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2015 High School Football Preview

LCHS PANTHERS FPCA HIGHLANDERS BRADWELL TIGERS YOUR EXCLUSIVE LOOK AT WHAT’S IN STORE FOR THIS SEASON!


WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 19, 2015

2015 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW

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Panther defense looks to dominate region BY PATTY LEON pleon@coastalcourier.com

The Liberty County coaches have no doubt about the strength and power of their defense. And they say they are fortunate that most of the squad is composed of returning players, all with a wealth of power and experience, to include playoff games. Last year, the defense had 890 tackles and 31½ sacks for a loss of 212 yards. The Panthers hurried opposing quarterbacks 20 times, had nine interceptions for 118 yards, recovered 18 fumbles and caused 15. “Our defense is going to be our strong suit,” Panther head coach Kirk Warner said. “The secondary is going to be led by Richard LeCounte, the Class of 2017 No. 8 player in the nation, and that just goes without saying.” All eyes will be on LeCounte, a junior who has more than 20 offers from Division I schools, is a potential Rivals five-star recruit, has already committed to play in the 2016 Army All-American game and is considered by most to be an all-around stud. Last year, LeCounte was second on the team in total tackles with 100, led the defense in interceptions with four for 93 yards, caused and recovered three fumbles and deflected nine passes.

But Warner said it would be foolish for other teams to focus on LeCounte. The Panthers have a significant number of returning defensive starters. Jacari Roberts is back after leading the defense in tackles last year with 103. Players such as Calvin Holmes, Tucker Lyda, Jaleel Gilbert, Tracy White, Sam Roberts, Deshaun Hudson, Traveon Freeman, Anthony Golden and Tremel Walthour all were in the high double digits in tackles. “Our defensive front seven is going to be real stout this year,” Warner said, adding that the defensive linemen will have to assist the offensive line at times. D-line coach Darrell McCulley said the line is looking respectable this year. He said the line has explosive speed, and the players have been working on harnessing the need to stay put and let the play develop toward them, as well as when to pursue and chase. “It is assignment football, and it’s about knowing where to go and running up the field,” he said. Defensive coordinator Tony Glazer said the Panthers plan to work out of their base 4-4 defensive alignment. “We always try to adjust the scheme … we will stay with what we’ve doing but add more

to it,” he said. “We will run some different sets, and we like to be aggressive and we got a lot of guys back.” Glazer said Region 3-AAAA is pretty tough, but he thinks the team is ready to do better than its 1-3 record in region play last year. “I think we can play with anybody … and I know our top guys can play against Wayne County and Burke,” he said, noting last year’s region champ and runner-up, respectively. “We just need to add the depth so it will help us play all four quarters.” Liberty brought in Clyde Harrison to help coach the defensive backs this year. The 2003 Bradwell Tiger homecoming king previously coached at North Carolina Tech. He said the backs have been working on tackling techniques, and he is impressed with the added training the players did with speed coach Nathan Mims. “I think coach Mims did a great job over the summer in getting everybody involved in agility drills,” Harrison said. “We did agility, laps, tires … getting a lot of sweat in, and I think we are going to be one of the more-explosive teams in the whole state.” DEFENSE continues on 5

Patty Leon

Liberty County junior Richard LeCounte, one of the top-rated high-school players in his graduating class, lines up on defense during a recent practice.

Liberty’s offense has skilled returning players to help improve record BY PATTY LEON pleon@coastalcourier.com

Liberty County High School’s 4-7 record last year doesn’t sit well with the returning players who know they could have done better. The skilled players who will step on the field this season were among the leaders for the Panther offense last year. LCHS head coach Kirk Warner said the Panthers are looking to settle a few scores and make a statement. Last year’s offense passed for 1,331 yards with 13 touchdowns, completing 98 of 183 passes. Walker Franklin and Jaalon Frazier battled for the starting-quarterback

job at the beginning of the year. Franklin won the starting job, but soon after was sidelined with a broken wrist. He played four games, completing 32 of 71 passes for 400 yards and three touchdowns. Frazier, a sophomore last year, ended up running the offense, completing 51 of 88 passes for 721 yards and seven touchdowns. He also rushed for 194 yards on 36 carries and a touchdown. This year, there’s no question as to who will lead the offense. “He definitely has the job locked down,” Warner said about Frazier. “He had an outstanding winter workout and he had a good

spring last year, so it’s his job, and we really need to find a solid backup.” Panther quarterback coach Julian Stokes said he has no doubt Frazier can make the reads and throw the ball. “He has gotten a lot stronger, and he has worked a lot on his mechanics and techniques,” he said. “I think now, we are just working on the leadership portion. He has it within him; we just have to pull it out.” Warner said last year’s junior-varsity quarterback, Aaron Kuhl, is starting to emerge as the backup. “But we also have a freshman, Jaleel Gilbert,” the head coach said. “He is not quite

ready, so we will give him a ton of time on JV.” But the QB spot is just one area of the offense that the Panther coaching staff is excited about. “(Jacquez) Williams is going to carry the load for us,” offensive coordinator Ryan Glazer said. “He was our MVP on offense last year ... He also led us in receiving yards last year, so he can do a little of everything.” Williams, the 2014 Mike Reed Chevrolet/ Coastal Courier Player of the Year, led the team in rushing yards with 636, including three 100-plus-yard games, and scored five OFFENSE continues on 5


WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 19, 2015 — 2015 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW — 3


4 — 2015 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW — WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 19, 2015

GOOD LUCK COACHES!!!

LIBERTY COUNTY SCHOOL SYSTEM • 200 00 B Bradwell raadwell SStreet, treet H Hinesville, GA 31313 • Tel No: (912) 876-2161


WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 19, 2015 — 2015 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW — 5

Liberty still looking for answers in the kicking game BY PATTY LEON pleon@coastalcourier.com

The kicking game has been a bit of a thorn in the Liberty County High School football team’s side recently. For four years, the Panthers were blessed with Eddie Chipple, who graduated in 2010. During his senior year, Chipple punted 37 times for 1,417 yards, with nine kicks landing inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. After he left, the Panthers groomed linebacker Corey Lazenby to help with punts. In two seasons, he had 60 punts for 2,045 yards,

with 13 kicks inside the 20. Again, graduation left the Panthers looking for their next possible punter, and again they turned their attention to another linebacker, Joaquin Lemapu, who also was a soccer player and adept in punting and kickoffs. “We were blessed with Lemapu being able to just kick it through the end zone, but it may not be that way this year, so we will add a little more strategy into it,” Liberty kicking coach Casey Hale said. Panther head coach Kirk Warner knows it’s a sticky situation that has cost his team extra points and field-goal points in the past.

