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SPEED KILLS pg. 6

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MASTER SCHEDULE Date:

Aug. 23

Aug. 30

Sept. 6

Sept. 20

Sept. 27

(AT COOLRAY FIELD)

JONESBORO

OFF

(VIRGINIA)

NEWTON

ARCHER

CHEROKEE BLUFF

AT WHITEFIELD ACADEMY

DENMARK

JOHNSON

AT ATHENS ACADEMY

OFF

AT NORTH HALL

FANNIN COUNTY

AT LUMPKIN COUNTY

EAST HALL

CHESTATEE

NORTH HALL

DAWSON COUNTY

OFF

AT EAST HALL

FANNIN COUNTY

AT DENMARK

AT MARIST

FLOWERY BRANCH

OFF

EAST HALL

AT FLOWERY BRANCH

UNION COUNTY

WOODLAND

CHESTATEE

OFF

GREATER ATLANTA

AT DAWSON COUNTY

FANNIN COUNTY

AT CHEROKEE BLUFF

OFF

AT NORTH HALL

LUMPKIN COUNTY

FLOWERY BRANCH

EAST HALL

OFF

AT CLARKE CENTRAL

AT WINDERBARROW

OFF

GAINESVILLE

WHITE COUNTY

AT CHESTATEE

AT BLESSED TRINITY

MARIST

WEST HALL

AT DENMARK

GAINESVILLE

MARY PERSONS

AT NORTH FORSYTH

AT LAMBERT

OFF

JEFFERSON

AT FLOWERY BRANCH

AT DACULA

HABERSHAM CENTRAL

OFF

AT WINDERBARROW

APALACHEE

LANIER

RIVERSIDE MILITARY

CROSS KEYS

OFF

BUFORD

WALNUT GROVE

AT CEDAR SHOALS

OFF

CLARKE CENTRAL

AT LOGANVILLE

AT ST. FRANCIS

OFF

AT GEORGE WALTON

HEBRON CHRISTIAN

COMMERCE

AT TOWNS COUNTY

REGION PLAY-IN GAME

KING’S ACADEMY

AT CENTRAL CHRISTIAN

CHEROKEE CHRISTIAN

AT JOHN HANCOCK ACADEMY

AT NORTH GEORGIA

AT COMMUNITY CHRISTIAN

OFF

OFF

BUFORD

VS. MILTON

JOHNSON

AT CHEROKEE OGLETHORPE AT WEST HALL BLUFF COUNTY

Sept. 13

LIFE CHRISTIAN

AT STRONG ROCK

Oct. 4

Oct. 11

Oct. 18

AT JOHNSON CEDAR SHOALS LOGANVILLE

Oct. 25

Nov. 1

Nov. 8

OFF

AT WALNUT GROVE

AT CLARKE CENTRAL

AT GREATER ATLANTA

DAWSON COUNTY

OFF

AT BLESSED TRINITY WHITE COUNTY

AT RIVERSIDE PRINCE AVENUE MILITARY CHRISTIAN

WEST HALL

LAKEVIEW

OFF

CHRISTIAN

LANIER CHRISTIAN

NOTRE DAME ACADEMY

LAFAYETTE CHRISTIAN

NORTH HALL

AT CHESTATEE

JACKSON COUNTY

AT CHEROKEE

OFF

WHITE COUNTY

CHEROKEE BLUFF

AT GREATER ATLANTA

OFF

AT FANNIN COUNTY

AT LUMPKIN COUNTY

EAST HALL

DAWSON COUNTY

RIVERSIDE MILITARY

CHRISTIAN HERITAGE

AT KING’S RIDGE CHRISTIAN

OFF

AT JOHNSON

OFF

AT PRINCE AVENUE

AT TOWNS COUNTY

PROVIDENCE CHRISTIAN

LAKEVIEW ACADEMY

AT HEBRON CHRISTIAN

COMMERCE

REGION PLAY-IN GAME

WEST HALL

COMMERCE

JOHNSON

AT JEFFERSON

DAWSON COUNTY

OFF

BLESSED TRINITY

DENMARK

MARIST

AT WHITE COUNTY

OFF

(AUG. 16)

(AUG. 23)

OFF

HOLY SPIRIT AT FULLINGTON PREP ACADEMY

AT FLOWERY BRANCH AT CHESTATEE

2019 | Football in Hall |

3


AUSTIN STEELE | The Times

Chestatee’s Christian Charles holds off East Hall’s Dj Gray during a game between Chestatee and East Hall last season at War Eagle Stadium.

Leah Nelson Advertising Director

Bill Murphy Sports Editor

Fletcher Deal Art Director

SCHOOLS

Norman Baggs General Manager

4

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Buford . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7 Cherokee Bluff . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8 Chestatee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 North Hall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 East Hall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Flowery Branch . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 Gainesville . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Lanier Christian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Lakeview Academy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Johnson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Riverside Military Academy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 West Hall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36

| Football in Hall | 2019

COVER ART

Cover design and layout by Fletcher Deal. Photos of Christian Charles, left, and Shad Dabney by Scott Rogers. Background photo of football field courtesy of Tim Mossholder, Unsplash.


SPEED KILLS 2019 could be the year of the dual threat QB in Hall County

SCOTT ROGERS | The Times

Chestatee High quarterback Christian Charles looks for an open receiver during the first half of a game with Flowery Branch last season.

BY NATHAN BERG

nberg@gainesvilletimes.com Picture this. It’s a cool Friday night in late October, and noisy fans pack a high school football stadium. The game is tied late in the fourth quarter, but the home team is driving steadily down the field. The quarterback receives the snap within striking distance of the end zone and surveys the field. To his dismay, no one is open. The wide receivers and tight ends are all covered, and even the running back — the supposed safety outlet — is locked down. So the quarterback goes with the last option available to him. He runs. He scores. The home team wins, and the spectators are delighted. It’s a scene that has become more and more common over the years as high school coaches have grown to favor dual threat options to lead their offensive attacks, and Hall County teams have been no exception. “Having a running quarterback, a mobile quarterback, helps,” Chestatee coach Shaun Conley said. “That’s another guy that they’ve got to account for. If you’ve got just a pure passer, then they know they can drop more and bring more and stuff like that. But with the dual threat quarterback, it does help you offensively, play calling, extending the play and stuff like that.” Conley would know as well as anyone. The War Eagles unleashed mobile quarterback Christian Charles as a 6

| Football in Hall | 2019

sophomore last season, and after a slow start, the young signal caller quickly found his footing. Charles rushed for 1,446 yards on the year, scoring 19 touchdowns with his legs. He also passed for 1,781 yards and eight more touchdowns, proving he was equally dangerous no matter what he was doing with the ball. His signature moment came in the team’s 45-42 victory over Fannin County, during which Charles put together 542 total yards and six total touchdowns. But as Charles prepares for 2019, he’s keeping his eyes forward rather than on what he accomplished as a sophomore. “It’s a new season, and last year is really not important,” he said. “It’s just really being productive this year and doing what I can to help the team.” Finding productivity this year is the name of the game for every Hall County quarterback this season, and it seems that more frequently than ever that production is expected to come from the legs of area signal callers as much as their arms. Beyond Charles’ own expected output, North Hall’s Wing T attack will always require athleticism from the man under center, and Lakeview Academy coach Matthew Gruhn even suggested the Lions would look into using option looks that keep the ball on the ground with frequency. One of the most exciting newcomers to keep an eye on when it comes to dual threat QBs; however, is Riverside Military Academy’s Shad Dabney, a rare junior

captain for the Eagles. Dabney takes over at quarterback from recent graduate and Gainesville native Isaac Teasley, and much like Teasley, Dabney has already proven himself as a basketball and track star for Riverside Military. Now, the multi-sport athlete, who recently received his first Power 5 college offer from Arizona State, hopes to prove himself on the gridiron. “I see myself as a playmaker,” he said. “This is something that I’ve always wanted, so I’m going to step up to it.” Eagles coach Nick Garrett, who referred to Dabney as “arguably the best athlete in the state,” couldn’t agree more. “(Dabney) understands every phase of the ball and every position on both sides,” Garrett said. “We’re excited about that, and like I said, he’s extremely hard to defend. Teams are going to have to worry about it.” Between Dabney and Charles, Hall County teams have all the speed and athleticism at the quarterback position to light up scoreboards on a weekly basis, and no doubt signal callers will be putting up eye-popping numbers regularly. Just don’t expect all the yards to come through the air. After all, even if opposing teams have effective plans to shut down passing attacks, it will take more than that to shut down Hall County’s best athletes. “We just take what (defenses) give and do what we do,” Charles said.


BUFORD WOLVES

WOLVES BACK ON THE PROWL BY LAYNE SALIBA

lsaliba@gainesvilletimes.com Buford High School hasn’t had the type of success it’s come to expect of late, but with a new coach at the helm, the Wolves are looking to get back on track and back to the state championship this season. First-year head coach Bryant Appling, who’s been with the team for more than a decade, left his role as defensive coordinator with the team to take over the head coaching duties this season and is happy with how his team has performed throughout the summer. “The kids have done a great job of dealing with the heat and dealing with the weather and scheduling of things like that,” Appling said. “So from that point of view, it’s been really, really good.” He said it’s been the same kind of summer as it always has been as far as the team goes, but this time, it’s been a little different for him personally. “It’s a heck of a lot more paperwork on this side of it,” Appling said, laughing. “It felt a little more like a secretary versus being a football coach, but once we got on the grass and once we got on the turf and started practicing and things like that ... it felt normal.”

1. T Lee 3, Elijah Turner 4. Jamarius Isaac 5. Xalan Taylor 5. Jackson Galbraith 6. Javen Sadler 8. Amari Wansley 9. Brandon Castro 10. Justice Johnson 11. Jackson Powell 12. Ashton Daniels 13. Malik Williams 13. Nathan Galbraith 14. Jarvis Evans Jr. 15. Julien Lewis 15. Dylan Lesko 16. William Harkness 17. Dylan Wittke 18. Ace Edwards 19. Ryan Rettenmeyer 20. Jason Roche 21. Jalen Huff 22. Gabe Ervin Jr. 23. Daniel Benitez 24. Zac Jenkins 24. Isaiah Bond 25. Victor Venn 26. Elijah Olofintuyi 27. Nate Castleman 28. Dylan Akins 29. Nick Perry 30. Boyd Farmer 30. Victor Payne 31. Jake Pope

WR/DB RB/DB WR/DB RB/LB WR/DB RB/DB WR/DB RB/DB WR/DB TE/DE QB WR/DB WR/DB QB WR/DB QB QB QB WR/DB WR/DB WR/LB DB/WR RB/LB WR/DB WR/DB WR/DB RB/DB WR/LB WR/DB WR/DB TE/LB WR/DB WR/DB WR/DB

Sr. Sr. Sr. Sr. So. Sr. Jr. Jr. Sr. Sr. So. Jr. So. Jr. Sr. So. So. Fr. Sr. Sr. Sr. Sr. Jr. Sr. Sr. So. So. Sr. Sr. Sr. Jr. Jr. So. So.

10-3 Overall, 5-0 Region, 8-5A

R E S U LT S

Tucker 40-14 Jonesboro 58-7 Deerfield Beach 19-14 Newton 58-27 Archer 48-24 Johnson 49-0 Cedar Shoals 55-6

Loganville 43-0 Walnut Grove 61-0 State playoffs: Miller Grove 35-14 Kell 44-11 Bainbridge 23-20

5 THINGS TO WATCH

Quarterback competition

New coach, same team

With last year’s quarterback Aaron McLaughlin’s transfer to Denmark High School, Buford was left without a starting quarterback this season. Appling said it’s not a worry, though, because he has three guys who are battling for the position. Jarvis Evans, who was McLaughlin’s backup last year, is in the running along with freshman Dylan Wittke and sophomore Ashton Daniels. “Those three are the ones that have been battling the most and doing a good job as far as what coach wants them to do and making the calls and making the throws and things like that,” Appling said. But he doesn’t know when and if he’ll name a starter before the season begins. “Every coach would love to name a starter before the season starts,” Appling said. “We’re all about competition. And I’ve always known that the more competition you build, the fact is, whether it’s real or fake, it makes your kids better. “They feel like they have to compete every day and they’re going to continue to improve. I don’t want any of our kids to get complacent at any point in the season.”

