Early County head coach Trey Woolf enters his 10th season as coach of the Bobcats.
BLAKELY -- The weakness of last year's Early County football team may just be its strength this season.
With inexperienced offensive and defensive lines, the Bobcats lost games in the trenches last year, ending the season with a 3-7 record.
Early County coach Trey Woolf is now ready to win those battles this year.
"We have grown up some (on the offensive and defensive lines), so we are going to have a lot more depth up front," said Woolf, who has coached the Bobcats since 2001.
Returning starters on the offensive line are Javante Powell, Dustin Mote and K.D. Williams.
"The weakness (last year) was up front," Woolf said. "We were very inexperienced on the offensive and defensive lines. We had a lot of underclassmen, even some 10th graders playing. One of the biggest hurdles we had was trying to get some experience. But the lines should be a strength for us this year."
But Early's experience doesn't extend to its skill positions, where there will be several new faces. Graduating from last year's Bobcats team were starting quarterback T.J. Allen and top running backs Quayven Levatte and Camery Flowers.
Junior Jacori Taylor should start the season under center, but Woolf said Taylor's experience at quarterback is limited.
"We are just trying to do things really simple with him, so we can get it going with him," Woolf said of Taylor, who played quarterback in middle school but played as an outside linebacker last year for the Bobcats.
At running back, Early County's key ball carrier will be Ladonis Bryant, who saw his fair share of touches last season along with Levatte and Flowers.
But to have a successful season -- especially early on -- Woolf said a lot is riding on the defense.
"I would like for the defense to really carry us early because of the inexperience at our skill positions," said Woolf, who has a longstanding policy of not allowing his players to speak to the media during preseason practices. "Until we get an identity offensively and see what we are capable of doing with our quarterback, I want the defense to carry us. I would love to win a bunch of 6-0 or 2-0 games. Whatever it takes."
Woolf named several players he expects to be defensive leaders, including Devontay Spencer in the secondary, senior nose guard Clarence Taylor, outside linebacker Tracy Smith and Willie Ware.
The Bobcats open the season Friday against Bainbridge -- a game that Early County lost, 14-7, last season. The Bobcats, who followed up last year's season-opening setback to BHS with a 19-13 loss to Miller County, lost several close games last year. Woolf said his team will have to be more competitive this year in the second half if they want to win the close ones.
"The biggest thing we want to do is get better week to week," Woolf said. "I think we did that last year. We were in some ball games. Our region is very, very good, and we were in some games where we didn't finish late.
"I think they are capable of a lot. There are a lot of things we can't control when you start naming goals and expectations. All we can do is worry about us and try to get better day to day."
Early County's 2011 season outlook
HEAD COACH: Trey Woolf (10th season at Early County, 15th season overall as head coach; 68-78 career record).
2010 RECORD: 3-7.
ASSISTANT COACHES: Craig Storey (offensive line); Kerry Morris (defensive coordinator); John Randolph (offensive coordinator); Randy Isom (DBs); Octavius Balkcom (LBs).
RETURNING STARTERS: Ladonis Bryant (Jr., RB); Jacori Taylor (Jr., QB); Javante Powell (Sr., OL); Shaq Powell (Jr., OL); K.D. Williams (Jr., OL); Devontay Spencer (Sr., DB); Tracy Smith (Sr., LB); Brakari Isom (Jr., LB); Willie Ware (Sr., DL); Clarence Taylor (Sr., DL); Rick Jester (Sr., DL).
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Dustin Mote (Sr., OL); Brandon Carter (Jr., RB); Laversay Taylor (Jr., WR); A.J. Jackson (So., LB); Shavon Wiggins (Jr., DB).
2011 Early County BOBCATS schedule
Friday at Bainbridge, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 2 vs. Miller County, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 9 at Seminole County, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 16 vs. Westover, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 23 at Thomasville, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 7 vs. Fitzgerald, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 14 vs. Berrien, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 21 at Cook, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 28 at Albany, at Hugh Mills, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 4 vs. Brooks County, 7:30 p.m.