OFFENSE Continued from page 2

touchdowns. Glazer noted that Williams also led the offense in reception yards with 400 on 27 catches and scored eight touchdowns. Williams, a senior, committed to Wake Forest over the summer, and Glazer said that has taken a lot of pressure about where he might play next year off his shoulders. Of course, it should come as no surprise that five-star prospect Richard LeCounte will see action all over the field this season. “Richard is going to be playing offense as much as he can. He will likely be on the field for every single play unless he needs to come out, which won’t happen much,” Glazer said. LeCounte, well-known for his defensive play, completed 13 of 22 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns last year, rushed 51 times for 301 yards and five touchdowns and had 11 receptions for 116 yards, good for fourth on the team. “This year, we are playing the best 11 no matter if they play both ways,” Glazer said. “We are making some adjustments. I’ve watched a lot of film from last year and saw some of the things we need to change so we are not predictable on offense. And we have to get the ball in our playmakers’ hands as much as possible and let them try to do what they can do.” Glazer said people also should watch out for Jarquel Richardson, one of the team’s fastest running backs, who was forced to the sidelines after he suffered a leg injury in game two last season. “He figures to be big in our offensive game plan. ... He has matured some, and I’m pretty sure he is going to make a big differ-

Patty Leon

Liberty County’s Kris Coleman attempts to catch a pass during a recent practice.

ence,” Glazer said. But the offense is only as good as the players protecting the quarterback or making blocks for the running backs — the offensive line. Offensive-line coach Josh Davis said the line lost six seniors from last year, along with a lot of starting experience, and has one or two returning linemen. “Other than that, we are kind of question marks across the line,” Davis said. “But I think by the time we are going to play our first game, we will be able to put together a decent line.” Glazer said defensive linemen may be tapped to help. “Our O-line is a work in progress,” he said. The Panthers brought in Zane Dill to coach and develop the wide receivers. The

“We go for it on fourth down,” Warner joked about not having Lemapu. But it turns out the Panthers have another plan. “We are going to have Richard (LeCounte) back there punting,” Warner said. “I doubt we get a rush on him because if they do, he will break free. He is athletic enough, and he adds another dimension to our game plan.” Hale said the coaches also are grooming sophomore Alex Sutton. Warner said Sutton did well on the junior-varsity squad and has developed well during the offseason.

former Pellam High School assistant coach attended Irwin County High and graduated from Valdosta State University with a major in health and physical education. He said the focus when working with receivers are the routes. “One of the main things I’ve been working on is route-running and making sure we run precision routes — making sure we are separating ourselves from the defender. … If they can run a good route, they can always be open to catch the ball,” Dill said. He said there still is work to be done — and luckily, it’s still early in the season. “But we have room where we can improve and, obviously, throughout the course of the season, the players are going to get better,” Dill said. “Also important is blocking,” he added. “If we can block our man, it is going to open up the field for us and allow our guys to score a touchdown.” When it comes to the offensive scheme, Glazer and Warner said folks will just have to come out and see for themselves. “We are going to do what we do best … spread the field … for short yardage, we will go to the wishbone,” Warner said. The Panthers play in Region 3-AAAA and face a tough schedule again this year. “Of course, you have to start with the defending region-champion Wayne County and then the runner-up Burke County,” Warner said. “They are definitely two teams at the top of the list. We lost a heartbreaker to Thomson last year, and Windsor Forest will be much more improved. They have a new head coach come in with a new system, so there is probably a renewed interest in the program. But the road to the playoffs will run through Wayne and Burke.”

“He can consistently kick it for 30-35 yards out, so for extra points and kickoffs we should be fine,” the head coach said, adding that Sutton is not as proficient with the punt. “In that aspect, he is not quite strong enough to do what we want him to do,” Warner said. “We are going to rotate guys. Jacari Roberts can kick it to the end zone from the 5.” Hale said Sutton also is working on punting, but agrees that the Panthers are versatile enough to have more than one kicker or punter. “We have options,” he said.

DEFENSE Continued from page 2

There is no doubt that the Panthers’ defense started getting national attention when former linebacker Raekwon McMillan was heavily scouted beginning his freshman year. McMillan eventually committed to Ohio State, where last year, he tallied 54 tackles in his freshman season for the national champions. Glazer said that made McMillan’s former teammates hungry for a shot to score big. “It had a huge impact … I mean, if you live in this area, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to come to Liberty County High School,” he said. “Raekwon is on pace to graduate in three years … and he graduated here early, which meant his academics were ahead of the curve, and we have a lot of guys like that. And then those guys open even more opportunities to our other guys. It may not be D-I, but D-II is still great football and a free education, which is the best for them.” Glazer said the entire coaching staff should be credited in sending numerous guys to colleges every year. Many defensive players, including LeCounte, played alongside McMillan, and the current Buckeye linebacker often was seen assisting the Panthers’ training when he periodically came home during school breaks in the spring and summer. Glazer said this year’s defense has set the bar high, and the confidence the players bring to the field likely will get them to their goal.


6 — 2015 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW — WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 19, 2015

Panthers have another tough schedule ahead BY PATTY LEON pleon@coastalcourier.com

Liberty County High School pumped some serious iron and made huge strides during the offseason. Those efforts will be needed, as the Panthers have a tough schedule ahead. Here is a quick glimpse of the 2015 schedule and how the Panthers fared against those opponents last season. Aug. 21 at EfďŹ ngham County The Rebels capitalized on three Panther interceptions for their 35-7 victory last season at Donell Woods Stadium. Jacquez Williams rushed for 120 of Liberty’s 225 yards and scored the Panthers’ one touchdown. The Panther defense had four sacks. The Panther coaching staff has made this game the main focus of their preseason workouts.

