Southwest Georgia Academy running back Will Warren breaks away from a tackler as fellow RB Teel Massey (10) looks to block during a preseason practice. Warren and Massey — along with senior Corey Smith — will get plenty of touches this season for the Warriors, who are deep and talented in the backfield. (john.millikan@albanyherald.com)

Southwest Georgia Academy running back Will Warren breaks away from a tackler as fellow RB Teel Massey (10) looks to block during a preseason practice. Warren and Massey — along with senior Corey Smith — will get plenty of touches this season for the Warriors, who are deep and talented in the backfield. (john.millikan@albanyherald.com)

Counting down to kickoff

EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s in-depth look at Southwest Georgia Academy marks the first of 26 prep football season previews that will appear in the sports section during the next 2 1/2 weeks as we count down to Kickoff 2012. On Wednesday, we’ll take a closer look at SGA’s neighbor, Early County. Enjoy!

DAMASCUS — David Bell is ready to get back to the playoffs.

And the Southwest Georgia Academy football coach has a trio of running backs who are ready to take him there.

SGA lost star quarterback Dillon Driver to graduation, but the Warriors, who finished 6-4 last season and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007, will be led by running backs Will Warren, Corey Smith and Teel Massey this season — and Bell thinks it’s that three-headed rushing machine that will put the Warriors over the top.

“Last year we got away from what we have done, but we like to run a spread, wing offense,” said Bell, who is entering his seventh year as head coach of the Warriors. “We have been waiting for these 10th and 11th graders to come up and get to this level to see how good they can be because they were really good in junior high and on the ‘B’ team.”

Not making the postseason last year after losing three of their final four region games — including a season-ending 64-38 loss to Brookwood that eliminated any hope of appearing in the playoffs — has pushed Massey and the Warriors.

“We were on our high horse last year about midway through the season and got a little too arrogant and got knocked off by some teams we should have beat,” Massey said.

The Warriors will be looking for their running game to lead the way after their main offensive threat from last season — Driver, who is now playing at Reinhardt University — is gone.

Massey isn’t worried.

“We have a bunch of smart guys on our team who can pick it up,” said Massey, a 5-foot-11, 175-pound junior. “We have made the transition (to the running game) really good. Our linemen we have this year are picking things up good.”

Who the linemen will be protecting, however, is still a question mark leading up the season opener Friday at Ashford Academy (Ala.). Three QBs will be fighting for the starting spot — senior Alex Chambless, sophomore Clay Bell and junior Charlie Bradford.

Whoever is under center for the opener will have big shoes to fill, but Bell is confident his offense can survive without Driver.

“I don’t mean it negatively, but we were a put-your-eggs-all-in-one-basket kind of offense (last season),” Bell said. “Everything revolved around what (Dillon) could do. When he banged his shoulder up last year, it kind of slowed us down offensively. We were still able to put up 30 points a game, so I think this will be a team that can still score a lot of points because we are so evenly balanced.”

Bell said the Warriors are more balanced than they have been in years.

“We have a lot of skill people who can do a lot of things,” he said. “Last year we were dependant on what he could do, and this year we got three or four kids who can score a lot of points.”

Other than Driver, nobody scored more points for SGA last season than Warren. Last year as a sophomore, Warren rushed for 428 yards and six touchdowns and caught 10 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown. Smith and Massey combined for 443 receiving yards and four TDs, giving the Warriors plenty of options out of the backfield this year.

Smith, one of nine seniors on the roster, is confident his team’s 1-2-3 punch in the backfield and an all-for-one mentality will get the Warriors back into the playoffs.

“We are pretty excited about this year,” Smith said. “Our junior and senior classes are really close, so we are all having fun out here on the football field. The football team this year is really, really close.”


SGA’s 2012 season outlook

MASCOT: Warriors.

HEAD COACH: David Bell (7th season at SGA).

2010 RECORD: 6-4.

ASSISTANT COACHES: Brent Miller, Dusty Griffis.

RETURNING STARTERS: Collin Cowart (Sr., C), Ray Spooner (Sr., LB/G), Corey Smith (Sr., RB), Spencer Burch (Sr., DT), John Smith (Sr., OT), Colby Still (Jr., RB), Will Heard (Sr., G), Cody Powell (Sr., OT), Will Warren (Jr., RB), Teel Massey (Jr., RB), Garrett Vann (Jr., LB), Taft Logan (So., OT).

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Nicholas Worthy (Sr., DT), Alex Chambless (Sr., QB), Thomas Vines (Jr., OT), Davis Ponder (Jr., LB), Charlie Bradford (Jr., QB/S), Joe Lawrence (Jr., DT), Cabe Rathel (So., LB), Clay Bell (So., QB), Reid O’Hearn (So., WR), Brandon Brookins (Jr., WR), Perry Bridges (So., RB), K.D. Sizemore (So., WR), Tanner Powell (So., DE).

2012 SGA WARRIORS schedule

Friday at Ashford Academy (Ala.), 8 p.m.

Aug. 24 vs. Deerfield-Windsor, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 31 at Windsor Academy, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 7 vs. Southland Academy, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 14 at Tiftarea Academy, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Westfield, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 5 at Terrell Academy, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 12 vs. Brookwood, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Sherwood, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 26 vs. Westwood, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 2 vs. Valwood, 7:30 p.m.

denotes GISA Region 2-AA game