The Wolves will look the same for the most part this season, relying heavily on their run game, but also passing the ball when needed. Appling hasn’t changed anything more than what needs to be changed from season to season. “It’s pretty much not going to be far off of what we’ve already been,” Appling said. “Obviously, you’ve got to change with your personnel every year or you’re not doing a very good job as a coach. So you’ve got to do what you’re strong at and see how you can exploit other teams’ weaknesses with the guys you’ve got on your team.” And even though he left his role as defensive coordinator, Appling said he’ll still be very involved on that side of the ball. When it comes to the offense, Appling said his offensive coordinator has done everything he needs at preparing the team for a new season. “Any team that wins a lot year to year, they have to be able to run the football,” Appling said. “Our offensive coordinator, he’s done a great job of installing his offense and it’s going to be ... flexible. We’ll put it like that. He can change whatever he needs to change week to week.”

2019 ROSTER

32. Mason McCranie TE/LB 32. Adrian Osorio FB/DE 33. Nate Norys FB/LB 34. Carlton Holley FB/DE 35. Brevin Striewe TE/LB 35. Machkye Sheffield WR/DB 36. Carson Garrison TE/LB 36. Jake Hill WR/DB 37. Jake Brittle WR/DB 38. Craig Clinkscales RB/DB 38. Timi Olawole WR/LB 39. Tobi Olawole WR/DB 40. Evan DiMaggio TE/LB 40. William Hunt FB/LB 41. Ryland Gandy WR/DB 42. Carter Hamby FB/LB 42. Oscar Benitez-Palacios WR/DB 43. Malik Spencer WR/LB 44. Aubrey Smith FB/LB 45. Caden Williams TE/DE 46. Eli Parks RB/LB 47. Brett Rogers TE/DE 48. Tommy Beuglas TE/DE 49. William Martin WR/LB 51. River Wilson OL/DE 52. Caleb Archer OL/DT 53. Luis Saenz TE/DE 54. Devon Birdwell OL/DT 55. Kevin Vindel OL/DL 56. Matthew Alexandar OL/DT 57. Nickolas King OL/DE 58. Seth McLaughlin OL/DT 59. Malik Cunningham OL/DT 60. Will Coffey TE/DE

Jr. Jr. So. Sr. Jr. So. Jr. Jr. Jr. So. Jr. So. Sr. So. So. Jr. So. So. So. Jr. So. Jr. Jr. So. So. Jr. So. Jr. Sr. Jr. Jr. Sr. Jr. Jr.

61. Jackson Favors 62. Malone VanGorder 63. Zachary Combs 64. Mack Green 65. Jaqwon Brown 66. Joseph Miller 67. Chad Maiseroulle 70. Griffin Scroggs 71. Ashton Martin 72. Jacob Smith 73. Sho Mitchell 77. TJ Lowe 78. Zach Pacheco 79. James Gonzalez 80. Cole Wright 80. Dawson Andrew 82. Ben Thompson 83. Braden Cole 84. Emmanuel Malala 85. Hayden Olsen 86. Jayvion Sims 87. Christhoper Rinker 88. Avery Siebrasse 89. Zachary Salo 90. Davis Peek 91. Carson Perry 92. Jackson Perry 93. Amir Hartford 94. Josiah Wyatt 96. Sawyer Sieracki 97. Devin Gonzalez 98. Jacob Price-Williams 99. Alejandro Mata

OL/DT OL/DT OL/DT OL/DE OL/DT OL/DE OL/DT OL/DT OL/DE OL/DT OL/DT OL/DT RB/LB OL/DE WR/DB WR/DB WR/DB WR/LB WR/DB P/K WR/DB TE/DE WR/DB WR/DB TE/DE TE/DE TE/DE TE/DE TE/DE WR/DB RD/DB P/K P/K

So. Sr. So. Jr. So. So. Jr. So. Jr. Jr. So. Jr. So. So. Jr. So. Jr. So. Jr. Sr. So. So. Sr. So. So. So. So. So. So. So. So. Sr. So.

2019 | Football in Hall |

7


Deep defense The defensive side of the ball will be Buford’s strongest this season with plenty of upperclassmen taking over at positions in the secondary. “Our corners and safeties, they’re a deep bunch,” Appling said. He couldn’t even name all the first-string and backup players the Wolves have at those positions. “It’s a bunch of them battling for those snaps back there,” Appling said. Appling added that he’s happy to have a deep defense with the team’s tough schedule in its sight. With teams like Milton and Archer early in the season, Appling knows it won’t be an easy ride. “It’s definitely important for us because we have some tough games in the beginning of the season,” Appling said. “Depth is key to us being successful in those games and throughout the season because injuries happen. You don’t want them to, but they happen.”

Strong backfield Appling said Buford is looking to have a more balanced offense this season than in years past. But with a backfield that is so deep, it will be hard to not run as much as possible. “We’ve always been strong and lucky and blessed to have a deep backfield,” Appling said. “And that’s the same this year. We’ve got about three or four guys we think could really, really do a good job.”

Appling said there are two standout backs in Elijah Turner and Gabe Ervine. “If they’re toting it 25 times a game, they’ll probably rush for 150 yards each game,” Appling said. “They’re unselfish. They do a great job and they share the wealth.” After those two, Appling said there’s a list of players competing for playing time.

Expectations

2019 SCHEDULE Aug. 23

Though the Wolves are hoping to get back to the success they have come to expect, Appling said it’s important for his team and himself to not focus on the end of the season before it even starts. “If I’m worried about the state championship, if I’m worried about December or whatever right now, there’s going to be a bunch of days that are going to slip between the cracks,” Appling said. “So the way that you get what you want out of a football season is to worry about the next day.” That’s a mantra that’s easier said than done, especially for high schoolers. But Appling said his team is mature, and with 25 seniors, he’s not worried about the thought of getting back to the state championship weighing them down. “They’re picking up on it,” Appling said. “A lot of these seniors have been around me long enough and have been around the mainstays on the staff long enough to know that little things matter and we’re going to make sure we take care of those and make sure those things are the most important.”

(Coolray Field) Aug. 30 Sept. 13

BY NATHAN BERG nberg@gainesvilletimes.com Not much went according to plan for Cherokee Bluff as it went winless as a first-year school in 2018, but the Bears are entering this season with plenty of optimism. In Year 2, the Bears brings back all but three players from last year’s squad, and Cherokee Bluff head coach Tommy Jones thinks that continuity will be a major key in finding future success. “Our coaches know each other,” Jones said. “Our players know each other a little bit better. As a school, we all know each other a little bit better. There’s a feeling of family, and we really believe that we get along and we like each other, that we want to play hard, because we care deeply about each other. And I think that’s an important concept that we have.” 8

| Football in Hall | 2019

JONESBORO LIFE CHRISTIAN (Va.)

Sept. 20

NEWTON

Sept. 27

ARCHER

Oct. 4

at Johnson*

Oct. 11

CEDAR SHOALS*

Oct. 18

LOGANVILLE*

Nov. 1

at Walnut Grove*

Nov. 8

at Clarke Central*

CHEROKEE BLUFF BEARS

BEARS STRIVE FOR YEAR TWO JUMP

Milton

*region games

0-10 Overall, 0-6 Region, 7-3A Whitefield Academy 33-0 Denmark 43-0 Johnson 34-13 Athens Academy 35-14 North Hall 60-0

Fannin County Lumpkin County East Hall Greater Atlanta Dawson County

45-7 42-19 42-35 45-7 41-7

R E S U LT S

The team will be breaking in a new quarterback this year following the graduation of Connor Boyd, but the Bears are vastly more experienced at virtually every other position on the field. Cherokee Bluff hopes to turn that starting experience into a winning season in the second year of the program.

5 THINGS TO WATCH

More comfortable in year 2 Keeping the players comfortable with Jones’ system has been a heavy focus for the second-year Cherokee Bluff coach in the offseason, and the players have started to take notice. “He’s a great coach,” Bears junior Garrett Davis said of Jones. “I love playing under him. We’ve grown a lot more together,

coaching staff and players all since last year. We know what our strengths and weaknesses are now.” Jones said that as the players and coaches have gotten to know each other better, everything – from practices, to scrimmages, to the team’s picture day – has started to run smoother. The added comfortability brings with it higher expectations according to Jones, a concept he and his team are not shying away from. “I think you recognize that as you progress from Year 1 to Year 2, your players and your coaches, everybody involved in the entire program, they understand the expectations that are set before them,” Jones said. “And our expectations are high.”

Dynamic receiving duo One of Cherokee Bluff’s biggest strengths on the offensive side of the ball this season


Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

2. Wyatt Campbell 3. John Bazemore 4. Charles Tolbert 5. Jamir Tolbert 6. Deakon Phillips 7. Jaylon Justice 8. Brayden Nance 9. Garrett Davis 10. Mason Thomas 11. Caleb Dolan 13. Eli Cannon 14. Jhace Justice 15. Dylan Cross 16. Eli Little 17. Charles Agot 18. Jacob Carlson 20. Logan Stanley 21. Bosco Norman 22. Tino Mukono 23. Myka Sims 24. Sam Stribling

WR/DB WR/DB RB/DB WR/DB WR/DB WR/DB RB/LB TE/LB QB RB/DL WR/DB QB/DB TE/LB RB/LB QB WR/DB WR/DB WR/DB WR/DB TE/DL RB/DB

Cherokee Bluff Jr. Jr. Jr. Jr. Jr. Jr. So. Jr. Jr. Sr. Sr. Fr. Jr. Jr. Sr. Sr. Fr. Sr. Sr. Jr. So.

could be at wide receiver, where the Bears return a pair of productive veterans from last season. Junior Jaylon Justice and senior Jacob Carlson combined to produce the bulk of the Bears’ receiving output in 2018, helping then quarterback Boyd throw for over 1,200 yards. Jones expects even better numbers from the pair of receivers on their second year with the team. “From a receiving corps standpoint, those guys caught a lot of balls and for a lot of yards,” Jones said. “That’s an encouragement to have those guys back, for sure.”

Development of QB Mason Thomas Despite bringing starters back at nearly every other position on the field, Cherokee Bluff will have a brand new player as signal caller. Junior Mason Thomas will be taking over at quarterback following the departure of Boyd, and his development will be crucial to the Bears’ hopes of success. Thomas has virtually no starting experience at the position, but based on the team’s offseason practices, Jones is confident in the young signal caller. “Mason’s job is to do his job on every single snap, whatever we ask him to do, just like anybody else on our football team is, and to control the things that he can control,” Jones said. “If he’s able to do that and play within himself and execute, then we have no

2019 ROSTER

25. Dakota Collins 26. Ladarreon Kerry 27. Micah Hunter 28. Jaquan Smith 30. Eric Gohman 31. Carson Reese 32. Thomas DeGoey 33. Nick Richardson 34. Harrison Carter 35. Isaiah Sheperd 36. Hayden Biggs 37. Malachi Morrison 40. Evan Gonzales 42. Jacob Banks 44. Will Walker 51. Nick Butts 53. Hunter Waldrop 54. Cody Critchfield 55. Mateo Guevara 57. Chance Bennefield 58. Cade Hulsey 59. Dylan Roberts

TE/DL RB/DB RB/DB RB/DB WR/LB WR/DB TE/DL TE/LB RB/LB WR/LB WR/DB RB/DB RB/LB TE/LB RB/LB OL/DL OL/SN OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/LB OL/DL

Jr. Fr. So. So. Jr. Jr. So. Jr. Jr. Fr. Fr. Fr. Fr. Fr. Fr. Sr. Jr. So. So. Sr. Sr. So.

doubt that he’ll have a great year.”

Improving in the trenches As a young and small team relative to competition last season, the Bears’ offensive and defensive lines were often pushed around in games, leading to difficulty on both sides of the ball. Jones hopes to prevent that from becoming the norm at Cherokee Bluff. Last season, the team was forced to start almost entirely freshmen and sophomores in the trenches on both offense and defense. With each of last year’s players now a year older and stronger, Jones said the team is putting an emphasis on bulking up and playing with the explosiveness required for the team to hold its own at the line of scrimmage. “Strength and explosiveness are important in those areas (along the offensive and defensive lines), and those are areas we’ve got to grow and improve in,” Jones said. “We have addressed that significantly through our offseason and hope that we continue to get better.”

