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Countdown to Herald Pigskin Preview -- FIVE days: Woolf says Early's success is on the line -- literally

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

BLAKELY -- Got beef?

Early County's got some, but it needs some serious seasoning.

Talk to Bobcats head coach Trey Woolf and he'll mention right off the bat that his cattlemen in the trenches are young and inexperienced.

Basically, the progression of the offensive and defensive line will be the key to Early County's year.

"We're not very deep up front on either side of the ball," said Woolf, who is in his 10th year as head coach. "We lost seven good linemen to graduation. All our good skill guys are coming back, but games are won up front so we're just going to have to bring some young guys along."

Offensive guard/nose guard Chevaun Lester is the only senior lineman on the entire team and will have his hands full paving holes and leading four others, most of whom played defense only last year.

Guys like juniors Rick Jester and Willie Ware will be needed to step in quickly on the O-line.

"Up front, I can't remember (a team) being this inexperienced," Woolf said. "The kids are working great and they understand the challenges ahead of them. Maybe we can sneak up on a few folks."

Woolf, like most years, wouldn't allow his players to speak to the media during fall practice because he said none stood out above the others.

The coach, though, couldn't help rattling off a list of speed and slash backs that will shine in 2010 if the holes are there.

Seniors Quayven Levatte, Camery Flowers and sophomore Ladonis Bryant all have the big-play ability to make the band play on any given snap.

"That's where our experience is," Woolf said of the skill backs, who will also mix and match at corner and safety.

Quarterback T.J. Allen, also a senior, is back under center to run Woolf's spread offense, a change from the Wing-T offense the Bobcats have run for much of the last decade.

"We didn't feel like we had the people up front to really bang it up in there play after play like you have to in the Wing-T," Woolf said. "We just kind of hope to smoke and mirror (opponents) a little bit and see if we can get these little guys in space."

Of course, the spread worked pretty well in 2006 when the Bobcats made a run to the state semifinals. Since then, Early County has lost in the first round and missed the playoffs the last two years.

The Bobcats finished 5-5 last season, 3-4 in Region 1-AA, and missed the fourth playoff seed in the region by one game after a 16-14 loss to Cook County in the season finale. Cook upended a No. 1 seed and went on to the quarterfinals, demonstrating the toughness of Region 1-AA.

"You get a test every week in this region," said Woolf, whose team returns four starters on offense and five on defense.

The Bobcats' defense, which allowed 33 points per game in the five losses last year, is expected to be the strength of the team early in the season. The offense could follow suit if the front five comes together.

Beef. It's what's for dinner. It's also what's going to determine Early County's success this season.