Aug. 28 vs. Bradwell Institute The Panthers will have home-field advantage for this rivalry. Tickets for this showdown go fast. Back in the day, Bradwell completely dominated Liberty in games from 2001-04. Rambunctious fans and security issues forced the crosstown games to be placed on hold from 2005-10. The two schools were allowed to scrimmage, but in 2012 the rivalry was revived as the games were placed back on the regular-season schedules. Since then, Liberty County has held the in-county title, winning all three games. Last year, the game was riveting. The Tigers stayed within reach of Liberty before time ran out and the Panthers won 109. The Tigers beat the Panthers in the ground game last year, rushing for 214 yards on 41 carries, led by junior Trevon McCoy, who had four carries for 82 yards. The Panthers rushed for 140 yards on 24 carries but won the passing game, as Jaalon Frazier completed 9 of 12 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown.

Sept. 4 vs. McIntosh County Academy Last year, the Panthers downed the Buccaneers 45-14 in Darien. MCA, under a new head coach, went 0-10. Liberty doesn’t expect this game to be a simple win this season, as the two schools have a long-standing friendly rivalry. MCA still leads in the series with seven wins against the Panthers in 11 regular-season games. The Panthers were led in rushing by JaMarcus Latson with 104 yards on seven carries and two touchdowns. Williams add-

Liberty County High School Panthers 2015 football schedule Aug. 21 at EfďŹ ngham County Aug. 28 vs. Bradwell Institute Sept. 4 vs. McIntosh County Academy Sept. 11 at Benedictine Sept. 18 vs. Monroe Sept. 25 vs. Wayne County* Oct. 9 vs. Burke County* Oct. 16 vs. Thomson* Oct.23 at Windsor Forest* Nov. 6 at Richmond Hill

NOTES • All games start at 7:30 p.m. Friday unless otherwise noted. Games are subject to change. • Home games, in bold, will be played at Donell Woods Stadium. • *Denotes region game.

ed a rushing touchdown. The Panthers had a three-quarterback rotation for this game, going a combined 9-of-18 passing for 190 yards. Williams had three touchdowns on his four receptions for 86 yards. Sept. 11 at Benedictine The Cadets steamrolled the Panthers 4413 last year. Then again, the Cadets steamrolled every opponent in winning the Class AA state title. This season, the Cadets are without their quarterback Stevie Powers, who threw four touchdown passes against Liberty and finished the game 16-of-21 passing for 284 yards. The Cadets also rushed for 292 yards while holding the Panthers to 77 yards on the ground. Liberty quarterback Walker Franklin completed 8 of 19 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown, but also threw three interceptions. Sept. 18 vs. Monroe Last year, the Panthers traveled to Albany to play the Tornadoes and suffered a 14-6 loss in the first matchup between the programs. The Panthers snagged two interceptions and made three sacks for minus-22 yards. However, the Liberty offense also threw three picks, which the Tornadoes converted into points. Sept. 25 vs. Wayne County* The Yellow Jackets had an excellent season last year, winning the region and making it to the second round of the state playoffs. Wayne County is the region opener for the Panthers, who lost 29-0 in Jesup in last year’s matchup. In

that game, Franklin tossed two interceptions, both of which gave the Yellow Jackets a short field to score. The Yellow Jackets not only will be without starting quarterback and running back Nick Belz, but also running back Anfernee Jordan, who rushed for 127 yards against the Panthers last year while the Panthers were held to 101 rushing yards. Oct. 9 vs. Burke County* The Bears, who ended up No. 2 in the region last year, beat the Panthers 29-6 in Waynesboro. Neither the Bears nor the Panthers had much of a passing game last year. Burke tossed for 57 yards, and the Panthers had 17 passing yards. Both teams were relatively close in rushing yards, with Liberty netting 208 and the Bears 254. But the Bears crossed the goal line on four separate rushes for the advantage. The Panther defense had three sacks. Oct. 16 vs. Thomson* The Bulldogs eked out a 16-14 win against Liberty, but this year, Thomson will not have former starting quarterback Chris Tutt. The Bulldogs do return Tutt’s younger brother, Christian, who is a solid running back, as

well as senior running back Savante Jones. The Bulldogs lead the series 4-1.

Oct. 23 at Windsor Forest* The Panthers easily handled their last region game, beating Windsor Forest 47-0 for the Panthers’ only region win. Frazier was 12for-21 passing for 195 yards and three touchdowns. The Panthers also rushed for 207 yards and three touchdowns in the win. This year, the Knights are ignited by new head coach Greg Busby.

Nov. 6 at Richmond Hill This is another team that Warner said will be much stronger this year under new head coach Matt LeZotte. Last year, senior Wildcat running back Ronnie Harris rushed for 114 yards against the Panthers. But Liberty stacked their offense with a few defensive players, specifically Richard LeCounte, who rushed for 120 yards and four touchdowns and also was 3-for-4 passing for 77 yards. Frazier completed 8 of 12 passes for 128 yards. Liberty had three receiving touchdowns in the game. Liberty leads the series 11-3. *Denotes region opponent State of GA Permit # 151-427

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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 19, 2015 — 2015 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW — 7

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LIBERTY COUNTY SCHOOL SYSTEM • 200 00 B Bradwell raadwell SStreet, treet H Hinesville, GA 31313 • Tel No: (912) 876-2161


8 — 2015 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW — WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 19, 2015

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2015 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW

PAGE 9

Coach sees team grow in more ways than one BY PATTY LEON pleon@coastalcourier.com