Staying competitive Last season, Cherokee Bluff struggled to stay in many of its games, but the team is expecting entirely different results in Year 2 of the program. The Bears are still looking for their first-ever win, but no matter when that day comes, the team is putting an emphasis this season on preventing games from getting out of hand early.

61. Carter Daum 63. Nick Merrell 64. Cason Moore 65. Blaine Skinner 66. Keller Atkinson 67. Evan Frullaney 68. Gabe Hester 73. Daniel Bescher 75. Jacob Benjamin 76. Andrew Wade 77. Ethan Sullivan 78. Brayden Harper 79. Hunter Wright 80. Parker Watt 82. Braeden Bahn 83. Mason Gill 84. Tyler Price 85. Nick Jackovatz 86. Abraham Evans 87. Reid Silver 90. Levi Sullens

OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/LB OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL TE/DB TE/LB K/P WR/DB WR/DB WR/DB WR/DB TE/DL

Fr. Fr. So. So. So. Fr. Jr. Sr. Fr. Jr. Jr. Fr. Jr. Fr. Jr. So. Fr. Fr. Fr. Fr. Sr.

2019 SCHEDULE Aug. 23

at Whitefield Academy

Aug. 30

DENMARK

Sept. 6

JOHNSON

Sept. 13

at Athens Academy

Sept. 27

at North Hall*

Oct. 4

FANNIN COUNTY*

Oct. 11

at Lumpkin County*

Oct. 18

EAST HALL*

Oct. 25

at Greater Atlanta*

Nov. 1

DAWSON COUNTY* *region games

Jones said he’s leaning on the high competitive drive of himself and his team to hold everyone accountable as they continue laying the foundations of the Cherokee Bluff football team. “Even if we’re playing tiddlywinks, we want to beat your eyeballs out in that too, because we want to be competitive and we want to be the best we can absolutely be,” Jones said.

2019 | Football in Hall |

9


AUSTIN STEELE | The Times

Players practice a play during a Chestatee High School football practice Aug. 2.

SCOTT ROGERS | The Times AUSTIN STEELE | The Times

Players work through a drill during a North Hall High School football practice on Aug. 2.

Flowery Branch football coach Ben Hall watches as the Falcon offense runs plays July 31 on the team’s practice field.

SCOTT ROGERS | The Times 10 | Football in Hall | 2019

The Flowery Branch football team works out July 31 during a morning practice session in preparation for the upcoming season.


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CHESTATEE WAR EAGLES

Photos by AUSTIN STEELE | The Times

Linemen push a sled during a Chestatee High School football practice on Aug. 2.

WAR EAGLES HOPE FOR DEFENSIVE ADJUSTMENTS BY NATHAN BERG nberg@gainesvilletimes.com Despite struggling to get into the win column in 2018, the Chestatee football team has plenty to be excited about in head coach Shaun Conley’s fourth season with the program. For one, the War Eagles boast one of the area’s most electric athletes in quarterback Christian Charles, fresh off a season in which he averaged more than 100 yards rushing and 100 yards passing per game. Chestatee also boasts an experienced group of players that have operated under the same head coach their entire high school careers and should not be lacking for comfortability in Conley’s offensive and 12 | Football in Hall | 2019

1-9 Overall, 0-6 Region, 7-4A

R E S U LT S

defensive systems. After earning just one win a season ago, Conley is confident in his team’s chances of making a jump in 2019. “They’re hungry, they’re humble and I think they’re going to be really fun to watch,” he said. “We’re all excited. The coaching staff and the players are really excited to get this thing started.”

5 THINGS TO WATCH

Big senior class Friday night experience should be one of Chestatee’s biggest strengths this season. This year’s group of seniors is the largest Conley has had since joining the War Eagles.

North Hall 63-7 Dawson County 58-0 East Hall 56-41 Fannin County 45-42 Denmark 61-47

Marist 59-7 Flowery Branch 69-13 Blessed Trinity 42-0 White County 49-20 West Hall 62-19

It’s also the first class to have played under Conley for their entire high school careers. Conley will be looking to the older players on the team to keep the rest of the group poised throughout the season. “With this large group (of seniors), we have some returning game time experience, especially in the skill positions,” Conley said. “We lost some key guys up front, but we’re really dependent on those returning skill players, and this large senior group to kind of carry us through some times when we have to grow those young offensive linemen up.”

Charles in charge As a sophomore, Charles rushed for 1,446 yards and 19 touchdowns to go along with 1,781 yards passing and eight


Tyler Pineda, defensive line coach, talks players through a play during a Chestatee High School football practice on Aug. 2. more touchdowns. Charles is a dual-threat quarterback who is constantly a big play waiting to happen. Conley said Charles’ multifaceted skill set prevents opposing teams from focusing on one part of his game, leaving something open on every play. Look for Charles to take advantage of that this season as he comes into his own as a signal caller. “We just try to basically react off of what the defense does, and having a running quarterback, a mobile quarterback, helps,” Conley said. “That’s another guy that they’ve got to account for. If they’ve got just a pure passer, then they know they can drop more and bring more and stuff like that. But with the dual-threat quarterback, it does help you offensively, play calling, extending the play and stuff like that.”

improvements out of our defense this year, if for no other reason than they’re going to be in the same system and they’re more comfortable with what we’re doing,” he said.

Filling in the offensive line

Focus on defense Defensive struggles were Chestatee’s biggest hindrance in 2018, as the War Eagles gave up more than 40 points in every game. Conley and the rest of the teams coaching staff has spent much of the offseason making sure that doesn’t happen this year. Conley said much of last season’s defensive woes were due to a brand new defensive system implemented prior to the start of the year. The team has now spent a full year learning that system, and Conley expects that experience to translate to better defensive performance. “We do feel like that we’ve got some folks in the right places, and we expect huge

2. Luke Bornhorst 3. Christian Charles 5. Matthew Jarrard 6. Cole Davidenko 7. Bryant Eddy 8. Matthew Smith 10. Hayden Gowin 11. Wyatt Goode 12. Drew Knickel 13. Ethan Corley 14. Elijah Pruitt 15. Seth Pressley 16. Jasper Graham 17. Christian Jarrard 18. Brice Dickson 19. Tyler Humphries 21. Alex Zamora 22. Payton Warren 24. Evan Burgess

Jr. Jr. Sr. So. Sr. Sr. So. So. So. Jr. Fr. Sr. So. Fr. So. Fr. Fr. Jr. Jr.

Some of Chestatee’s biggest departures from last season were along the offensive line, so expect to see some new faces blocking for the War Eagles offense in 2019. Conley said he’s expecting several members of the position group to rise up and fill in the gaps left by graduated players, though he was hesitant to name anyone specific that’s stood out as a definite contributor. Look for the War Eagles to try out a few different combinations of players at offensive line early in the year while the team searches for a unit that gels together. “We lost some guys up front that we’ve got to find somebody to fill those spots,” Conley said. “As far as a player, I don’t know that we lost a player, but just a combination of ones that we lost. We lost some at key positions that we need to find a solution for.”

Starting off strong Chestatee begins the season against North Hall, the school district it pulled students from when it opened in 2002. “There’s nothing better than playing against a rival,” Charles said. The Trojans won last year’s meeting between the teams at North Hall by more than 50 points, but with this season’s rematch

2019 ROSTER

25. Robbie James 26. Caleb Carter 27. Dakota George 29. Braedon Bennett 33. Dangelo Pruitt 38. Anakin Rowland 40. Jeronimo Marin 42. Ethan Clark 43. Noe Aerllano 45. Hunter Chambers 46. Chandler Tucker 50. Cooper Barrett 51. Ivan Mendoza 52. Wil Oneal 53. Seth Sertain 56. Grant Siegfried 57. Harrison Mitchell 58. Walker Whitmire 59. Hayden Britton

Sr. Sr. Fr. Fr. So. So. So. Fr. 43 Sr. Sr. So. So. Fr. Sr. Jr. So. So. So.

being played on Chestatee’s own field, the War Eagles are going to be more motivated than ever to start the nonregion schedule off on a high note. “We’re looking to come out with a big bang to the year,” Chestatee wide receiver Caleb Carter said.

2019 SCHEDULE Aug. 23

NORTH HALL

Aug. 30

DAWSON COUNTY

Sept. 13

at East Hall

Sept. 20

FANNIN COUNTY

Sept. 27

at Denmark

Oct. 4

at Marist*

Oct. 11

FLOWERY BRANCH*

Oct. 25

at Blessed Trinity*

Nov. 1

WHITE COUNTY*

Nov. 8

WEST HALL* *region games

60. Angel Lugo 62. Jackson Farris 65. David Woodard 66. Steven Martin 67. Luis Jordan 68. Griffin Hammond 70. Abisai Leon 71. Daniel Zaleta 72. Erick Briseno 73. Victor Rosas 74. Triston Minor 75. Gael Rodriguez 76. Levi Stowers 77. Payton Rowe 78. Jacob Gipson 79. Jesus Aguillares 82. Erick Penado

Sr. Sr. Sr. Sr. Fr. Fr. Sr. Fr. Sr. Jr. Fr. So. So. Fr. Sr. Sr. Jr.

2019 | Football in Hall |

13


NORTH HALL TROJANS

AUSTIN STEELE | The Times

Players set up to run a play during a North Hall High practice Aug. 2.

9-3 Overall, 4-2 Region 7-3A

BUILDING ON SUCCESS

Trojans look to continue winning ways BY NATHAN BERG

nberg@gainesvilletimes.com North Hall coach David Bishop has high expectations for his team’s season, and after 2018, why wouldn’t he? The Trojans are coming off a 9-3 campaign that saw the program win its first road playoff game in school history. While the losses of star players Daniel Jackson and David Seavey will certainly hurt the group’s chances of repeating the magic of last year, Bishop was quick to point out the many returning players that were just as important to 2018’s winning formula. As the next group of seniors takes over the leadership roles vacated by Jackson, Seavey

1. Tate Brooks 2. Bradford Puryear 3. Trey Sanders 4. Spencer Earnest 5. JT Fair 6. David Garrison 7. Keegan Chambers 8. Luke Gunter 9. Will Jackson 10. Ryan Patterson 11. Luke Volle 12. Grayson Kirby 13. Dalton Battle 15. Fischer Collins 16. Alex Brown 17. Austin Atha 18. Cody Smith 19. Hunter Adams 21. Jacob Dickey 23. Clark Howell 24. Menfiz Dyer 25. Britton Glover

RB/LB QB/LB QB/LB WR/DB RB/DB RB/LB RB/DB WR/DE RB/DB QB/DB WR/DB TE/DL TE/LB WR/DB WR/DB RB/LB RB/LB TE/DL RB/CB RB/LB RB/LB QB/DB

14 | Football in Hall | 2019

So. So. Sr. Sr. Sr. Fr. Jr. Sr. Fr. Fr. Sr. Jr. Jr. Sr. Fr. So. Sr. So. Sr. Jr. Jr. Fr.

R E S U LT S

and the other graduated Trojans, Bishop is simply looking forward to seeing how the season unfolds. “When we talk about the 2019 season, obviously it comes with a lot of expectations,” Bishop said. “…We’re excited about what this year is going to bring, and the leadership that these young men bring.”

5 THINGS TO WATCH

Breaking in a new QB With Seavey no longer at North Hall to operate Bishop’s Wing-T offense, the Trojans entered the offseason with a quarterback battle between Trey Sanders and Bradford

2019 ROSTER

26. Kalab Wyatt 27. Ethan Little 28. Alston Self 30. Clay Stover 31. Joshua Brownell 33. Cade Miller 35. Luke Brown 36. Cameron Crisp 38. Nikolaus Carmona 44. Baker Dyer 45. Anthony Lee 48. Matthew Gunter 49. Kevin Rochester 50. Gus Barnes 51. Joshua Fraser 52. Micah Holman 54. Jarrett Latty 55. Elmer Tapia 56. Zane Hall 57. Hayden Chase 58. Wyatt Gowan 59. Austin Sullens

WR/CB RB/DB RB/LB RB/CB WR/CB RB/DL PK/P WR/CB PK/P TE/DL TE/LB WR/DL RB/SS OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/LB OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL

Jr. Fr. Fr. So. Fr. Sr. So. Jr. So. So. Fr. Sr. So. Fr. Sr. Sr. So. Jr. So. Fr. So. Sr.

