New coach, high expecations Blue Tide hope to turn the corner, post winning record this year STORY BY BY MIKE RIDDLE • PHOTO BY PATTY LEON
ric McNair took the reins as the head coach of the Blue Tide football team in April. He inherits a team that has only won five football games over the last two seasons. Though many coaches would look at this challenge as daunting, he said he believes his team has a chance to make the playoffs and secure the program’s first winning season. “I hate to put a number on it because we want to win every
game we play, but ultimately a winning season would be very successful for our program,” McNair said. Though McNair said winning games is his major goal as the head coach of the Blue Tide, he said that as a teacher and coach, his ultimate goal is to help make his players better people. BLUE TIDE continues on 2
2015 LONG COUNTY FOOTBALL PREVIEW • COASTAL COURIER • WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26, 2015
2 — 2015 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW — WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26, 2015
BLUE TIDE Continued from page 1
“I want these kids to be good husbands and fathers,” he said. “I want them to be good citizens. All of us face adversity, and they will too. I want them to learn from the things we do on the football field and in the classroom that they can handle adversity, and then they can go on to be good people in society.” McNair said he will still call the plays on the offense, but Paul Austin and Deshon Brock are his offensive co-coordinators. Austin is the quarterbacks coach, and Brock is the wide receivers coach. “In preparing for the game, and when we are in the game, Coach Austin and Coach Brock are going to be providing crucial feedback to me so that we can be successful,” McNair said. The head coach said his team would primarily use the Auburn spread offense when lining up against opposing defenses. “We have a lot of good athletes, and by using the Auburn spread, it gives us the opportunity to get as many of them on
The Blue Tide hope to post at winning record this season, which would be the ﬁrst since the football program was instituted.
the field as we can,” he said. McNair said that on the other side of the ball, Jeff Miller would call the plays as the defensive coordinator. “Coach Miller is our assistant head coach and our defensive coordinator,” McNair said. “He is an intense guy and has been a great asset to our program.” McNair said that on the defensive side of the ball, his team would primarily use the multiple-50. “One big advantage to using this defense is that it forces the opposing offenses to be aware of many different sets, the (defensive) front can have as few as three linemen or as many as five, without giving up much protection (in the secondary),” he said.
In talking about his team’s strengths, McNair gets a twinkle in his eye because this year the Blue Tide are probably as deep as they have ever been. He said he has 15 returning starters — eight on offense and seven on defense. Also, of the 22 projected starters, McNair said 20 are juniors or seniors. He said he feels his offense should be able to put up points against any opponent. Even though McNair sees a lot of promise on his team, he says there are areas of concern. He said his team is inexperienced in the secondary. He added that on offense, his wide receivers also have little experience. One big weakness that continues to haunt the Blue Tide
is the lack of a strong kicking game. He said his kickoff and punting teams are pretty good, but a good kicker on the conversions is needed. “We are working on that area of our team, and still hoping that we might find a good kicker who can do our extra points,” McNair said. The head coach said the football program has been blessed with great community support. “Man, I appreciate the support of our community,” he said. “I encourage them to come out and support the team, and hopefully this year, we can do something very special for them.” McNair joined the Long County High School football coaching staff in 2011 as the offensive-line coach. In 2013, he became the offensive coordinator. Prior to being a part of the Blue Tide staff, he coached at Metter High School for two years. He graduated from Tattnall County High School and received his master’s degree in kinesiology from Georgia Southern University. He and his wife, Ashley, have two children — Asher, 2, and Jase, 4 months.
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Blue Tide offense looks to be consistent this year Auburn spread will be primary scheme BY MIKE RIDDLE Coastal Courier correspondent
Last year, the only thing consistent about the Blue Tide offense was that it was inconsistent. On some nights, it looked like a juggernaut that couldn’t be stopped. On other nights, it looked a pee-wee team at its first practice. This year, new head coach Eric McNair will call the plays for the offense, but he will depend on offensive co-coordinators Paul Austin and Deshon Brock to help him with the game preparation and to provide insight on what is working or not working on the field. According to McNair, the Auburn spread will be the Blue Tide’s primary offense this season. “We have a lot of good athletes, and by using the Auburn spread, it gives us the opportunity to get as many of them on the field as we can,” he said. McNair said some advantages of the of-
The Long County offense was consistently inconsistent in 2014. This season, the Blue Tide aim to reliably put points on the board using the Auburn spread.
fense are that it requires at least two running backs, provides an opportunity for downhill running and opens up the passing game.
