Worth County coach Scotty Ward enters his third season as head coach of the Rams and 10th overall with the program.
SYLVESTER -- Worth County is all about physical, hard-nosed football.
Just look at their burly third-year head coach, Scotty Ward, whose nose was adorned with a gnarly looking gash Monday afternoon at practice. Forget that the injury came when his daughter swung the van door into his nose and nearly knocked him out.
"I tried to fight a door and I lost," Ward joked.
Just like their coach, the Rams are used to fighting through injury. A myriad of ailments tried to keep Worth out of the playoffs last year, but it battled through them in 2010 to make the postseason for the fourth time in the past five years.
"It motivates us to play better," said senior running back Ellis Anderson, one of the many Rams hampered by injuries last season.
Anderson, known as "Poochy" in Sylvester, sprained his ankle last season and still finished with nearly 600 yards rushing. He's also suffered from turf toe during parts of the last two years and is hoping his final season as a Ram produces a clean bill of health.
The Rams' offensive line will be a big part of that. They are primed to open up injury-free holes this season with three returning starters and a fourth who saw playing time in 2010.
Davin Gibson, a 5-foot-7, 270-pounder at right guard, was named Region 1-AAA first-team all-region his sophomore and junior seasons and joins senior right tackle Martinez Wilcher to form a solid offensive line.
"They're a big part to my success," Anderson said.
Tumaz Gaint, whose father, Tim, was a starter at quarterback for Worth County in 1995, starts a new legacy under center as Worth County's signal caller. The junior quarterback, who's also a 3-point specialist on the basketball team, has gained confidence in the offseason after starting one game last year.
In a scrimmage last week against Rutland High, Gaint would have completed 10-of-17 passes if not for three drops, Ward said. That's right, Worth County's ground-and-pound gameplan called on Gaint to chuck it 17 times.
"For us, that's a lot," Ward said. "(Gaint) throws a very catchable football."
The Rams will have weapons on offense to work with outside of Anderson with Kareem McDaniel, who had 22 catches and more than 300 yards last season at wideout, and the ability to use Savon Farley in a number of roles. Farley, an electric return specialist whose season ended with a concussion last year, could play anywhere on offense but is also a cog in the Rams secondary.
Farley, a cornerback, joins two-time, all-region safety selection Marlin Hall there. Worth's 3-5-3 defense also boasts 2010 all-region inside linebacker Dantavis Jones, Austin Newton and McDaniel. Jones led Worth as a junior with more than 80 tackles and 10 sacks.
Of course, there's a bear of a schedule with which to contend. Again. After having what many thought was the toughest schedule in GHSA Class AAA last season, the Rams open at powerful Fitzgerald on Friday at 7:30 p.m. before playing Turner County, Cook County and Tift County out of region. Last year's season-opening win against Fitzgerald is still being talked about.
"It's probably going to be another slugfest," said Ward, who is in his third season at Worth. "Last year was a real good win for us. It was a spring board."
This year the Rams are looking to safely catapult themselves back into the Region 1-AAA lead and deeper into the playoffs, while avoiding the nagging injuries and flying car doors.
Worth County's 2011 season outlook
HEAD COACH: Scotty Ward (3rd season as head coach at Worth County, 10th season overall at Worth; 11-11 career record).
2010 RECORD: 6-5.
ASSISTANT COACHES: Perry Pylant (defensive coordinator); Ken Holland (offensive coordinator); John Cooper (running backs); Cedric Stegall (defensive backs); Jodie Knight (linebackers); Chase Giddens (offensive line); Ken Sims (receivers); Arthur Davis (defensive line); Pat Marshall (defensive backs).
RETURNING STARTERS: Kevin Smith (Jr., C); Davin Gibson (Sr., OL); Martinez Wilcher (Sr., OL); Marquavion Mency (Jr., OL); Ellis Anderson (Sr., RB); Kareem McDaniel (Sr., WR); Wesley Douthit (Jr., DL); Nick Vance (Sr., DE); Dantavis Jones (Sr., MLB); Austin Newton (Sr., LB); Marlin Hall (Jr., DB); Savon Farley (Sr., DB); Lavontae Robinson (Jr., CB).
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Tumaz Gaint (Jr., QB); Chris Rushing (Sr., DE/TE); Dee Hicks (Sr., DE/TE); Tevin Hicks (Sr., WR).
2011 WORTH COUNTY RAMS schedule
Friday at Fitzgerald, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 2 vs. Turner County, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 9 at Cook, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 16 vs. Tift County, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 23 vs. Americus-Sumter, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 29 at Westover, at Hugh Mills, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 7 vs. Monroe, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 14 at Cairo, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 20 at Dougherty, at Hugh Mills, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 4 vs. Crisp County, 7:30 p.m.