Chestatee 63-7 Jackson County 35-0 Cherokee 27-17 White County 27-10 Cherokee Bluff 60-6 Greater Atlanta 21-0 Fannin County 62-13

Lumpkin County East Hall Dawson County State playoffs: LakeviewFort Oglethorpe Cedar Grove

70-0 76-0 17-10 41-6 49-33

Puryear. But Puryear missed much of the spring playing with the North Hall baseball team on its deep playoff run, and much of the summer with a fractured wrist. In the interim, Sanders — a senior — started to run away with the job. Sanders is slotted as the opening day starter for now, though Bishop did say he likes to keep every starting spot a competition to be earned by the best player for the role. “(Sanders) really started to separate himself, and at this point, unless something drastic happens, he’s going to be the starter for us,” Bishop said. “So I feel we’re good where we’re at there.”

60. Logan West 61. Anderson Kennedy 62. Aiden Patel 63. Drew Chambers 64. Mason Newberry 65. Ethan Powers 66. Seth Carlton 67. Austin Copper 68. Tristan Bassett 70. Bowie Eisenberg 74. Nate Cottrell 77. Logan Hawthorne 78. Kyler Olson 81. Jeremiah Telander 82. Zander Gilder 83. Nate Nixon 84. Charles Coleman 85. Zach DeVincentis 87. Caden Webb 88. Jackson Poreda

OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/LB OL/LB OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL TE/LB TE/LB TE/DL WR/DB WR/DB WR/DB TE/DB

Sr. Jr. Jr. So. Jr. Fr. Sr. So. Fr. Sr. Jr. Sr. So. Fr. Fr. Sr. Jr. Sr. Fr. Fr.


i T r e l l & a H W h h t e r el o N THE TIM ES

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AUSTIN STEELE | The Times

Players remove their helmets for a water break Aug. 2 during a North Hall High School football practice.

2019 SCHEDULE Aug. 23

at Chestatee

Aug. 30

JACKSON COUNTY

Sept. 6

at Cherokee

Sept. 20

WHITE COUNTY

Sept. 27

CHEROKEE BLUFF*

Oct. 4

at Greater Atlanta*

Oct. 18

at Fannin County*

Oct. 25

at Lumpkin County*

Nov. 1

EAST HALL*

Nov. 8

DAWSON COUNTY* *region games

Continuity on the front end of the defense While North Hall’s offense lost a few key pieces, the defense remained largely intact — at least where the Trojans’ front six are concerned. It’s a unit littered with seniors that also includes junior Dalton Battle who has been a starter on the team since his freshman season. All four starting defensive linemen from last year will be returning, giving the Trojans some much needed continuity on their defensive front. “I feel like the defensive front six is going to be pretty strong,” Bishop said.

Mixing it up in the secondary While the front of the North Hall defense stayed essentially intact, the back half switched things up a bit more. A season after seniors JT Fair and Luke Volle locked things down at the Trojans’ left and right cornerback positions, both players will be switching to safety, leaving Bishop with two brand new corners to “break in” at the start of the season. “That’s something that’ll be a little bit different on that side of the ball,” Bishop said.

Battle for center While quarterback battles may make for 16 | Football in Hall | 2019

better headlines, North Hall is also in the midst of a competition at the position that Bishop said was the second-most important in his Wing T offense — center. Coming into the year, it appeared Josh Fraser was the heir apparent to take over the middle of the Trojans offensive line, but sophomore Jarrett Latty has since stepped up and made the decision a difficult one for Bishop to make. At this point, Bishop said the center battle was closer than the quarterback one, and is a situation that warrants monitoring. “It could go either way,” he said.

New offensive wrinkles North Hall is, of course, still going to be a run-first team, but Bishop said he’s spent much of this offseason installing new looks to his run heavy offensive attack. “Personally, I love to run the football,” Bishop said. “But I don’t mind throwing it when there’s nothing else to do.” The Trojans new look offense will include a couple of plays out of shotgun designed to get easy looks in the passing game that will keep opposing defenses on their toes, emphasizing quick passes that give North Hall skill position players the chance to run in space. “I’m trying to get these guys the ball in space and just see what we can do with it offensively,” Bishop said.


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2019 | Football in Hall | 17


EAST HALL VIKINGS

SCOTT ROGERS | The Times

East Hall Vikings practice July 30 at East Hall Stadium.

VIKINGS EXPECTING QUICK TURNAROUND BY NATHAN BERG

nberg@gainesvilletimes.com For the second year in a row, East Hall began the season with a head coaching change, as the Vikings welcome former Gainesville offensive coordinator Michael Perry back to Hall County. Perry brings optimism to a team that is not far removed from success but did suffer a down year in 2018, finishing up at 3-7 and failing to qualify for the Class 3A state playoffs. But Perry, who was quick to claim that making playoffs this year was East Hall’s biggest goal going into the season, is not prepared to let the Vikings’ down year become a trend. “There’s something that Tom Crean, the new Georgia basketball coach, says: ‘Competitiveness will always find a way. Convenience will always find an excuse,’” Perry said. “We’re not going to make any 18 | Football in Hall | 2019

3-7 Overall, 2-4 Region, 7-3A

R E S U LT S

excuses at East Hall. It’s on us to get the job done.”

5 THINGS TO WATCH

Perry’s return to Hall County Perry’s first head coaching job in his home county is still one he’s learning to get used to. The longtime Gainesville assistant said the East Hall community has been as supportive as any he’s been a part of, mentioning there are members of the team’s touchdown club that “don’t even have kids on the team.” It’s been a wholly positive experience for Perry. The chance to play against (and beat) coaches he’s familiar with from his Gainesville days makes the job even sweeter. Even still, embracing the Vikings culture has at times been an adjustment for Perry. “I was at a basketball game earlier this year, and hearing the East Hall chant when

Flowery Branch 70-6 Union County 35-6 Woodland 55-6 Chestatee 56-41 Greater Atlanta 51-20

Dawson County Fannin County Cherokee Bluff North Hall Lumpkin County

64-0 59-36 42-35 76-0 32-31

I had been at Gainesville for so long, it was kind of an eye-opening experience for me,” Perry said. “But I love it and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Quarterback battle As the one who worked with Deshaun Watson in high school, Perry has a bit of a history with developing quarterbacks. But before he can groom one to lead East Hall’s offense, Perry has to choose which one will be starting. Coming into the season, junior Luke England and sophomore Clete Cooper are currently vying for the role, a battle that will be interesting to watch as the season unfolds. Regardless of who claims the starting spot, however, Perry maintained his confidence in his offense’s chances of success. “Either one of those guys can lead us to victory, and I feel good about them,” Perry said.


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SCOTT ROGERS | The Times

East Hall linemen work out July 30 during practice at East Hall Stadium. 1. Dylan Timms 3. Mon Prather 4. Aaron Thomas 5. Clete Cooper 6. Macere Walker 7. TJ Campbell 8. Rock Lott 10. Owen Murrow 11. Malik Vinson 12. Kyle Hughes 13. Anthony Resendez 14. Ethan Elder 15. Gibson Thompson 16. Darius Holcomb 17. Kaymani Leiro 18. Luke England

WR/CB WR/S ILB/WR QB/SS RB/CB WR/CB WR LB/WR S/WR DE/WR WR/OLB CB/WR S/WR CB CB/WR QB/FS

Sr. Sr. Sr. So. So. Sr. Fr. Sr. Jr. Jr. Jr. Fr. Jr. So. Sr. Jr.

Strong receiving corps While East Hall’s quarterback situation remains influx, the players slotted to catch passes are much more solidified. “I think on offense, our receiver corps is really coming along nice,” Perry said. The Vikings will turn to a pair of senior basketball players in Mon Prather and TJ Campbell as playmakers in a deep group of receivers that should be among the strengths of the team. Dylan Timms and Kaymani Leiro round out East Hall’s expected top contributors on a position group that Perry believes will be the strength of the team. “We’ve got a lot of guys at that position who can do something,” he said.

Clash of ex-teammates Coaching against some of his old peers is one of the aspects of Perry’s return to Hall County that he’s looking forward to the most. “I’m so excited to be playing against people you know, the rivalries, the quality coaching, very excited about it,” Perry said. The team’s Week 1 matchup against Flowery Branch will carry particular weight for East Hall’s new coach. The game represents Perry’s first opportunity to go 20 | Football in Hall | 2019

2019 ROSTER

20. Drew Highfield RB/FS 21. Averen Samuels CB/WR 22. Levi Howard LB/WR 24. Javier Medina WR/SS 25. Joseph Allison RB 26. Keyth Cantrell RB/LB 27. Derrick Myers WR/CB 29. Alex Rojas K 33. Isiah McClary RB 36. Cole Weaver 40. Omar Perez WR 42. Alivia Myers K 50. Jamarien Gaudlock T/G/DE 51. Caleb Pruitt OL/LB 54. Christian Solis OL 57. Leo Arzate OL/DL

Sr. Jr. So. Fr. Jr. So. So. Fr. Fr. Fr. So. Sr. Fr. So. Fr.

up against Bruce Miller — now working with quarterbacks at Flowery Branch — the former head coach at Gainesville and an old mentor of Perry’s during his time with the Red Elephants. “Coach Miller is over there (at Flowery Branch), so it’s going to be fun,” Perry said. “Can’t wait. Can’t get here soon enough.”

Playoffs or bust When asked what some of his primary goals are in his first year with East Hall, Perry was resolute about his expectations for the team. “Our biggest goal is to make the playoffs,” he said. “No doubt.” Coming off a 3-7 season, the Vikings have a difficult road ahead of them if they want to meet Perry’s lofty standard, but his plan to earn a playoff berth is a simple one. “To get to that point, we have to understand that every day at practice, we have to meet that certain standard, and that’s a battle we’ve got to face every day,” he said. “I don’t care what the weather’s like. I don’t care how tired you are or what you’ve got to go through. You have to be intentional and purposeful and get after it every single day. If we do that, we’ll be in the playoffs. If not, it’s on me.”

58. Marcus Holmberg 59. Logan Howard 62. Connor Thompkins 63. Zion Hill 64. Josh Ramos 70. Angel Oleguera 72. Israel Perez 75. Raymound Grayble 76. Chris Perez 77. Eric Osorio 79. Jason Dailing 80. Andy Andrade 82. David Menchaca 88. Cory Cox

OL/DL MLB/OL OL/DL T/G/DE DL/OL OL/DL OL/DL T OL/DL G/NG OL/DL WR/CB K/P WR/LB

Fr. Sr. So. Sr. Fr. Fr. Fr. So. Fr. Jr. Fr. Fr. Fr.

2019 SCHEDULE

Aug. 23

at Flowery Branch

Aug. 30

UNION COUNTY

Sept. 6

WOODLAND

Sept. 13

CHESTATEE

Sept. 27

GREATER ATLANTA*

Oct. 4 Oct. 11

at Dawson County* FANNIN COUNTY*

Oct. 18

at Cherokee Bluff*

Nov. 1

at North Hall*

Nov. 8

LUMPKIN COUNTY* *region games


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FLOWERY BRANCH FALCONS

SCOTT ROGERS | The Times

Flowery Branch football players practice July 31, on the team’s practice field as the Falcons get ready for the new season.

FALCONS HOPE TO CONTINUE STREAK BY LAYNE SALIBA

lsaliba@gainesvilletimes.com Ben Hall is feeling good heading into his third year as head coach at Flowery Branch. He has an experienced team led by a senior quarterback who’s already committed to play at the University of South Alabama and a stout defense that won’t be easy to get by. “We like our group,” Hall said. “We’ve got a very coachable and trustworthy group of kids that have worked hard this summer to get better.” Even with a tough schedule in Region 7-4A, Hall said his team is confident. They’re facing back-to-back games against Blessed Trinity and Marist this season, so things won’t 22 | Football in Hall | 2019

8-3 Overall, 4-2 Region 7-4A

R E S U LT S

be easy, but he said the team knows that and is prepared. “I expect it to be a solid season,” Hall said. “They’re eager to get started and it’s going to be fun to watch how we develop as a team … There’s really no rest for the weary, so we’re going to have to bring it each week.”