The key figure in this offense for the Blue Tide will be quarterback Brendon Scott. Last year, Scott began the season lining up at tailback, but with depth at the run-
ning-back position he ended up under center. During the summer, Scott looked sharp in all of the seven-on-seven drills, so there is a lot of optimism about him having a big year in the air. Throw in the fact that he rushed for more than 1,400 yards last year, and you see why McNair believes his team is strong at the quarterback position. But in addition to Scott, McNair has seven other returning starters from last year’s offense. With this much experience on the field, this could be the best offense that the Blue Tide has ever fielded. If it isn’t the best, it is clearly the most balanced and most seasoned. Though nothing is set in stone this early in the year, according to McNair, the other projected starters are Jaquarius Harrison (tailback), Keishawn Wagner (H-back), Elijah Wright, Jack Lauver, Tariq Carpenter (wide receivers), Vaughn Kelly, Emil Wright, Reid Goode, DeAndre Reddick and Jonathon Holton (offensive line). In 2013, the Blue Tide offense only averaged 16 points a game. Last year, that number increased to 19. With the experience that the team has this year, Long County should see a significant improvement in points on the scoreboard.
Defense will determine how Long County fares in 2015 BY MIKE RIDDLE Coastal Courier correspondent
In 2013 and 2014, the Blue Tide defense gave up more than 31 points per game. If the team is going to have a successful season in 2015, it will have to lower that number significantly. Once again, Jeff Miller will be the team’s defensive coordinator, and he will implement the multiple-50 defense. One of the big advantages of this defense is that it forces the offense to be aware of many different sets. The defensive front can have as few as three down linemen or as many as five, without giving up much protection in the secondary. Though this defense can create confusion for the opponents facing it, for the players on the defense, it is very simple with few assignments to remember. Head coach Eric McNair said the player he and Miller will de-
pend on to call the plays on the field will be linebacker Keishawn Wagner. “Keishawn is a hard-nosed kid with a great football IQ. He does everything that we ask and is always leading by example,” McNair said. Though the defense will not have as much experience as the offense does, it should still be much better with seven starters returning. Though all starting positions are always up for grabs, McNair said the other projected starters are Cody Ignaszewski, Holden Riddle, Darvis Holmes (defensive line), Jamin Davis (outside linebacker), Gerald Williams, Braden Buhoveckey (interior linebackers), Brett Blake, Deondrae Volcy, Tariq Carpenter and Ioannis Watkins (defensive backs). In 2014, Long County gave up more than 36 points in five games, all losses. If the team is going to have a successful 2015, it will have to improve in this area.
The Blue Tide defense yielded more than 36 points in ﬁve games and an average of 31 points per game in 2014. This will have to improve if Long County is to have a successful season this fall.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26, 2015 — 2015 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW — 5
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Blue Tide face challenges, opportunities for success BY MIKE RIDDLE Coastal Courier correspondent
The season kicks off Friday, so here is a week-by-week breakdown of the Blue Tide’s varsity schedule: WEEK 1 AT TATTNALL COUNTY (5-5 in 2014): Since the Battle Creek Warriors moved from Region 2-AA to Region 1-AAA three years ago, they have struggled to regain the dominance they had over the smaller schools. When they played Long County last year, the Blue Tide dominated the first half, but after making defensive adjustments in the second half, the Warriors pulled out a 23-14 win. Long County has never beaten Tattnall County on the gridiron, but with the Blue Tide being deep on both sides of the ball, this should be the year that that streak ends. Tattnall County leads series 5-0.