First Presbyterian Christian Academy coach Terry Middleton is overjoyed at just how far his Highlanders have come in just one year. Middleton took over as the head coach at midseason last year. Under his guidance, FPCA earned the first two wins of its football program. It appears that success does breed success, as the coach was happy to report that the team has grown to almost twice the number of players for this season. “I only lost two seniors last year,” he said, adding that the other players have returned for this season. “And I’ve been able to add nine new guys,” Middleton said. “It is much different than last year.” The coach is elated to have returning veterans and newer players. “I have the whole year to work with them, and I got them from day one,” he said. “We did some great conditioning throughout the

summer months, and now we are out here.” Out here is the Highlanders’ new practice location at St. James Field, where the FPCA baseball and soccer teams play their home games. Middleton said he is strictly following Georgia Independent School Association guidelines regarding the heat index, water breaks and other safety measures. Scanning the field, he is quick to point out that it’s the first year FPCA has enough players to scrimmage and run offense vs. defense plays. In addition to the added players, Middleton said he also has added a few new assistant coaches. Will Herdman and Jason Stewart are back to coach the squad from last year. Assistant baseball coach Stevie Harris is a new addition, as are Jay Hendrix and Johnny McAllister. McAllister is the team’s strength and conditioning coach, and Hendrix is working on developing the linemen corps. As for the skilled positions, Dylan Stew-

art is the returning starting quarterback and last year’s Mike Reed Chevrolet/Coastal Courier Player of the Year. Josh Armour will serve as the backup quarterback, but also will play as a receiver and possibly on the defensive line as needed. Jimmy Ouyang, who led the team in rushing last year, is back, and Middleton said freshman Sensier Carnes was a solid addition to the running-back spot as well. Jamison Golson played defense, but might get a chance to play on the offensive side of the ball this year. Austin Hendrix, Will Herdman Jr., Steven Harris, Nasmeek Murphy, Isiah Dickey, Brantley McKorkle and kicker Auser Gibbs make up the majority of players who saw extensive time on the field playing ironman-style football last season. Scanning the practice field, another quick and obvious factor jumps out about this year’s FPCA team. “We are much bigger than what we GROW continues on 10

Patty Leon

First Presbyterian Christian Academy quarterback Dylan Stewart looks for a receiver during a recent practice.

Newer FPCA coaches give perspectives on upcoming season BY PATTY LEON pleon@coastalcourier.com

Last year, the First Presbyterian Christian Academy Highlander football team notched the first two wins in its three-year existence. The display of pure fortitude from the ironman team last year touched a lot of people, a few of whom decided this season to lend their expertise to the still-developing squad. Head coach Terry Middleton and assistant coach William Herdman are back for their second season manning the team. FPCA quarterback Dylan Stewart’s father, Jason Stewart, actively supported the team throughout last season and has returned to help coach the offense again this year. New to the coaching staff this season is

Jay Hendrix, who has coached for six years more recently at a private school in Brunswick. “The team went from having one or two coaches out here to five or six,” Hendrix said, adding that he is happy to be at FPCA. “We can really cover more when we all combine our leadership. There is at least 40 years combined in leadership out here right now, and that really makes a big difference.” FPCA assistant baseball coach Stevie Harris also is assisting the football team in preparing for the season. The team also was able to add a strength and conditioning coach, Johnny McAllister. Jason Stewart said he can’t believe how much the team has grown and come along in just one year. “We are going to be a lot different,” he

said of the team. “We’ve changed up the offense tremendously as well as the defense. We are really fast, and we have a lot of size up front. That is a big difference from last year. We will have time to make the blocks and give Dylan the time to make some reads and good decisions instead of just having to run with it.” Jason Stewart added that it was great to see the new additions to the coaching staff. “It frees us up to do certain one-on-one drills and skill drills and lineman drills,” he said. “It is much different than just having three people trying to run everything. ... It is paying off.” Hendrix is working with the linemen and said he was impressed with young men. He said he knows how tough it must have been playing ironman football for the last three

years, barely having 15 players on the team. But he said he thinks their desire to play throughout last season and fight for their two wins spoke volumes. “Working as an ironman team last year and having the heart they did, I think that opened the doors for coaches and students to come here and participate,” he said. “And I think that will make a big difference this year because they can see the heart in this team.” Hendrix said he wasn’t able to assist the team during summer workouts, but now, he and the linemen are focusing on the fundamentals of blocking and opening holes for the running backs. He said they will continue to add to their repertoire as

NEWER continues on 10


10 — 2015 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW — WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 19, 2015

GROW

NEWER

Continued from page 9

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were last year,” Middleton said with a grin. “I have an offensive line with a 268-pound center and everybody else working around him.” That center is newcomer Brandon Attical, who came from Wayne County. But the Highlanders have a tough road ahead going against top-notch GISA playoff contenders this season. Last year, their most physical game was against Southwest Georgia Academy. “It’s a tough one, and I am glad we are getting to do it again,” Middleton said of the rematch set for this year. “We just have to be tougher. They were just tougher than us, and they stood up to it. But this year, we have more numbers to keep us in the game. It is not an asterisk on our calendar, but we do recognize that game.” The coach is secretive about the team’s offensive and defensive schemes this year. “We will be wide open with a little diamond in there,” is all he would say.

the season progresses. The FPCA squad is not just bigger in numbers. It is obvious the Highlanders hit the weights during the offseason. McAllister is certified by American Muscle and Fitness and previously was certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine for five years. He played one year of basketball at Troy University before he tore his ACL. He joined the military soon after and is currently finishing his degree in exercise science. He said the first thing he needed to do was get the boys into shape so they would be able to last four quarters. “You need the stamina and endurance and agility to get to where they need to be and play four quarters,” he said. “The next thing we worked on is conditioning their cardiovascular system so they can keep up with their heart and their breathing. Then, we started building overall strength.” He said the Highlanders started training the first week of June. “We train them so they can last and not get gassed in 30 minutes,” McAllister added. “That is where we focus on conditioning like sprints

Patty Leon

An FPCA player participates in a drill with coach William Herdman during a recent practice.

“They can get a taste of what they won’t know.” Middleton is excited for the first kickoff, and his enthusiasm has spread to the rest of the Highlander squad. “These kids are really looking forward to the season,” he said.

We can really cover more when we all combine our leadership. There is at least 40 years combined in leadership out here right now, and that really makes a big difference.