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH:

Experience This year’s Falcons team will be led by 20 seniors that Hall said are “a very mature group.” Senior Connor Mayfield at middle linebacker will be the voice for the defense, while senior quarterback Elijah Gainey will

East Hall 70-6 Clarke Central 28-14 Winder-Barrow 23-7 Gainesville 28-19 White County 42-0 Chestatee 69-13

Blessed Trinity 21-20 Marist 20-0 West Hall 27-7 Denmark 28-19 State playoffs: Ridgeland 34-14

lead the way for the offense. “We have an outstanding senior class,” Hall said. “Most of the 20 have Friday night experience … They offer great leadership on both sides of the ball, so we really like our group this year and our seniors definitely lead the way for us. We’re definitely going to lean on those guys this season for sure.” The secondary is maybe the most experienced group on the field, though. Hall said they have senior safeties Chase and Chandler Dial-Watson, along with senior Grant Lackey who will bring strength. Seniors Taylor Reeves and Douglas Pena will keep things contained at corner. “They’re an experienced bunch and they’re all seniors and any time your secondary


2. Connor Larson 4. Jaizen Ellingham 5. Chandler White 6. Max Eubanks 7. Douglas Pena 8. Josh Barnett 9. Rafay Choudhry 10. Baxley O’Brien 11. Ryan Lusco 12. David Renard 14. Caden Pelham 15. Grant Lackey 16. Tre Augustine 17. Elijah Gainey 18. Brody Jordan 19. Owen Warbington 20. Christian Johnson 21. Taylor Reeves 22. Jake Beaver 23. Jaheim Hayes 24. Zion Moon 25. Nick Linkowski 26. Chase Dial-Watson 27. Myles Ivey 28. Christian Mendoza 29. Chandler Dial-Watson 30. Daiveyon Stephens 31. Jake Kross 32. Ben Brookshire 33. PJ Stinger 34. Luke Fisher 35. Hunter Adams 36. Lanier Jackson 37. Mason Lackey

WR/DB RB/LB RB/DB WR/DB WR/DB TE/DL DB TE/LB WR/DB QB/DB WR/DB WR/DB DB QB QB WR/DB TE/LB WR/DB RB/LB WR/DB RB/DL WR/DB RB/DB RB/DB FB/LB WR/DB DL WR/DB RB/LB RB/DB WR/DB TE/LB RB/DB RB/LB

Jr. Jr. Sr. Fr. Sr. Sr. Sr. So. Jr. So. Fr. Sr. So. Sr. Fr. Sr. Jr. Sr. So. So. Jr. So. Sr. Fr. Fr. Sr. Jr. Fr. Fr. So. Jr. Fr. Jr. So.

is returning you should be in good shape defensively,” Hall said. “We feel like we’re going to be a pretty good defensive team this year, and those guys lead the way.”

Defensive line If there’s a position that Hall is most focused on this season, it’s the defensive line. He said the rest of the defense is a steady group, but the defensive line isn’t as experienced as the rest. “They’re getting better each day and we have some talent there,” Hall said. “We just don’t have a lot of game experience.” He doesn’t want to confuse things by saying it’s the least talented group. It’s just the spot on the field with the least amount of time playing on Friday nights. The defensive line will be anchored by senior Kolby Brookshire and junior Carlos Espinoza at tackle. Hall said he’ll be rotating in three players — juniors Christian Johnson, Daiveyon Stephens and Clay Anderson — on the defensive line to add some depth.

Elijah Gainey He’s a senior quarterback committed to play at South Alabama and Hall said Gainey isn’t letting that affect the way he plays this season. Gainey is focused on Flowery Branch and Hall hopes he uses this season to build on his already successful career and have fun. “He just needs to play and have fun and enjoy his senior year,” Hall said. “He’s had a great career and needs to make sure he enjoys it and has fun with his friends and makes the most of this opportunity. You get one senior year in high school and I hope he enjoys it.”

2019 ROSTER

38. Sam Tole WR/DB 39. Caleb Swift 40. Connor Mayfield 41. Ian Bergoschtje 42. Jerzee Allentini 43. Clay Anderson 44. Anthony Menjivar 45. Chandler Mayfield 46. Kadin Inman 47. Carlos Espinoza 48. Cal Rockenbach 49. Brandon Shiloh 50. Cole Pimentel 51. Yolando Barrett 52. Adarius Bailey 53. Matthew Stowe 54. Dylan Setzer 55. Clayton Walczuk 56. Dylan Costello 57. Gavin Roberts 58. Daniel Tulk 59. Shaun Shockley 60. Grant Underwood 61. Jonathan Garrison 62. Jason Dane Mosley 63. Lewis Costales 64. Chandler Kenney 65. Nathan Fossali 67. Cody Bradford 69. Jerry Passmore 71. Nate Scharmer 72. Nathan Turner 73. Max Woodford 74. Dylan Bailey

WR/DB RB/LB RB/LB RB/LB DL TE/DE TE/LB TE/DL RB/DL FB/LB RB/LB OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL

Fr. Jr. Sr. So. Jr. Jr. Jr. So. So. Jr. Fr. Fr. Jr. Fr. Sr. So. Fr. Sr. Fr. So. Jr. Fr. Sr. So. Fr. Sr. Sr. Jr. Jr. Sr. Fr. Fr. Fr. Sr.

Even though a high schooler could get distracted about what lies ahead in college, Hall said Gainey isn’t even thinking about that. He’s ready to play one more season for the Falcons and isn’t looking at anything else. “He’s not that kind of kid,” Hall said. “I don’t worry one second about that. He wants to play with his friends and make the most of this opportunity. There’s not a selfish bone in that kid’s body.”

Chandler White While junior tailback Jaizen Ellingham is back for Flowery Branch, the Falcons had a “pleasant surprise” who moved to the school from nearby Mill Creek. Senior Chandler White will be sharing duties with Ellingham after his family moved to the area last year. “He’s a new addition to the program and he’s a good player,” Hall said. “Those two guys, they’ll get the majority of the reps at the tailback position.” White joined the team for spring practices and has been with it the entire summer, so he’s getting acclimated to the style of play and building relationships with his teammates and coaches that will only help as the season progresses. “Chandler White fits right in,” Hall said. “He runs hard, plays hard and he’s a good athlete. (He’s) a good-sized kid and plays like he’s always been here, so we’re really excited about Chandler and what he’s going to be bringing this fall.”

75. Will Brack 76. John Sanchez 77. Eric Garner 78. Brice Deitz 79. Luke Puckett 80. John David Peacock 81. Ethan King 82. Drake Smitherman 83. Emerson Watson 84. Jacob Costello 85. Brayden Jackson 86. Sal Sengson 87. Devin Maddox 88. Eli King 89. Hunter Craig 90. Colby Harrison 91. Maddux Trujillo 92. Kolby Brookshire 94. Eamon McDaniel 96. Nick Passmore 97. Devin Maddox

OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL TE/DE WR/DB WR/DB TE/DL TE/LB TE/LB TE/LB WR/DB WR/DB WR/DB RB/DL PK TE/DL PK DL DL

Jr. Fr. Fr. Fr. Fr. Fr. So. Fr. Fr. So. Fr. Jr. Fr. Fr. So. So. Jr. Sr. So. Fr. Jr.

that unit has been since we’ve been here,” Hall said. “It’s just a good group all around.” Seniors Clayton Walczuk, Adarius Bailey and Dylan Bailey will lead the group, while juniors Cody Bradford and Daniel Tulk will fill in at tackle.

The offensive line isn’t just experienced with upperclassmen. It’s also deep. Hall said he’ll be rotating in seniors Lewis Costales and Chandler Kenney to give some of the starters a break throughout games.

2019 SCHEDULE Aug. 23

EAST HALL

Sept. 6

at Clarke Central

Sept. 13

at Winder-Barrow

Sept. 27

GAINESVILLE

Oct. 4

WHITE COUNTY*

Oct. 11

at Chestatee*

Oct. 18

at Blessed Trinity*

Oct. 25

MARIST*

Offensive line

Nov. 1

WEST HALL*

Hall is confident in his offensive line to be a steady group this season with three seniors and two juniors. “I look for this to be the most consistent

Nov. 8

at Denmark *region games

2019 | Football in Hall | 23


GAINESVILLE RED ELEPHANTS

AUSTIN STEELE | The Times

Athletes prepare for a play during a Gainesville High School football practice on Aug. 1.

BIG RED GETTING BACK ON TRACK BY NATHAN BERG nberg@gainesvilletimes.com Gainesville coach Heath Webb’s time with the Red Elephants got off to an inauspicious start last year with a 2-9 finish to the season. That team was young, inexperienced and still adjusting to a brand new system. Gainesville does not have the same dynamics this time around. With continuity at virtually every position on the field as well as the coaching staff, Webb’s Red Elephants are expected to return to the program’s historic standard of winning. “Everybody in the organization understands what we’re doing and is on board with what we’re doing,” Webb said. “So we’re excited to watch that play out.”

24 | Football in Hall | 2019

2-9 Overall, 2-8 Region, 8-6A

R E S U LT S

5 THINGS TO WATCH

Not satisfied with last season Gainesville’s two wins last year are the fewest the school has had in a season since 2000. Webb and the rest of the Red Elephants are working to prevent losing seasons from becoming a trend. They’re also not shying away from last year, as Webb said he and every member of his team still remembers exactly how disappointing the season was. Preventing those feelings from repeating themselves should serve as motivation for this year’s team. “We understand that we’re held to a higher standard,” Webb said. “Nobody has to tell us that last year was disappointing, because we lived it. We understand that it’s not who

Mary Persons 42-0 North Forsyth 24-21 Lambert 16-15 Jefferson 42-10 Flowery Branch 28-19 Dacula 37-7

Habersham Central 49-32 Winder-Barrow 20-7 Apalachee 7-6 Lanier 6-2 State playoffs: Creekside 47-12

we’re supposed to be. Nobody’s more disappointed than us. The great news is this: We’re past that.”

Strength up front Every coach wants to build their team from the trenches out, but of late Webb and the Red Elephants have been living it. Offensive and defensive line play should be the team’s biggest strength this season, with Division I talent manning both sides of the line of scrimmage. Red Elephant big men Jordan Williams and Makius Scott — committed to play for Georgia Tech and South Carolina, respectively — are among the best linemen the area has to offer, and both will play major roles in any success Gainesville may find this season. “I think the strength of our football program


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1. Walt Dixon 2. DJ Miller 3. Keshaun White 5. JD Brooks 6. Demarrie Hayes 7. Qua Coley 8. Yusif Ali 9. Gionni Williams 10. JQ Drinkard 11. Jaylan Rhodes 12. Jeremiah Bennett 13. Ken Hester 14. Demontae Cantrell 15. Quamaine Rucker 16. Cameron Cantrell 17. Clayton Louis 18. Charles Silva 19. Tae Parrish 20. Tristan Lyon 21. Jahleel Rivas-Dicks 22. Lenny Chatman 23. Ramsey Waters 24. Deondre Reed 25. Antoine Coleman 26. Dez Brown 27. Sam Perry 28. Ques Borders 29. Vinson Pierre 30. Xavier Stephens 31. Kahlil Jackson 32. Lemuel Gayle 33. Aveion Young 34. Elias Ballard

QB/WR WR/DB WR/DB RB/DB RB/LB RB/LB TE/LB QB/DB WR/DB WR/DB WR/DB RB/DB WR/DB RB/LB WR/DB RB/LB WR/DB WR/DB QB/P WR/DB WR/DB WR/DB WR/DB LB/TE RB/DB RB/LB TE/LB WR/DB RB/LB TE/LB RB/DL RB/DB WR/DB

Sr. So. Sr. Sr. So. So. Jr. Jr. So. Sr. Sr. Jr. Sr. Jr. Jr. Jr. Sr. Sr. Jr. Jr. Jr. Jr. Sr. Sr. Sr. So. Sr. Fr. Fr. Fr. Jr. Fr. Fr.