to five fumbles by the offense. After the dismal play of the Blue Tide last year, returning players and coaches will be up for this game, and this time it will be in Ludowici. Though this game will be close, when the buzzer sounds, Long County should be the winner. Long County leads series 4-3. WEEK 5 VS. BACON COUNTY (6-5 in 2014, lost in ﬁrst round of playoffs): Last year, the Red Raiders were a much-improved football team. They were 5-2 Region 2-AA Region, securing a spot in the playoffs. Bacon County will go into this game as the underdog because of the early success of the Blue Tide. Unfortunately for Long County, Bacon County will be the better team. After some early season upsets, reality will hit Ludowici in week 5, as the Blue Tide will probably fall to the Red Raiders. Bacon County leads series 3-0.
WEEK 4 VS. JEFF DAVIS (4-6 in 2014): Last year, the Yellow Jackets were much improved over the team that went 1-9 in 2013. In 2014, they were good enough to notch two wins in Region 2-AA. One of those region wins was against Long County, where the Yellow Jackets shut out the Blue Tide 24-0. Having said that, it would appear that Jeff Davis would go into this game as the clear favorite, but that won’t be the case in week 4. Long County did lose to the Yellow Jackets last year, but the loss was due
DATE Aug. 28 Sept. 4 Sept. 11 Sept. 18 Sept. 25 Oct. 2 Oct. 9 Oct. 16 Oct. 23 Oct. 30 Nov. 6
OPPONENT Tattnall County OPEN Metter *Jeff Davis County *Bacon County (RN) *Vidalia New Hampstead *Groves (HC) *McIntosh County *Bryan County *Benedictine (SN)
LOCATION Reidsville N/A Metter Ludowici Ludowici Vidalia Ludowici Ludowici Darien Ludowici Ludowici
NOTES • All games start at 7:30 p.m. • * denotes 2-AA region game • HC denotes homecoming night • RN denotes recreation night • SN denotes senior night
2015 JUNIOR VARSITY SCHEDULE
WEEK 2: OPEN WEEK 3 AT METTER HIGH SCHOOL (4-6 in 2014): The Tigers are a much different team than they were two years ago when they made the state playoffs. Last year, like the Blue Tide, they were a notch below the better teams in their region. When the two schools played in 2014, Long County squeaked out a 28-20 win. With Long County being even better in 2015, and with an extra week to prepare for the Tigers, the Blue Tide will be expected to win this game and go to 2-0. Long County leads series 2-1.
2015 VARSITY SCHEDULE
WEEK 6 AT VIDALIA HIGH SCHOOL (12-1 in 2014; lost 3422 to Greater Atlanta Christian in Elite Eight round): In Region 2-AA, there are two schools that are a head above everyone else in the region. One we will talk about in a minute, and the other is Vidalia. Last year, the Indians were undefeated in the region. Though Long County will be much improved in 2015, the Blue Tide will still be no match for Vidalia. Vidalia leads series 5-0. WEEK 7 VS. NEW HAMPSTEAD HIGH SCHOOL (2-8 in 2014): After two tough games against Bacon County and Vidalia High, Long County will get to face a team that is in the early stages of its program, New Hampstead. The Phoenix enter their second season of varsity play after going 2-8 in 2014. When the two teams played last year, the Blue Tide dominated from the opening kickoff, winning 41-0. If there is any advantage to having played Vidalia the week prior, it will be that the Blue Tide will be looking to put that game behind them and forget those results. With that in
DATE Sept. 3 Sept. 10 Sept. 17 Oct. 1 Oct. 8 Oct. 22
OPPONENT Tattnall County Brantley County Metter McIntosh County Pierce County Liberty County
LOCATION Ludowici Nahunta Ludowici Darien Ludowici Ludowici
they handily beat McIntosh County 46-12. This year, the Buccaneers will not be as bad as they were in 2014, but they also will not be the playoff team they were three years ago. Long County can’t look past the oncemighty Bucs, but if they play steady and to their potential, they should win this game on the road. McIntosh County leads series 10-1. WEEK 10 VS. BRYAN COUNTY (5-6 in 2014; lost in ﬁrst round of playoffs): Bryan County is clearly a team on the rise in Region 2-AA. In 2013 and 2014, the Redskins made the playoffs. This year, they believe they can do it again. When the Blue Tide and the Redskins play, they seem to bring out the best in each other, and in most of their games the outcome goes down to the wire. This game will probably be the one that determines whether Long County finishes with a losing or winning record. Though no one at either school wants to admit it, it also has a special significance in that former Blue Tide head coach Ron Flott is now the offensive coordinator for the Redskins. I believe at the end of the night Long County, will sit at 6-3, securing the Tide’s first winning season in school history. Bryan County leads series 7-4.