New FPCA assistant coach Jay Hendrix

and long-distance running, pretty much changing their heart rate and breath rate. From there, we transition into weightlifting — not so much by lifting heavy weights, but lighter weights — so their muscles and their cardiovascular system can keep up with each other.” McAllister added that once the boys were ready, they started lifting heavy weights to fill out their physiques. FPCA is looking to better its 2-8 season. With a bigger roster and more physically fit team, the Highlanders are poised to make a good run in the Georgia Independent School Association Region 2-AA.

Wishing our teams a safe and successful season!

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12 — 2015 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW — WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 19, 2015

No shortage of strong opponents on FPCA’s schedule BY PATTY LEON pleon@coastalcourier.com

First Presbyterian Christian Academy, entering its fourth season of football, celebrated its first two wins of the program and helped boost the roster numbers for players and coaching staff this season. The Highlanders will still play a little ironman football, but the larger roster will help the coaching staff keep healthy players and fresh legs in the game. It is something the Highlanders will need, as their schedule features games against many of the toughest private schools in southeast Georgia. Here is this year’s schedule and how FPCA did last year against these opponents. Aug. 21 vs. Bulloch Academy FPCA lost to Bulloch Academy 486 last year against a Gator squad that went 75 overall and 3-1 in their conference. The Gators look to be senior-heavy this year, with 12 players hitting the field for their final year of high-school football. The Highlanders are a junior-heavy team, but the players have a wealth of experience from last year. Most are multi-sport athletes, and all have knowledge in playing more than one role on the team. Aug. 28 vs. Briarwood Academy Last season, the Warrenton team plowed the Highlanders 52-20 after getting off to a big lead in the first quarter. FPCA managed to score a touchdown in the second quarter and added 14 points in the final quarter, but the Buccaneers pushed back with 19 points for the win. Sept. 11 at Georgia Christian The Generals are a tough team that dominated their conference last year and made it all the way to the state semifinals. Georgia Christian hails from Valdosta, a location known to produce powerhouse football teams. The Highlanders lost 55-12 last year. The Generals will look to fill the void left by the graduation of Cole Copeland, their starting quarterback and team captain. They will also be rebuilding some areas, including their offensive line. Sept. 18 at Pinewood Christian The Patriots notched a 54-12 win over the Highlanders on their home turf in Bellville last year. Pinewood Christian went all the way to the state finals, where it lost to Westfield School 52-7 at Mercer University. The Patriots

FPCA Highlanders 2015 football schedule Aug. 21 vs. Bulloch Academy Aug. 28 vs. Briarwood Academy Sept. 11 at Georgia Christian Sept. 18 at Pinewood Christian Sept. 25 at Crisp Academy Oct. 2 at Southwest Georgia Academy Oct. 9 vs. Bethlehem Christian Academy Oct. 17 at Memorial Day* Oct. 23 vs. Toombs Christian Academy* Oct. 30 vs. David Emanuel Academy*

NOTES • All games start at 7:30 p.m. Friday. • Home games, in bold, will be played at Long Bell Stadium. • *Denotes region game. • Games are subject to change

finished the year 11-3 overall and were undefeated (4-0) in Class 2-AAA of the Georgia Independent School Association. Brenley Hagan, Pinewood’s starting quarterback last year, threw 119 completions for 1,768 yards and 23 touchdowns. This season’s potential quarterback, Jake Woolard, barely took snaps on the varsity last season. But that may not matter, as the Patriots will return their star running back Preston Campbell, who rushed for 1,421 yards, with five 100-plus yard games and 13 touchdowns.

and physical Damascus team. And it is definitely an opponent the team has circled on its calendar. FPCA coach Terry Middleton said the Highlanders were simply outplayed physically by the Warriors. But he said being able to start offseason training earlier under the guidance of strength-and-conditioning coach Johnny McAllister will make a wealth of difference this year. The Warriors will have returning quarterback Quinn LaGuardia, who completed 78 of 154 passes for 1,194 yards and 10 touchdowns and rushed for 203 yards and a touchdown. SGA will rely on returning running back Stephen Jackson, who had 633 yards and five touchdowns last year. Oct. 9 vs. Bethlehem Christian Academy BCA’s program turns 5 years old this season, and much like the fledgling years of FPCA, it still is getting its bumps and bruises out of the way. BCA went 1-9 last year, but carries a roster of 30 players coming into the season. This will be the first time these two teams play each other. Oct. 17 at Memorial Day* GISA Region 2-AA action starts for the Highlanders when they take on former Class AA state champs Memorial Day in Savannah.

The 2013 state-champion Matadors are 75-15 under head coach Michael Thompson, who took over the program in 2008. The Matadors handed the Highlanders a 6012 thumping last season.

Oct. 23 vs. Toombs Christian Academy* The team from Lyons beat FPCA 480 last season, notching the only shutout game against the Highlanders. The Crusaders graduated a significant number of players last year, but return several skilled position players this season.

Oct. 30 vs. David Emanuel Academy* This game came down to the wire last year. It was the final region game for the season for FPCA, and a win was significant to be eligible for the playoffs, another program milestone. The Eagles also were looking for their second win of the season, but were forced to close the year at 1-9 when FPCA narrowly won 3834. Expect this matchup to start becoming the region-rival favorite to watch. *Denotes region game. All home games will be played at Long Bell Stadium in Hinesville. All games are scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. Games are subject to change without notice.

Sept. 25 at Crisp Academy This was the turning point for the Highlanders last season, as they recorded their first-ever win. FPCA beat the Wildcats 186. It wasn’t an easy win for the Highlanders, who took a quick lead only to see the Wildcats stage a quick surge and tie the game at 6-6 by the intermission. In dramatic fashion, FPCA scored on an 81-yard kick return by Dylan Stewart, a touchdown pass from Stewart to Michael Burnett and a touchdown reception by Burnett from backup quarterback Bolan Crane. The Highlander defense also deflected two passes and stuffed the rush in the middle. Burnett has graduated, but incoming junior Isaiah Dickey and senior Kyle Hill are poised to replace Burnett as wide receivers and make an impact this year. Oct. 2 at Southwest Georgia Academy The Highlanders played SGA twice last season, losing 47-12 and 42-14 to the strong

Patty Leon

The Highlanders get a blocking drill in during a recent practice.


WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 19, 2015 — 2015 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW — 13

2015 FPCA HIGHLANDERS COACHES

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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 19, 2015

2015 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW

PAGE 14

Tiger offensive players learning new scheme BY PATTY LEON pleon@coastalcourier.com

Bradwell head coach Greg Hill, a former quarterback at Georgia Southern, looked to place a little bit of his alma mater’s traditional triple-option scheme into the Tigers’ offensive scheme last season in his first year. But the second-year head coach said that this year, they will try to shift to a more basic wing-T format. “We cut out the option ‌ we have to give our kids something they can do physically, and I am not stubborn in that regards,â€? he said. The Tigers, who went 0-10 last season, also have brought in Class of 1992 graduate and former football player Sultan Cooper as the team’s new offensive coordinator to do the job. Cooper will take over after coach David NeSmith stepped down. After graduating from high school, Cooper played football at Albany State and has spent the past 16 years coaching at various high schools in the state. “I coached at Fitzgerald for a lot of years,

and we ran the wing-T,� Cooper said, hinting at the new scheme. “But it is different than a typical wing-T.� Cooper said he hopes to develop the offense to allow the scheme to be expanded to include specific pass plays and possibly run the pistol. Hill said Cooper also will help coach the offensive line this season. “(Cooper) has done a tremendous job so far. He understands what we want and where we are trying to get to,� Hill said. Offensive-line coach Chris Shutts said there are several linemen who will play on both sides of the ball this year. “Just because of our sheer numbers and depth,� he said. Shutts said the Tigers’ strenuous offseason conditioning will help the linemen go the distance, especially those who do play both ways. He added that there are a few returning veterans, such as Demaree Thomas, whom they are watching. “We are really looking at (Thomas) to stand up and be a leader amongst the team as well as the defensive line,� Shutts said. The offense is more experienced this sea-

son after taking its fair share of licks last year. In 2014, there were three potential starters at quarterback. This season, the front-runner emerged early, with Duane Johnson being tapped as the Tigers’ starter. He played in spurts for the varsity during his sophomore year and appeared in nine of the Tigers’ 10 games. Johnson has thrown eight completions off 19 attempts for 67 passing yards so far in his high-school career. He trained hard during the offseason, packing on the muscles. “Right now, Duane Johnson has separated himself as the starter,� Hill said. “He has done a good job in running the offense, and you can definitely tell he is a year stronger and more mature. He is doing some good things for us as far as managing the offense.� O’Brien Nobles is an incoming sophomore attempting to earn some varsity time at quarterback, as are incoming freshmen Quin McMassey and Gage Sills. “He is a rising freshman who played with SCHEME continues on 16

Patty Leon

Bradwell Institute’s Luther Echols goes to catch a pass during a recent Tiger practice.

%,GHIHQVHORRNLQJWRĂ€OOVSRWVUHSODFHJUDGXDWHGSOD\HUV BY PATTY LEON pleon@coastalcourier.com

Bradwell Institute had a wealth of talent on last year’s defense. But a lot of those players have since graduated. The defense lost Darrell Hawkins, Stephon Green, Lynwood Spaulding, Maxwell Ashe, Jeff Andrew, DeAngelo Smith, Shaun Maschino, CJ Este, Tyreque Young and star defensive player Isiah Barnes, who led the defense with 85 total tackles and seven sacks. The defense had 328 total tackles, caused five fumbles and recovered five and had four interceptions for 73 yards. Second-year defensive coordinator Derek Sills said many of those vacant spots still need someone to step in and take control.

“We got a lot of slots to fill, and we are going to have to find the pieces ‌ we are going to have a lot of new starters,â€? he said. Sills said the Tigers plan to stay with their basic 4-4 defensive alignment this season. “That’s not going to change,â€? he said. “It’s what I’ve been running for years, and I’m not going to switch it now.â€? Sills said he has some veterans returning whom he thinks will help the newer players adapt and play hard. Demaree Thomas is back, as are Keith Thomas, Joshua Ingram and Terrius Crimiel. “He will be big for us,â€? Sills said about Crimiel, who was second on the team in tackles with 33. Thomas likely will play nose guard and defensive end. Senior Shawn Strickland, the re-

turning center, will split time as a tackle for the defense as well. Tiger head coach Greg Hill was hired in February 2014 but wasn’t able to take over the team until mid-March. By the time he brought in Sills and rounded out the rest of his coaching staff, a major chunk of offseason training time had been lost. “Coming in late kind of hurt ‌ but our kids have bought in,â€? Sills said, adding that they got an early start in conditioning this year. “There was a lot of weight-room work and participation. One of our starters went up 100 pounds in his lifts from last year, and that tells you two things. It tells you how much progress we’ve made, but it also tells you where we were coming from.â€? Sills said the goal for this season is to have

players be just as strong mentally and physically as any opponent they play. “There has been a major emphasis on strength, and I’ve done this long enough to tell you the faster and stronger guy wins 99 percent of the time,â€? he said. Sills said the kids have to understand that they are playing in one of the toughest regions in Georgia. He said teams like Coffee County and Ware County are major competitors stemming from areas where football reigns supreme. “I don’t think Ware has lost a region game in five years. Statesboro is another example; they’ve won two or three championships ‌ so when you consider the fact that REPLACE continues on 16


WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 19, 2015 — 2015 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW — 15

Tigers open season at crosstown rival Panthers BY PATTY LEON pleon@coastalcourier.com

Bradwell Institute’s second-year head coach Greg Hill got a much-better jumpstart on offseason training this year. With the Tigers hitting the weight room much earlier than last year and having a simplified offensive scheme, Bradwell should see many improvements against their tough 2015 opponents. This year’s schedule mirrors last year’s in terms of opponents. The Tigers went 0-10 for the program’s first winless season since 1955. Here is a quick glimpse of the 2015 opponents and how the Tigers fared against them last year: Aug. 28 at Liberty County The Tigers will face a tough crowd at Donell Woods Stadium in this crosstown rivalry. Last year, Bradwell dropped a 10-9 decision at home to Liberty. The Tigers did beat the Panthers in the ground game last year, rushing for 214 yards on 41 carries led by junior Trevon McCoy’s four carries for 82 yards. The Panthers rushed for 140 yards on 24 carries.