2019 ROSTER

35. Zander Lipscomb 36. Jalani Andrews 37. Allan Barajas 38. Angel Benitez 39. Jeremiah Watts 40. Juan Cavazos 41. Adarian Cheek 42. Mori Young 43. Keyvon Carter 44. Naim Cheeks 45. Deandre Robertson 46. Jerald Bryant 50. Keith Motes 51. Daniel Flores 52. Alex Salcido 53. Michael Gosa 54. Jordan Williams 55. Cedric Nicely 56. Elijah Ruiz 57. Dorean Whitehead 58. Hari Patel OL/DL 59. Jean Richmond 60. Stacy Hopkins 61. TJ Putman 63. Braylon Randolph 64. Lacorey Hutchinson 65. Jarrious Harris 66. Carrol Brown 67. Kevin Garcia 69. Ethan McCusker 70. Tayler Phanyoraj 76. Tanner Valentine 77. Brandon Watkins

TE/LB WR/DB WR/DB TE/DB WR/DB WR/DB TE/LB WR/DB WR/DB RB/DB TE/DE RB/DB OL/LB OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL

Fr. Fr. So. Fr. Fr. Sr. Fr. Fr. Jr. Fr. Fr. Fr. So. So. Sr. So. Sr. Jr. So. Jr. Sr. So. Fr. So. Fr. Fr. Fr. So. Fr. Fr. So. So. Jr.

78. Ignacio Olvera 79. Angel Garza 80. Zarius Burch 81. Zyhir Tanner 82. Deandre Pechanco 83. Samaj Brown 84. Dejon Parrish 85. Jhaischion King 88. Ethan Reeves 90. Giovanni Martinez 91. Ronald Pendo 95. Jimmy Mai 98. Khaliq Maddox 99. Makius Scott

OL/DL OL/DL WR/DB TE/LB WR/DB WR/DE TE/LB K/P TE/DE K/P K/P K/P OL/DL TE/DL

Jr. So. Fr. Sr. Fr. Fr. Fr. Sr. Jr. So. Jr. Jr. So. Sr.

is our lines of scrimmage,” Webb said.

Numerous returning starters This time last year, Gainesville was lacking for veteran talent, with only five players on the roster who had starting experience. It’s a whole new story this time around. Webb’s squad graduated very few starters, and most players on both sides of the ball are returning to the team. That returning experience should lead to more organized and disciplined play inside City Park Stadium, translating to more wins. At the very least, it’s made offseason practices run smoother in Year 2 of Webb’s time at Gainesville. “Just to have that base knowledge to pull out whenever we need to pull it out, has made things much easier and smoother,” Webb said. “And so we haven’t had to do a whole lot of teaching this summer.”

Solidified at quarterback Speaking of returning starters, Gionni Williams is back for his second season in Webb’s system, fresh off of starting for the second half of last season and much more prepared for action because of it. Williams’ readiness prevents the necessity for a “quarterback battle” this offseason, and one guy taking the majority of reps with the starting unit has done wonders for the team’s offensive cohesion. Unlike last year, Gainesville’s signal caller will not be a weekto-week mystery. “Last summer was just a quarterback battle amongst three guys,” Webb said. “We were trying to figure out what the pieces looked like. We know the pieces now. We know Gionni Williams is our quarterback.”

Looking for playmakers Among the Red Elephants’ biggest needs 26 | Football in Hall | 2019

AUSTIN STEELE | The Times

Players grab a drink during Gainesville High football practice Aug. 1. is a game-breaking skill position player — a facet of Gainesville’s offense that was lacking a season ago. The deficit of playmakers led to long periods of offensive stagnation, which doomed the team in several close games. Among the possible contenders to be Gainesville’s “big play” guy is last year’s opening day starter at quarterback, Walt Dixon, who will be putting his 6-foot-5 frame to use at wide receiver this season. But whether it’s Dixon or someone else further down the roster, expect Webb to attempt to get several guys in space to pick out a new playmaking threat early on in the year. “On the need basis, we need playmakers on offense,” Webb said. “We need guys that can take it 80. It’s something that we didn’t necessarily have last year. We had solid offensive guys, but we need guys that can be game changers.”

2019 SCHEDULE

Aug. 23

MARY PERSONS

Aug. 30

at North Forsyth

Sept. 6

at Lambert

Sept. 20

JEFFERSON

Sept. 27

at Flowery Branch

Oct. 4

at Dacula*

Oct. 11

HABERSHAM CENTRAL*

Oct. 25

at Winder-Barrow*

Nov. 1

APALACHEE*

Nov. 8

LANIER* *region games


LANIER CHRISTIAN LIGHTNING

SCOTT ROGERS | The Times

Lanier Christian Academy returning seniors are from the left, Luke McCoy, Gray Stephenson, Bennett Backman, Charlie Vera and Spencer Sanderson

CAN LIGHTNING STRIKE TWICE? BY NATHAN BERG nberg@gainesvilletimes.com Blake Anderson’s first season with Lanier Christian Academy went about as well as Anderson could have expected. In only the school’s third season of having a football program, Anderson led the Lightning to a 5-5 record and the team’s first ever appearance in the GICAA playoffs. Now all the team has to do is repeat it. Thankfully for Anderson, he now has the largest group of seniors the program has ever had, and with the blueprint of winning already laid, Anderson expects another jump in success in Year 2 of his tenure with the team. “We are way beyond where we were at this point last year, for sure,” Anderson said. “So that’s a blessing for sure. And these guys have made it happen.”

5-5, 1-1 GICAA AA Region 2

R E S U LT S

Johnson Ferry Christian Academy 67-48 The King’s Academy 55-0 North Georgia 28-8 Holy Spirit Prep 41-0 Hancock Academy 13-6

5 THINGS TO WATCH

Believing in coach Anderson Lanier Christian is still a young program, but at least its players believe the school has found the right coach to put the team on the map. Anderson arrived before Lanier Christian Academy’s third season as a team, and the impacts were immediate, as the Lightning won as many games in Year 3 as they did in Years 1 and 2 combined. But beyond wins and losses, the Lanier Christian Academy players respect Anderson as a coach, making the implementation of his systems easier and smoother for a Lightning squad that is seemingly on the rise. “I’ve never had a coach before who’s not only a coach but also a mentor and a friend whenever I need it,” senior running back Spencer Sanderson said. “It’s just really nice to have a coach you can be close with.”

Cherokee Christian 28-19 Griffin Christian 28-12 Unity Prep 28-13 Covington 35-20 Skipstone 34-12

‘Double thunder’ backfield

In an environment of continued emphasis on passing in football, Anderson and Lanier Christian Academy are taking the game back to its roots. The Lightning’s combo of Sanderson and fellow senior Charlie Vera provides a onetwo punch that Anderson hopes will carry the Lanier Christian Academy offense to consecutive winning seasons. “Some people like having a thunder-andlightning backfield,” Anderson said. “We’ve just got double thunder is what we’ve got. And that’s good. They’re physical, and having those two guys back there is helpful.”

Rise of the linemen

When Anderson arrived at his team’s first practice of the summer, he was stunned to look around and see how many kids had showed up with the hopes of playing offensive 2019 | Football in Hall | 27


or defensive line.

“As a football coach in the past, I’ve always seemed to have more skill position players than we’ve had linemen and things like that, but this year it’s kind of neat to look out there and we’ve got a lot of linemen,” he said. It was a positive sign for the coach who, like most high school football coaches, has a soft spot for the guys doing the dirty work in the trenches. Anderson hopes the numbers will contribute to solid line play come the start of the regular season. “We’ve got a lot of big boys,” Anderson said. “And that’s what we’re trying to build our team from. We want to start up front. It all starts up front. We want to build our team on the offensive and defensive lines, and I believe that we’ve got the right ingredients to do that.”

Focus on discipline As a small, private Christian school, Lanier Christian Academy does not have the numbers or the size of most football powerhouses. But Anderson said he’s keeping his focus on what he’s able to control for the time being, putting an emphasis on disciplined football rather than worrying over

50. Micah Adams 75. Bennett Backman 52. Timothy Brent 12. Wyatt Cash 22. Josh Hart 42. Ethan Jarrard 60. Dawson Jones

OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL QB/DB TE/LB OL/LB OL/DL

his players’ natural gifts. According to Anderson, disciplined football beats uncontrolled athletes in nearly every scenario. “We feel like we might not be the fastest team on the field, not necessarily the strongest,” he said. “But we can be the most physical and the most disciplined, and that’s our goal.”

Early start If you’re a Lanier Christian Academy fan who feels like you can’t wait for the start of the regular season, here’s a quick piece of good news. Unlike the other area teams which begin their schedules on August 23, the Lightning play their first game of the year on August 16. While that leaves Lanier Christian Academy with one less week to prepare, Anderson is taking it as a positive. “I think that having that early schedule will help us a lot just getting right over it and getting it going,” Anderson said. At least one other member of his squad is also happy about the earlier start. “I can’t wait to hit people,” running back Charlie Vera said.

2019 ROSTER

56. Kai Jorgensen 31. Spencer Lane 19. Johnny Louth 25. Luke McCoy 11. Ray Montgomery 18. Landon Ogle 15. Andrew Perry

OL/DL RB/LB TE/LB WR/LB WR/DB WR/DB QB/DB

2019 SCHEDULE

Aug. 16

NOTRE DAME

Aug. 23

LAFAYETTE CHRISTIAN

Sept. 6

HOLY SPIRIT PREP

Sept. 13

at Fullington Academy

Sept. 20

KING’S ACADEMY

Sept. 27

at Central Christian

Oct. 4

CHEROKEE CHRISTIAN

Oct. 11

at John Hancock

Oct. 18

at North Georgia

Oct. 25

at Community Christian School

13. Dylan Pittman 44. Spencer Sanderson 35. Gray Stephenson 14. Charlie Vera 24. Isaiah Williams

WR/DB RB/DL RB/LB RB/LB RB/LB

SCOTT ROGERS | The Times 28 | Football in Hall | 2019

Lanier Christian Academy football seniors work out in the team’s weight room Aug. 1, in Chestnut Mountain.


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LAKEVIEW LIONS

LIONS HOPE TO HIT GROOVE EARLY BY NATHAN BERG

nberg@gainesvilletimes.com While Lakeview Academy has been in a bit of a rut since the team’s last winning season in 2012, longtime Lions coach Matthew Gruhn isn’t pessimistic. After a strong finish to last season that saw Lakeview Academy win its second to last game against Towns County followed by a narrow loss to Athens Christian in the final contest, Gruhn said he’s hoping to carry that momentum into the coming year and keep the wins coming. “We feel like every year is a new year,” Gruhn said. “Every year we start full of hope. I really appreciate our guys. They know the challenge that lays ahead.”

1-9 Overall, 1-3 Region, 8A-A

R E S U LT S

Strong Rock 33-21 Commerce 42-0 Georgia Force 27-7 Riverside Military 40-0 Saint Francis 40-0 Prince Avenue 55-6 George Walton 45-16 Towns County 21-20 Hebron Christian 51-14 Athens Christian 24-21

5 THINGS TO WATCH

New, option-based offense

Starting strong

Part of the Lions late season success in 2018 was due to a mid-season change in offensive philosophy. With the team struggling to pass the ball effectively, Gruhn turned to an option attack that got the ball in the hands of the Lions’ running backs more frequently. Wilson, along with fellow senior Jordan Thomas will be leading the rushing attack that caught teams off guard when Lakeview Academy first implemented it last year. Expect the Lions to expand on this offensive mindset this season in an effort to constantly keep opponents second guessing themselves defensively. “We’re just trying to be more option-based, meaning that there’s probably trying to put

The Lions plan to hold onto their successful finish to the year in 2018 for as long as they can. After struggling heavily in the early part of the year, Lakeview Academy started to find its groove late. The team is hoping for a quick start to this season, and will be emphasizing its energy in Week 1 in an attempt to play its best football throughout the year and avoid another slow start. “The first game is always exciting,” Lions senior running back Brandon Wilson said. “You’ve worked all summer and you’re just ready to go. I’m really excited.”

AUSTIN STEELE | The Times 30 | Football in Hall | 2019

Players work on a line drill during a Lakeview Academy football practice on Aug. 2.


AUSTIN STEELE | The Times

Players work through a tackle drill during a Lakeview Academy football practice on Aug. 2.

defenses in a bind more so, and using the strength of these guys more,” Gruhn said. “And if we can somehow get that done, I think we’ll be tough to defend.”

Youth along the offensive front Among Lakeview Academy’s most important departures from last season are former offensive linemen Bryce Blackwell, Ian Echols and Palmer Ferguson, a trio that leaves several absences along the Lions’ offensive front. “It’s hard to replace those kinds of guys, especially on the line of scrimmage,” Gruhn said. “We’re fairly young on the line of scrimmage, but I think we’ll be OK.” Gruhn pointed to players like Trenton Glover, Christian Haynes and Sam Highfield as possible replacements, also adding that it’s time for senior Kaleb Adams to “rise and shine.” But regardless of who is filling the now vacant positions, the Lions will have a brand new look at offensive line.

