 1 safety prospect in Georgia. Earlier this summer, McDowell went ahead and put the college decision making drama to rest early by committing to Tennessee, becoming the second player from the Southern Crescent in as many years to pledge his services to the Volunteers. But as electrifying as McDowell is and can be, it’s not all about him, although he does make things easier — or harder, depending on whether you’re a teammate or opponent. “It definitely helps to have a player like a Cortez McDowell on your side,” said fifth year coach Clint Satterfield. “You don’t get the chance to coach one like him every day, so when you do it’s pretty special.” But while many eyes will be on McDowell this season, quite a few will also

be gazing in the direction of new starting quarterback Tyler Sellers. Sellers, who is a standout pitcher on Locust Grove’s baseball team, will be asked to fill the shoes of one of the area’s top total offense accumulators in now-Presbyterian College freshman Keenan Wise. Wise amassed well over 2,000 yards both running and passing while leading Locust Grove to a 6-4 record last year, just missing the playoffs. Sellers saw only limited action behind Wise last year, completing just eight of 17 passes for 81 yards. But Satterfield sounds confident in his senior’s ability to step in. “Tyler is going to definitely be a leader for this team,” Satterfield said. “He’s got the arm and he’s going to show himself as a solid performer for us.” The increase in team speed for the Wildcats is evident as well, according to secondary coach Randy Lee. And McDowell’s teammate at the other safety position, Emilio Conde, is proving to be an ever emerging leader. Conde suffered a potentially life-threatening injury when he ruptured his spleen in a 7-on-7 passing league game earlier in the summer. Two weeks later he was back out on the field running with the team. “I wish I had 11 of him,” Lee said. “I’d line him up everywhere on the field. That’s just the kind of leader he is to this team.”

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 • 25

eagle’s landing golden eagles Stronger ‘D’ could produce wins for Golden Eagles

By Derrick Mahone

Eagle’s Landing coach Joe Teknipp tried to stay away from it, but there is no getting around it this season. For the Golden Eagles to have a shot at contending for a playoff spot in Region 4-AAAA, the veteran coach will have to allow players to play on both sides of the football. That will be especially true on defense, where the team had trouble stopping the opposition on the way to another 1-9 finish last season. “We couldn’t close anything out on defense,” Teknipp said. “We will just play the best 11 that we can.” The Golden Eagles have five returning starters on the defensive side of the ball, and the addition of Sedrick Palmer at linebacker should help shore up the unit. Palmer, who has several college offers, transferred from Henry County last spring. Palmer is also a top running back. His presence will strengthen an offense that averaged about 35 points per game last season. Only twice during the 2012 campaign did the Golden Eagles fell to score at least 21 points. Eagle’s Landing will switch its defensive scheme in hopes of maximizing its talent, which includes sophomore Lunderek Craig, a transfer from Osborne High in Cobb County. The biggest concern that Teknipp has on the offensive side of the ball is that the team didn’t score on the first drive during any of its games.

“When you add Sedrick to the mix, I think it will make us a lot better on both sides of the ball,” Teknipp said. Eagle’s Landing is trying to snap a string of four straight losing seasons that has produced only three wins during that span. It’s last playoff appearance came in 2008 when the team finished with a 6-5 record. Palmer is the only player on the roster with playoff experience, which he gained as a sophomore at Henry County. “I want to come in and

26 • Wednesday, august 28, 2013

try to provide some leadership for this group,” he said. “We have a good talented team that I think can reach the playoffs.” The loaded offense consists of quarterback Bradley Dewberry, who accounted for 2,571 yards and 26 touchdowns. Palmer will team with Corey Holloway in the backfield. Last season, he rushed for 1,370 yards and nine touchdowns. “I’m looking forward to teaming up with Sedrick,” he said. “I’ve known him just about all my life. I think it will make us a stronger team.”

Above, Eagle’s Landing senior quarterback Bradley Dewberry, left, talks with offensive coordinator Rex Robertson during practice. Last season, Dewberry accounted for 2,571 yards of offense. At left, Eagle’s Landing coach Joe Teknipp says he will play his best 11 players on defense in hopes of shoring up the unit this season. (Staff Photos: Derrick Mahone)

ola mustangs Coach Kevin Kovzel has changed up some of the routines around the Ola football camp this offseason. He’s hoping it will translate into a change of fortunes come Friday’s season opening kickoff. (Staff Photo: Gabriel Stovall)

Quiet confidence permeates Ola By Gabriel Stovall

through their drills. “This is a great opportunity for us to break the monotony Ola football wants to and set a tone going into win so bad that it called the fall.” in a few good men to help Now, the fall is almost them get over the hump here. And Ola, just in its this summer. eighth year of existence, Mustangs coach Kevin is still looking for its Kovzel entered a drawing first winning season and that won him the opporplayoff berth. Kovzel is tunity to host a Marines entering his sixth year as Challenge at the Mushead coach, and though tangs’ practice field. he knows the challenges So on the last day of ahead, he is more than summer conditioning, optimistic for what he instead of tossing around believes is out there for his footballs and running team to grab. through blocking and “We’re in a good place tackling drills, the Musright now,” Kovzel said. tangs invited members of “We’ve got a lot of good the United States Marine pieces and a lot of talented Corps to come in and help young players out there. whip them into shape — Now we just need to get mentally and physically. our depth together and When it was all said and see how these young kids done, Kovzel couldn’t hide will play once you get the his pleasure. pads on them and get them “I couldn’t be more under the lights.” happy for what I saw out For a while last year, there,” Kovzel said during Ola looked as if it might the time the Marines were end both its losing season pushing the Mustangs streak and playoff drought.

With then-seniors C.J. Carr and JoJo Spann, the Mustangs looked impressive in their opening three games — the first, a 38-30 thriller of a victory against Eagle’s Landing, followed by two close losses at Locust Grove and McIntosh. Ola has just four regulars returning on offense, but several of the newcomers seem promising. Among them is ultraconfident junior quarterback Joseph Rushing and running back Tyler Pippen. But most of the offensive line returns, including senior Andrew Johnson, who anchors the linemen from his center position. Kovzel said he put his players in more positions to compete this past summer than at any other time he’s been at the helm of the program. “Any time you can get any kind of extra work in with these players it’s an extra bonus involved there,” he said.” Wednesday, August 28, 2013 • 27

28 • Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The 2013 Prep Football for Henry Daily Herald & Clayton News Daily  

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