Sept. 4 vs. Calvary Day Last year was the first time these two programs met. Last year, the Cavaliers, who finished the season 12-1, beat the Tigers 28-21 in Savannah. Calvary Day coach Mark Stroud has guided the Cavaliers since 2008 and has a 58-23 overall mark for the team. The Tigers matched the Cavaliers in speed and strength last year and scored their three touchdowns off their running game. Bradwell ran the ball for 187 yards. The Cavaliers also scored three touchdowns off the running game but managed to gain the game advantage off a 13-yard pass reception and touchdown in the second half. The Cavaliers’ offense is being led by returning junior quarterback and third year starter Salvador Calderon, who in his career is 81of-112 in passing, with only four interceptions, for 1,024 yards and 13 TDs. Sept. 11 at Richmond Hill* Despite being from neighboring counties, Bradwell and Richmond Hill didn’t meet on the football field until 2012. The Wildcats since have gone 3-0 against the Hinesville team.

Bradwell Institute Tigers 2015 football schedule Aug. 28 at Liberty County Sept. 4 vs. Calvary Day Sept. 11 at Richmond Hill* Sept. 25 vs. Ware County* Oct. 2 at Glynn Academy* Oct. 9 vs. Effingham County* Oct. 16 at Statesboro* Oct. 22 vs. S. Effingham* (location TBA) Oct. 30 at Brunswick* Nov. 6 vs. Coffee*

NOTES • Home games, in bold, will be played at Olvey Field. Games are subject to change. • All games start at 7:30 p.m. • *Denotes region game.

This game is the Region 3-AAAAA opener, which ups the ante for this contest. The Wildcats are welcoming Matt LeZotte as their new head coach just one year after Josh Eads had taken over when Lyman Guy left the helm. Under Eads, the Wildcats fell to 2-8 for the year. But Richmond Hill chalked up one of its two wins against the Tigers, winning 28-7 on Olvey Field. RHHS’ Ronnie Harris smoked the Tigers last year by rushing for 202 yards and three touchdowns. Harris has since graduated, but the Wildcats expect to return Xavier Bryant Long, who ran for 72 yards and a touchdown against the Tigers, as well as incoming junior Elisha Polite, who had 85 yards against BI. The Wildcats outrushed the Tigers 362-174. Sept. 25 vs. Ware County* The Gators have dominated the Tigers the last three years. The Waycross team, coached by Ed Dudley, went all the way to the second round of the state playoffs last year, capping off an 11-1 season and 8-0 mark in Region 3-AAAAA. In their 33-0 win last year in Waycross, the Gators rushed for 300 yards against Bradwell, but even more damaging was their ability to stuff the Tigers, holding them to 59 yards. Oct. 2 at Glynn Academy* By the midpoint of last season, the Tigers were still trying to develop their passing game with quarterback Duane Johnson completing 2 of 4 passes for 20 yards and

backup quarterback Evan Crystal going 0 for 1. Glynn was 14-of-20 passing for 113 yards and two passing TDs in their 37-6 win at Olvey Field. BI had 125 rushing yards, led by Luther Echols, who had 79 yards and a touchdown. Oct. 9 vs. Effingham County* There is a long-standing history between Bradwell and Effingham County. The Tigers lead the series 18-12, but the Rebels have won the last three games, including last year’s 30-12 victory. Coach Buddy Holder took the Rebels to a 64 season and is expected to have several returning players in the skilled positions for this year. Oct. 16 at Statesboro* Hill was an assistant coach at Statesboro High for several years and would like to see his Tigers bring him a win against the Blue Devils. Last season, Statesboro claimed a 17-0 win on Olvey Field, which was a rare highlight during a rough 2-8 season under coach Steve Pennington, who lost many starters from the year before to graduation. This year, the Blue Devils are senior- and junior-heavy and anxious to put a losing season behind them. Last year, Tigers backup quarterback Michael Moore was 4-of-13 passing for 81 yards, but the Tigers rushed for only 37 yards on 30 carries. Oct. 22 vs. South Effingham* (location TBA) This game will take place on Thursday and be televised on WSAV’s Thursday Night Blitz. Last year, the Mustangs beat the Tigers 30-12, rushing for 108 yards and two

Good luck this football season teams!

touchdowns on 29 carries. Mustangs quarterback Tyler Pullum was 9-of-12 passing for 110 yards and one TD. The Mustangs defensive player Isaiah Hudson scored another touchdown on a pick six. The Tigers had a strong running-game performance against the Mustangs. BI rushed for 197 yards on 31 carries with TDs coming from Trevon McCoy and DeAngelo Smith. Echols led the Tigers with 119 yards on 17 carries. The Tiger had 62 total tackles and allowed 218 total yards.

Oct. 30 at Brunswick* The Pirates took down the Tigers 22-14 with a solid running game from then-freshman Randon Jernigan, who had 121 yards on 21 carries. He is expected to be a returning starter this year. Shawn Smith, another expected returning runner for the Pirates, had 97 yards on four carries. The Pirate defense stifled BI, allowing only 101 yards on the ground. McCoy had 34 yards on four carries. Brunswick did a good job in wrapping up the Tigers, with 79 total tackles to BI’s 31.