Conditioning, conditioning, conditioning Considering Lakeview Academy’s smaller than average roster, many of the team’s players will be forced to play both sides of the ball, and breaks will be at a premium for the Lions’ star players. For that reason, Gruhn

said he’s been emphasizing conditioning to make sure his players are always ready to run. Gruhn’s defensive philosophy involves constantly running toward the ball, getting as many players in on tackles as possible. It’s a style that is effective at containing broken tackles, but difficult to maintain for any but the best-conditioned players. To effectively carry it out, Gruhn plans on his players meeting that high standard. “Our mantra is we’re not going to be the biggest and we’re not going to be maybe the strongest, but our mantra is we’re going to run to the ball,” Gruhn said.

Coming out of the woodwork Opportunity will be the name of the game for a Lakeview Academy team that doesn’t have many players with a firm hold on their position. When asked which lesser known players were expected to rise up to contribute this season, Gruhn responded simply with “all of them.” “We’re expecting a lot of them who haven’t contributed a ton to be great contributors this year,” Gruhn said. “Not only expecting but believing it’s going to happen. So I look forward to seeing those guys, and I think they’re ready for it too.”

2019 SCHEDULE Aug. 30

at Strong Rock

Sept. 13

at St. Francis

Sept. 27

at George Walton*

Oct. 4

HEBRON CHRISTIAN*

Oct. 11

COMMERCE*

Oct. 18

at Riverside Military*

Oct. 25

PRINCE AVENUE CHRISTIAN*

Nov. 1

at Towns County*

Nov. 8

Region play-in *region games


JOHNSON KNIGHTS

KNIGHTS READY TO RIDE INTO BATTLE BY LAYNE SALIBA

lsaliba@gainesvilletimes.com Stan Luttrell has enough experience to take a program and turn it around for the better and that’s exactly what he plans to do in his inaugural season as the head coach at Johnson High. Luttrell, who spent eight years as the head coach at Chestatee before going to Buford, Gainesville and then Habersham Central, is back in Hall County and leading the way for a team that has a history of tough seasons. That’s not what Luttrell is focused on. “I’m really excited about the improvement that we’ve shown and (the team) understanding what my expectations are for them and my style of play and all that stuff,” Luttrell said. “I think they’ve done a really good job conforming to it.” The first order of business to adjust players to Luttrell’s style of play was to get them in the weight room. This season, he plans to have the Knights “bigger, faster, stronger, more explosive and more resilient” than ever before. And with that, he hopes to turn a team he said “a lot of people don’t believe in,” into a team the South Hall school has never seen. “One of the messages I’m sending is it can be done,” Luttrell said.”Believe it can be done. It can be done here. It can be done at Johnson.” Luttrell plans to use everything he’s learned at schools like Buford, Gainesville and Habersham Central with the Knights. He’s hoping with his coaching, the success he saw at those schools will transfer to Johnson in the upcoming season. “Of course I have high expectations because that’s who I am,” Luttrell said. “This team has a ton of potential … If they’ll continue to buy into what I’m saying and the culture and the way that I want things done, then there’s no telling how good we could be.”

11. Nolan Bullock 59. Brayden Carr 28. Elmer Chavez 45. Dylan Dunham 12. Caleb Jackson 44. Vashon Johnson 1. Deago Kelly 3. Hunter Long 52. Gabriel Quinton 30. Tatenda Sangweme 73. Andrew Scharmer 29. Bishop Spencer 72. Hunter Cain 74. Jose Flores

RB/DB OL/DL WR/DB TE/LB WR/LB TE/DL WR/DB WR/DB OL/DL WR/DB OL/DL TE/LB OL/DL OL/DL

32 | Football in Hall | 2019

Sr. Sr. Sr. Sr. Sr. Sr. Sr. Sr. Sr. Sr. Sr. Sr. Jr. Jr.

4-6 Overall, 0-5 Region, 8-5A

R E S U LT S

Oglethorpe Co. 38-0 Buford 49-0 West Hall 41-7 Walnut Grove 35-14 Cherokee Bluff 34-13 Cedar Shoals 45-20 Riverside Military 30-14 Clarke Central 55-3 Cross Keys 58-0 Loganville 27-7

5 THINGS TO WATCH

Quarterback

New mindset

Junior quarterback Justin Long is learning that new option offense. In an effort to create depth at the position, Luttrell’s son, Jack, a freshman, will be backing up Long. Luttrell said Long has been working at the position all summer and has learned what he needs to do. Jack Luttrell has been doing the same. “Justin’s doing a great job at QB,” Luttrell said. “But we are trying to develop depth.”

After getting his team in the weight room, Luttrell knew he had to change the team’s mindset. “To start winning, you’ve got to stop losing,” Luttrell said. “So we’ve got to start doing what winners do and eventually if you do what winners do, you win.” With that new mindset for his players and coaching staff, Luttrell said the team is more confident than ever. “We’ve put a really big focus on anything that’s not a winning attitude, winning work ethic, winning commitment, winning coachability, you name it,” Luttrell said. “Anytime there’s something like that, we try to address it and correct it because if you want to start winning, which is our goal, then you’ve got to stop losing.”

Option offense With a new coach comes a new offense. Luttrell said he’ll be running an option offense — split-back attack — this fall. He said it’s an offense that fits his team well, and something Johnson has tinkered with in the past, but hasn’t fully committed to doing. “It complements a young group, a learning group,” Luttrell said. “It complements a line of scrimmage that is growing and developing.” It’s a new offense that requires a strong quarterback to make decisions and a smart backfield to go with those decisions. “They have a base knowledge of option football, but we’re doing it a little bit different,” Luttrell said. “They’ve adjusted and adapted well. Not only the players, but the coaches, too … I’m training up the coaches as well as the players and everybody is doing a great job of learning and trying to do things the way I want them.”

2019 ROSTER

69. Steven Flores 16. Justin Long 10. Josh Lopez 13. Xzavior Ramsey 51. Isaiah Reddick 27. Nathan Seabolt 71. Darrion Thompson 60. Michael Vega 70. Grant Wooten 56. Juan Allen 58. Francisco Almendariz 78. Jesse Contreras 77. Allen Gutierrez 8. Tre Jackson

K QB/LB RB/LB RB/DB OL/DL WR/DB OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/LB OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL RB/LB

Jr. Jr. Jr. Jr. Jr. Jr. Jr. Jr. Jr. So. So. So. So. So.

2019 SCHEDULE Aug. 23

OGLETHORPE COUNTY

Aug. 30

at West Hall

Sept. 6

at Cherokee Bluff

Sept. 13

RIVERSIDE MILITARY

Sept. 20

Cross Keys

Oct. 4

BUFORD*

Oct. 11

WALNUT GROVE*

Oct. 18

at Cedar Shoals*

Nov. 1

CLARKE CENTRAL*

Nov. 8

at Loganville* *region games

54. Salvador Sanchez 81. Jake Shaw 5. Dayshun Summerour 40. Alexis Velasquez 41. Tyler Caughron 17. Kevin Cervantes 6. Jud Farmer 4. Jack Luttrell 50. Brian Moreno 9. Summerour Nasir 22. Jesus Ponce 20. Noah Scott 7. Michael Thurmond 55. Mauricio Zaragoza

OL/LB TE/LB RB/DB TE/LB RB/LB K RB/DB QB/DB OL/DL WR/LB TE/LB RB/LB QB/DB OL/DL

So. So. So. So. Fr. Fr. Fr. Fr. Fr. Fr. Fr. Fr. Fr. Fr.


Seniors Even though the teams recent history has been something it doesn’t want to focus on, Luttrell is happy to have some returning players and a strong roster of seniors. It’s an experienced team that will bring leadership in places where skills may lack. “They’ve done a really good job of communicating with me and going into their senior year,” Luttrell said. “I want nothing more than for them to have a great senior year and a great high school experience within Johnson football.” Luttrell said with that leadership, the new offense should be an easier thing to learn. There are 14 seniors on the roster, which he

said is a good number. “They’re learning how to lead because I believe that your team will only be as good as your seniors,” Luttrell said. “They’ve done a good job and I’m really excited about the progress we’ve made in the short time that I’ve been here.” Those seniors are spread across the offense and defense, bringing a level of consistency throughout the field. Luttrell said there isn’t one dominant position, so he’s ready to see what his team can bring. “I think it’s pretty spread out,” Luttrell said. “This is their chance. This is their year to get to play on Friday nights and their time to shine as a high school football player.”

Outside linebackers

The position to watch this season is at outside linebacker. Luttrell said both sophomore Caleb Jackson and senior Tre Jackson will be at the position, anchoring the center of the defense. They’ll also play on the other side of the ball in key positions — Caleb at wide receiver and Tre at running back — but they’ve stood out at outside linebacker. “Having been through the whole summer, I’m very impressed with Caleb Jackson and Tre Jackson,” Luttrell said. “Both those guys have really done a good job of picking up our concept in the secondary or how the OLBs relate to the secondary on defense. Their physicality at the padded camp was a plus.”

RIVERSIDE MILITARY EAGLES

EAGLES PREPARED TO KEEP FLYING HIGH BY NATHAN BERG nberg@gainesvilletimes.com Following a reinvigorated season in 2018, Riverside Military Academy’s football team is looking to pick up right where it left off as the Eagles vie for a second consecutive playoff appearance. Head coach Nick Garrett led the group to a third place Region 8A-A finish last season, as well as an upset victory over George Walton Academy in the first round of the Class A playoffs — the Eagles first playoff win since joining the GHSA. Now, the secret is out about Riverside Military Academy, and Garrett is expecting a more difficult road ahead with better prepared opponents this time around. “I don’t think we’re going to have the ability to sneak up on anybody anymore,” he said. “Everybody’s going to be prepared for us. They know who we are. They know our program.”

2. Shad Dabney 84. Lamar Gordon 60. Yaoxiam Liang 1. Adriel Clark 45. Jackson Aiken 75. Orlando Mayweather 65. Lauren McDonald 8. Kayman Jeffley

Jr. Sr. Sr. Jr. Jr. Jr. Jr. Sr.

ATH OL/DL OL/DL WR/DB TE/DE OL/DL OL/DL WR/DB

6-6 Overall, 3-1 Region 8B-A

R E S U LT S

Christian Heritage 27-14 King’s Ridge 27-3 Johnson 30-14 Prince Avenue 56-12 Towns County 48-14 Providence Christian 34-0 Lakeview Academy 40-0

Hebron Christian 17-7 Commerce 20-19 Prince Avenue 48-27 State playoffs: George Walton 24-14 Fellowship Christian 35-28

5 THINGS TO WATCH:

Forming a family

Passing the torch at QB

One of the keys to Riverside Military’s turnaround last season, according to Garrett, was the closeness of the team, and this year’s edition of the Eagles is already seeking to replicate that factor. It all starts with the team’s captains, one of whom has been taking advice from one of last year’s team leaders, now graduated. “I was driving to camp the first day, and one of the captains from last year called me, and he said make sure everybody’s a family from Day 1, so that instead of having the Game 8 results, we can have that in Game 1,” senior captain Lamar Gordon said.

Losing Isaac Teasley to graduation after last year was certainly a blow for the Eagles, but thankfully for Garrett, the team had a similarly-gifted athlete waiting to take over. Junior Shad Dabney, who played at multiple positions a season ago, is expected to get the nod at quarterback. Like Teasley, Dabney is a track and basketball star for Riverside Military Academy, with the capabilities to carry the offense in a similar fashion to Teasley. But Dabney’s best attributes may even come off the field, according to Garrett. “Not only is he dynamic with the ball in his hands, he has a very high football IQ, and he’s a very influential leader, on and off the field and in the classroom,” Garrett said. “He has kind of the combination of the all three, which is a rarity. In the many years that I’ve done it, I can only say maybe a few have had that capability.”

2019 ROSTER

55. Nick Haley 3. Nick Hester 67. Austin Berry 14. Dylan Spinks 12. Jermaine Harris 2. Zion Johnson 12. Jonah Skipper 15. Nick Walsh

Sr. Jr. Sr. Sr. Sr. Sr. Sr. Jr.