NOTE • All games start at 5 p.m.
mind, the Phoenix will have to pay the consequences as Long County notches another win. Long County leads series 1-0. WEEK 8 VS. GROVES HIGH SCHOOL (6-4 in 2014): For years, Groves took a beating in Region 3-AAAAA. Last year, the Rebels moved down to the 2-AA, and all they did was go 6-4 overall and 3-3 in the region. The move was good for the school, and now everyone is excited about football again. When Long County faced Groves last year, the Blue Tide looked great at times and horrible at other times. The Rebels won 36-20, but for those of
us watching the game, it didn’t seem like it was as close as the score indicated. This should be a good game that either team can win, but I think Groves will have just enough to pull it out. Groves leads series 1-0. WEEK 9 AT MCINTOSH COUNTY (0-10 in 2014): Oh, my. How the mighty Buccaneers have fallen. In 2012, McIntosh County had an 8-1 mark in Region 2-AA and made the playoffs. Last year, the Bucs went 0-10 and were clearly the worst team in the region. For years, the Blue Tide took beatings at the hands of the Buccaneers, but last year, they were finally able to end that misery as
WEEK 11 VS. BENEDICTINE MILITARY SCHOOL (13-2 in 2014; won state championship): What more can you say about the Cadets that hasn’t already been said by every sports writer in this area? The private school won the state championship last year by handily beating Greater Atlanta Christian 45-21. This year, the Cadets will once again be a powerhouse and should finish the year as either the No. 1 or 2 seed in Region 2-AA, with Vidalia being the other top team. Long County will play hard against the Savannah school, but unless everything goes the Blue Tide’s way and the Cadets turn the ball over repeatedly, the only thing that will probably be determined is the No. 1 seed in the region. Benedictine leads series 5-0.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26, 2015 — 2015 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW — 7
LONG COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL 2015 Long County High School Blue Tide roster, by grade, number, name, position: Seniors 1 Xavier Stapleton DB 5 Ioannis Watkins DB 8 Brendon Scott QB 9 Jaquarius Harrison RB 15 Shuvon Davis DB 33 Keishawn Wagner LB 52 Antonio Taylor DL 59 Emil Wright OL 60 James Forrest DL 61 Cody Ignaszewski DL 65 Reid Goode OL 68 DeAndre Reddick OL 72 Vaughn Kelly OL 88 Darvis Holmes TE Juniors 2 Tariq Carpenter DB 3 Deondrae Volcy DB 4 Stephon Adderly WR 7 Brett Blake DB 10 Elijah Montijo WR 11 Jack Lauver WR 16 Alex Duenes K 17 Tripp Stapleton QB 21 Elijah Wright WR 22 Jeff Edmondson LB 25 Jamin Davis DE 26 Chris Lewis WR 27 Chris Wells DB 34 Gerald Williams LB 42 Dustin Ellerbe DB 44 Liam Kelly TE 47 Lamar Lawrence DE 48 Angelo Ciccone LB 54 Kyree Coprick DE 57 Cain Reeves OL 58 Jonathon Holton OL 67 Michael Ross DL 70 Antonio Grubbs OL 77 Lama Brown DL
4 key Blue Tide seniors
Sophomores 19 Dakota Humphrey DE 20 Cody Cox DB 23 Eric Crawford DB 24 Cameron Taylor DB 29 Shane Fleck DB 35 Austin Keller DB 37 Branden Edwards DE 41 Marquese Bacon DB 50 Braden Buhoveckey LB 51 Quentin Facen DL 56 Joey Guadalupe OL 64 Isaac Abram OL 71 Jashan Cochran DL 73 Holden Riddle DL 81 Christian Bass TE 83 Bowen Smiley DE
BY MIKE RIDDLE Coastal Courier correspondent