Nov. 6 vs. Coffee County* The Trojans are the toughest team on the Tigers’ schedule. Last year, they dominated the Tigers 42-0 to close out the year. Coffee held the Tigers to 60 total yards while amassing 145 rushing yards and 185 passing yards. Most of the passing yards came from Tyree Paulk, who has since graduated. But the Trojans had an opportunity use Jeremiah Ashley in the second half, and the incoming junior was 2-of3 passing for 25 yards and a touchdown. He is one of three incoming juniors the Trojans have listed as their quarterbacks this season. * Denotes region game

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16 — 2015 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW — WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 19, 2015

Second-year coach Hill ready for upcoming season BY PATTY LEON Bradwell Institute head football coach Greg Hill throws the ball during a recent practice. Now in his second season in charge of the Tigers, Hill is looking get the program to bounce back from a winless season.

pleon@coastalcourier.com

Going 0-10 overall and 0-8 in Region 3-AAAAA was not the season coach Greg Hill envisioned when he took over last year as the new head coach at Bradwell Institute. Hill, a former star quarterback at Georgia Southern University, had been an assistant coach for at least 10 years before he was hired to take over the Tigers’ program. He arrived at BI in mid-March and knew that it was going to be a difficult season because most of the players would have to focus their attention on learning a new offensive scheme. “The No. 1 goal going into the offseason was getting our kids mentally tough,” he said. “We put them through a strenuous winter conditioning. They made it through that, and we got the results that we wanted.” This year, the players have been training, in some capacity, almost year-round, including hitting the weight room. “We were a weaker team last year, and we made the weight room a priority,” Hill said. “We experienced some gains in the weight room, so that was good.” Yet having a winless season last year was disheartening to the coaching staff and play-

REPLACE Continued from page 14

Statesboro even went 2-8 in that region and they have three state championships … our kids and our community has to understand that to compete with those types of programs … there is a sacrifice to be made and an effort to be made with the offseason workout and the weight room and putting in the work you need to put in. I don’t know how to say it any other way. You are not going to work less than Coffee and Ware and beat Coffee and Ware.” Sills said last year’s 0-10 record doesn’t reflect how hard the players fought. “I think a lot of people saw last year’s record without taking into consideration that we are playing in one of the toughest regions in Georgia,” he said, adding that he thought the Tigers played tough against Ware County last year despite losing.

Patty Leon

ers, and Hill said that is another area of focus. “We are focusing on getting them to overcome adversity,” he said. “We have to learn how to play when something is not going our way. We have to learn how to respond to adversity … If something bad happens, they have to get past that and get on to the next thing.” Hill has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to football he can learn from. He led the Eagles to a 1998 NCAA Division I-AA runner-up finish in 1998 and the national

Sills said the defense is working hard to increase its football IQ and be more fundamentally sound. “We will just have to see, come Friday night, how that plays out,” he said. Sills added that being in the toughest region is not a bad thing. “If you want to compete, why wouldn’t you want to compete against the best … if you beat them, then you know you’ve beat the best. Athletes want to compare themselves against other athletes, and we are kind of hoping that is where we are,” he said. This year, the Tigers added a new linebacker coach in former Long County High School player Terence Hardy. Hardy, who played football in the Marine Corps and has coached a prep team in South Carolina, said the squad is coming along well, and his primary focus is making sure the linebackers learn to read the offensive schemes and make the right adjustments in their coverage.

championship in 1999. He was inducted into the Georgia Southern Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010. After his playing days, Hill served as an assistant coach at Statesboro High for eight years, working with the receivers and the running backs. Hill was the offensive coordinator at Central High before being tapped for the head coaching job at Bradwell. Hill brought in new assistant coaches when he took over last year. This year, Ross

SCHEME Continued from page 14

us last year on the JV squad,” Hill said of McMassey and added that Sills has been getting reps in practice. Should injuries become a factor, the Tigers also have Evan Crystal to take some reps. The incoming junior Tiger baseball pitcher played backup quarterback a bit last year. This season, his primary position is on the defense. One thing the Tigers do well is run the ball. Bradwell will have to make do without linebacker/ running back Isiah Barnes, who rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown last season. Barnes graduated and is set to play defense at Reinhardt University this year. The squad also lost Shaun Maschino, Leonard Jackson and DeAngelo Smith to graduation. Yet the Tigers have returning talent to boost their ground game. Junior Terrius Crimiel has explosive speed and is set to play running back and free safety. In two seasons, he has accumulated 529 kick-return yards, 73 rushing yards on 16 carries and three receptions for 19 yards. But the focus of the Tigers’ running game

Couch was tapped as the assistant head coach overseeing the quarterbacks. Duane Johnson is coaching the running backs. Chris Johnson will oversee the wide receivers, Chris Shutts is coaching the defensive line, Brent Nobles is coaching the defensive ends and Leonard Hall oversees the defensive backs. This year, Hill brought in two new assistant coaches. Terrence Hardy is handling the linebackers, and former Tiger and Albany State player Sultan Cooper was tapped as the new offensive coordinator. Cooper graduated from BI in 1992. During his junior year at Albany State, he was the third-ranked quarterback in passing efficiency in NCAA Division II. That year, Cooper completed 114 of 190 passes for 1,539 yards and 22 touchdowns in 11 games played. During his senior year as a Golden Ram, he went 104 for 209 for 1,718 passing yards and 19 touchdowns in 11 games, making the NCAA Division II list again at No. 15 in passing efficiency. Cooper said he’s been coaching for the past 16 years. His stops include Irwin County High School, Worth County, Washington-Wilkes, Bleckley County, Berrien County and, most recently, Fitzgerald High School.

is on senior Luther Echols. He has split open his workout shirts, coming in with 186 pounds of muscle packed on his 5-foot-5 frame. Last year, Echols ran the ball 126 times for 545 yards and a touchdown. The versatile athlete has 571 all-purpose yards and could improve stats this year based on the Tigers’ new offensive scheme. There are several returning wide receivers the Tigers also can slide into a running position as the play dictates. Senior Trevon McCoy rushed for 304 yards on 51 carries and scored three rushing touchdowns. He also has nine receptions for 105 yards in two seasons. Senior Deion Stewart has 33 rushing yards in two seasons to go with 23 receptions for 261 yards. Stewart plays special teams occasionally and has five kickoff returns for 40 yards. There likely will be several defensive players sliding into offensive roles as needed. “I think we got everybody in the right spot for them to be successful,” Cooper said. “Right now, it’s about getting them some game experience and for us to be patient. We need to let our kids catch on to what we expect from them in the game. And they need to come in every day and work hard mentally as well as physically.”


WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 19, 2015 — 2015 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW — 17

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Liberty, Bradwell and First Presbyterian Football 2015