TE/DL RB/DB OL/DL QB WR/DB WR/DB WR/LB TE/LB

Guarding the middle of the field While Riverside Military will feature several new faces among its starters, the Eagles will have a couple of reliable players in the middle of the field to make sure opposing offenses

54. Cole Smith 60. Tarik Schmidtke 63. Mark Sanders 17. Sean Whitley 7. Jordan Thomas 28. Dawson Brown 50. Eduardo Scully

Jr. Jr. Jr. Sr. Jr. Jr. Sr.

OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL WR/DB WR/DB TE/LB DL

2019 | Football in Hall | 33


don’t get out of hand.

It starts with linebacker Nick Haley, who Garrett dubbed “the human ball of energy” and who is returning from a torn ACL last season. Over top of him, captain Sean Whitley will be a reliable ballhawk, working to prevent opponents from going deep. Between the two of them, Garrett said he hopes to have a strong base for the rest of the defense to lean on. “Those two guys in the middle of the field makes me feel extremely safe,” Garrett said. “They know where everyone’s going and everyone’s assignment. They don’t miss plays. They don’t miss tackles. They are just really just all over the place.”

Opportunity to step up With less than half of the team’s starters returning on both sides of the ball, Garrett believes this season is the season of opportunity for Riverside Military Academy football. And while many coaches would take the departure of many of their team’s key players as a negative, Garrett remains focused on the positive. With mainstays such as Teasley and linebacker/wide receiver Khalid Duke now off to college, Garrett is hoping for new stars to

34 | Football in Hall | 2019

emerge from lower down on the depth chart. “This year, we’re embracing opportunity,” he said. “We have opportunities across the board on every single position, offensively, defensively and special teams-wise for kids to step up and to fill those voids from last year and really make a big splash this year.”

Building a brand While many of Riverside Military Academy’s students come from out of the area — many even hailing from outside of the country — Garrett has made it a point of emphasis to create a culture his athletes can be proud of. Garrett said he and his coaching staff have simply started with “mastering the relationship” — showing his players that he and the rest of the Eagles coaches truly care about them. The results, so far, have been able to speak for themselves. “I think we understand the value of student athletes or just students in general, and I think when coaches master that and kids know that they’re loved and appreciated, they understand that they could become better with your assistance,” Garrett said. “It attracts students to want to play for us.”

2019 SCHEDULE

Aug. 23

CHRISTIAN HERITAGE

Aug. 30

at King’s Ridge

Sept. 13

at Johnson

Sept. 27

at Prince Avenue*

Oct. 4

at Towns County*

Oct. 11 PROVIDENCE CHRISTIAN* Oct. 18

LAKEVIEW ACADEMY*

Oct. 25

at Hebron Christian*

Nov. 1

COMMERCE*

Nov. 8

Region play-in game *region games


WEST HALL SPARTANS

SCOTT ROGERS | The Times

West Hall head coach Krofton Montgomery and two of his weapons on offense running back Solomon Riley, right, and quarterback Clayton Jenkins.

THIS. IS. SPARTA.

Young West Hall squad looking to improve in Year 2 under Montgomery BY LAYNE SALIBA lsaliba@gainesvilletimes.com Head coach Krofton Montgomery is looking to take his young team at West Hall High and find a way to make the state playoffs, something it missed out on last season. It won’t be an easy task, though, as the Spartans work their way through a tough Region 7-4A that includes powerhouses like back-to-back state champion Blessed Trinity and Marist. In his second year as head coach at West Hall, Montgomery said he’s hoping his team can build off some of the “high points” from last year and be an even better team this time around. “What we’re focusing on is we want to play a lot better defense and we want to have a lot more solid special teams,” Montgomery said. “We were able to score some points at times last year and offensively did some 36 | Football in Hall | 2019

3-7 Overall, 2-4 Region, 7-4A

R E S U LT S

good things … but (we’re) really, really, really focusing on tackling, focusing on defense and focusing on being very solid on special teams.”

5 THINGS TO WATCH

Special Teams Montgomery brought in a new coach this season to work with the special teams unit. It’s an aspect of the game that sometimes gets pushed to the side in high school, but for the Spartans, Montgomery isn’t going to let that happen. “We’re making special teams a priority,” Montgomery said. “It cost us in a few games last year, and in high school, it shifts the momentum so fast and we cannot afford that at all.” He brought in Wayne Jones to make sure West Hall keeps that momentum in special teams situations.

Commerce 35-19 Johnson 41-8 Jefferson 48-6 Dawson County 45-14 Blessed Trinity 35-3

Denmark 48-27 Marist 51-14 White County 48-34 Flowery Branch 27-7 Chestatee 62-19

Jones will serve as the special teams coordinator, as well as the secondary coach. Montgomery felt that he needed somebody else on the defensive side of the ball that could take over the defense, if need be, but most importantly, focus on special teams. He said that although Jones will be in charge of special teams, he won’t be the only one involved. Apart from bringing on Jones, the way Montgomery plans to ensure his special teams unit is successful this season is to get every other coach involved, too. “It’s a huge priority,” Montgomery said. “So we’re spending more time on it and just making sure we’re solid and have gone through everything we can to shore it up.”

Young team Admittedly, West Hall has a young team — a “very, very young team,” according to Montgomery.


2. Talil Blackwell 3. Caden Collins 4. Sam Holcomb 5. Gavin Hanville 6. Jaden White 8. Zach Lingle 9. Tad Davidson 10. Melkin Avelar 12. Matthew Griffin 13. Rodrigo Lopez 14. Nick Sturm 15. Clayton Jenkins 16. Colton Smith 19. Zach Stephens 20. Shaun Estrich 21. Caleb Baker 22. Andy Mayo 23. Lukas Fernandez 24. Andrew Malin 26. Alijah Porchia 28. Josiah Henriques 29. Hunter Samples 30. Brady Clark 32. Jonathan Hall

RB/LB LB/RB DB/WR DB/WR DB/WR WR/DB DB/WR WR/DB DB/WR DB/WR LB/TE QB WR QB/DE DB/WR LB/WR WR/DB RB/DB RB/DE LB/RB WR/DB WR/DB RB/LB DB/WR

So. Sr. Jr. Sr. So. Sr. Jr. Jr. So. Jr. Fr. Sr. Sr. Fr. Sr. So. So. Fr. Fr. Jr. Jr. Sr. Fr. Jr.

“We do not have a ton of seniors coming back with a lot of playing experience,” Montgomery said. “We don’t have a lot of upperclassmen.” The most experience comes on the offensive line. Other than that, the Spartans will be fairly new around the field and it might be most apparent in the secondary. Montgomery is replacing all four starters from last year and hopes Jones will be the key to “breeding competition” to find the best players he can. The Spartans’ linebacker unit is young, too. It’s full of sophomores in Caleb Baker and Talil Blackwell along with freshman Nick Sturm, but Montgomery is optimistic. “Those three guys are extremely talented,” Montgomery said. “They don’t look like sophomores, but they’re still learning the scheme, learning how to play at the fastest level they can.” Those sophomores will be looking to senior linebacker Caden Collins to lead them throughout the season.

Defensive line Montgomery is getting back to something he said he used to do by taking over the defensive line this season and coaching it himself. “That was a critical issue last year against a lot of our run teams,” Montgomery said. While he said the Spartans did well creating turnovers and getting to the quarterback with some of their pressure packages, he said they weren’t very good at stopping the run. “That’s been a big emphasis (this year),” Montgomery said. “... is learning how to play gap-integrity type football.” The team scrimmaged North Hall in the spring and Montgomery said that was “the best thing” the team could have done. With the Trojans’ experienced offensive line going up against the Spartans’ mostly-young defensive line, Montgomery was able to look back at the film and show his players what can happen when they focus too much on 38 | Football in Hall | 2019

2019 ROSTER

33. Preston Smith 34. Solomon Riley 35. Henry Morgan 38. Brennan Hoskeer 39. Josiah Brown 40. Diego Lorenzo 41. Dakota Clark 42. Liam Thorne 43. Anthony Rodriguez 44. Brian Ayers 45. Tyler Maynard 46. Will Wagner 47. Cristian Alvarez 48. Blake McCrary 49. Nicholas McMillan 50. Matthew Harkins 51. Jacob Gault 52. John Jones 53. Adrian Gonzalez 54. Noah Doran 55. Jaden Neal 56. Mason Tuttle 57. Regan Byrd 58. Garret McCray

DB/WR DB/RB RB/LB WR/DB WR/DB K/WR RB/LB TE/LB LB LB/RB RB/LB LB/RB LB/RB LB/RB WR/DB OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL OL/DL

So. Sr. Fr. Fr. Jr. Jr. So. Jr. Jr. Jr. Jr. Fr. Fr. So. So. Fr. Sr. Jr. Fr. Jr. Sr. Fr. So. Jr.

rushing the passer. Montgomery will be working with juniors Liam Thorne and Binh Hoang at defensive end, while trying to work in freshman Andrew Malin — a 6-foot-3, 230-pound player — as much as possible. Senior Thomas Tran will work the nose tackle position. They’ll all be looking to senior Logan Ormerod, who Montgomery said is the “Swiss Army knife” of the line, to lead the way.

Offensive strength Montgomery said the offense “starts and stops with Solomon Riley,” the Spartans’ senior running back who is “very, very talented.” “When he sees daylight, he can take it to the house,” Montgomery said. “He’s strong and has worked really hard. He’s definitely the centerpiece of our team and we use him in a lot of different facets.” When Riley doesn’t have the ball in his hands, junior quarterback Clayton Jenkins, will be looking to build on his 1,000-yard season, which was really only six games after getting the starting nod midway through the year. Lucky for him, Montgomery said Jenkins will have a target in junior wide receiver Rodrigo Lopez who may come as a surprise to people who haven’t been around the team this summer. “He’s a 6-foot-2, 190-pound receiver who has big-time playmaking ability,” Montgomery said. “He’s extremely strong and he’s one of those kids who just grew a little bit, really filled out, hit the weight room real hard and is just a very, very explosive athlete.” The ones protecting it all up front will be senior guard Jaden Neal, senior center Jacob Gault, senior tackle Devin Meeks, Hadden Schnell and Tran. “They’ve hit the weights hard and it’s their time to come out and show what they’ve got,” Montgomery said.

60. AJ O’Bryant OL/DL 61. Jonathan Rivett DL 62. Zach Martin OL/DL 63. Binh Hoang OL/DL 64. Ryan McMillian OL/DL 66. Hadden Schnell OL/DL 67. Mario Bonilla OL/DL 69. Stephen Osokalo OL/DL 72. Avery Milligan OL/DL 73. Will Smallwood OL 74. Sam Pettit OL 75. Devin Meeks OL/DL 76. Thomas Tran OL/DL 77. Jose Gonzalez OL/DL 78. Tito Hernandez OL/DL 80. David Rodriguez WR/DB 81. Johnathan Mast WR/DB 82. Jorge Segovia 83. Nathan Bennett WR/DB 84. Noah Legault WR/DB 85. Logan Ormerod TE/DE 86. Blaze Charles K 87. Alex Doster RB/LB 88. Wilfredo Castillo WR/DB

Fr. Sr. Sr. Jr. Fr. Sr. Jr. Sr. Sr. Fr. Fr. Sr. Sr. Sr. Fr. So. So. Fr. Fr. Fr. Sr. So. So. So.

Moving away from Wing-T The Wing-T has long been the offense of many high school teams, but Montgomery has seen the times changing over the years and started to stray away from the Wing-T last season. Now, he said his offense is a full-fledged hybrid operation, passing about 50% of the time and running about 50% of the time. “You’ve got to be able to get athletes in space,” Montgomery said. “The game has changed so much.” He said the team has come together under the hybrid scheme and has adapted well to it. In his second year at the helm, Montgomery is ready to continue the transition. “I like the direction of the team,” Montgomery said. “I like the chemistry. It’s really good this year. It’s one of those things where they seem to really play for each other and now you’re just looking at if the physicality can really match it.”

2019 SCHEDULE Aug. 23

COMMERCE

Aug. 30

JOHNSON

Sept. 6

at Jefferson

Sept. 13

DAWSON COUNTY

Sept. 27

BLESSED TRINITY*

Oct. 4

DENMARK*

Oct. 11

MARIST*

Oct. 18

at White County*

Nov. 1

at Flowery Branch*

Nov. 8

at Chestatee* *region games


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Football in Hall 2019  

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