Thirteen Blue Tide seniors are expected to get playing time this year. And for the first time in many moons, Long County also has a deep junior class. Of the projected starters, all but two will be either a junior or senior, and there are no underclassmen on offense. With depth like this, each senior will be expected to provide both quality time on the field and leadership off the field. If the Blue Tide are going to be successful in 2015, these four seniors must have a good year. • Brendon Scott: On the offense, the makeor-break player for the Blue Tide will definitely be quarterback Brendon Scott. Pound-forpound, Scott is one of the strongest players on the team; he also has great lateral speed, good vision on the field, and a high football IQ. Last year, Scott started out as the premier tailback, but with a glaring weakness at the quarterback position, by the third game he was lining up under the center. As a junior, all Scott did was break the school rushing mark by posting 1,447 yards, be recognized as the team’s MVP, make the 2-AA All-Region team, and be recognized as the Player of the Year by the Coastal Courier and Mike Reed Chevrolet. This year, he probably won’t rush for as many yards as he did in 2014, but what he must do is find the open receiver, complete his passes, and rush for crucial yards when he is asked to. For the Blue Tide to succeed, Scott needs to be even better in 2015. • Jaquarius Harrison: Last year, when Scott became quarterback, Jaquarius Harrison be-
Freshmen 6 Landon Osburn QB 12 Tavon Anderson WR 13 Michael Morales K 14 Dazon Mills QB 28 Corey Taylor DE 30 Jaylen Bryant LB 31 Gavin McNeel DB 32 Hunter Sizemore LB 36 Michael Maldonado DB 39 Skylar Bailey LB 45 Albert Doyle LB 55 Tristin Jeffers OL 62 Justin Groover OL 63 Jose Boyd OL 66 Quaineilius Bacon DL 74 Hunter McPherson OL 79 Paul Robertson OL 80 Troy Balsinger WR Coaches Head coach Eric McNair Offensive coordinators Paul Austin, Deshon Brock Defensive coordinator Jeff Miller
The 2015 Long County Blue Tide pose for a team photo.
came the No. 1 tailback. Harrison’s numbers didn’t quite match Scott’s, but he did make big plays. Defenders had to know where Harrison was because every time he touched the ball, he had the ability to score. Last year, he was selected as the team’s best running back, took home a Player of the Week award, rushed for 552 yards, and scored eight touchdowns. Harrison is also a vocal leader on the team and a hard worker. If the Blue Tide are going to succeed in 2015, he will have to give that same 100 percent, plus a little more. • Darvis Holmes: Besides Scott, Darvis Holmes is the only returning starter for the Blue Tide who was on the 2-AA All-Region first team. In 2014, Holmes lined up at defensive tackle and tight end. This year, his primary position will be defensive tackle, but he will also see substantial time on the offensive line. Holmes is big and strong, tipping the scales at around 300 pounds. If the defense is going to improve, Holmes must have a good year. • Keishawn Wagner: If you are a linebacker, you are expected to be quick, strong, smart and a big hitter. In 2014, Keishawn Wagner was all that and a little more. This year, he will lead a group of linebackers who all saw playing time last year, but who need some polishing on the field. Wagner has a high football IQ, so he should be able to do that. He also leads by example, so his teammates will have no problem listening to him. This year, the Blue Tide offense is expected to score points, so the pressure is on the defense to keep the score within reason. For that to happen, Wagner will need to have a good year.
Band gears up for new year
The Long County High School marching band practices in preparation for a new season. The Blue Tide band performed in the McDonald’s Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade, was invited to perform at the 2015 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans and hasn’t lost a competition in more than four years.
8 — 2015 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW — WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26, 2015
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