Pelham’s Lorenzo Jackson runs a play during practice in preparation for the Hornets’ season opener Aug. 31 against Baconton Charter. Jackson is part of a foursome in the backfield this year that is hoping to make some noise for Pelham, which has moved up to 1-AA. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Counting down to kickoff
EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s in-depth look at PELHAM and CALHOUN COUNTY marks the fourth and fifth of 26 prep football season previews that will appear in the sports section during the next two weeks as we count down to Kickoff 2012. On Saturday, we’ll take a closer look at WORTH COUNTY. Enjoy!
PELHAM — Frankie Carroll wanted to make things tough on the Pelham Hornets this year.
He might have outdone himself.
After faltering late in the season and missing the playoffs by one game, Carroll felt his team didn’t react well to adversity at times, so he toughened up offseason conditioning, lifting and summer practices. And then he made the 2012 schedule to top it all off.
“We’ve worked on making things harder on them over the offseason,” said Carroll, who went 4-6 at Pelham in his first season after moving from Florida power Madison County to rebuild a struggling Hornets program. “Moving us up to AA, that’s one of those things you’ve got to fight through.”
Pelham may need a full artillery to get through its new Region 1-AA gauntlet that includes Cook County, Brooks County, Fitzgerald, Thomasville and Early County. Not to mention keeping old Region 1-A foes Seminole County, Miller County and Mitchell County on the schedule.
“I just believe playing good people makes you better,” Carroll said.
Count senior running back and linebacker Denzel Jackson as one who believes Pelham can compete against the established teams in 1-AA. Jackson was an all-region linebacker last season, leading the Hornets with 95 tackles and two sacks, and he also ran for more than 700 yards on offense.
“My defense is going to be great,” Jackson said. “We’re going to come knocking heads off. We ain’t stepping down to nobody this year. Nobody. We don’t care who it is.”
Jackson didn’t want to be reminded of the playoff history Cook, Fitzgerald, Thomasville and Brooks bring to the table, either.
“I don’t care,” he said. “That doesn’t make a difference. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. They put their pants on the same way we do.”
Carroll, who won a Florida 2A state title in 2007 at Madison, has weapons in his Wing-T offense with Jackson and speedster Brandon Smith on the wing and fullback Lorenzo Jackson and sophomore Desmond Parker, who shined as a freshmen.
Plus, the group has a year in Carroll’s system and wants to do even more in year two.
“We love it,” Smith said of Carroll’s Wing-T offense.
Pelham has also added new offensive coordinator and O-line coach Ian Smith, a former lineman at the University of Georgia. And the offense will run smoothly if senior center Kyle Dawson and tackles Corey Morgan and Thomas Garcia pave the way. Chris Rumble, an all-region pick at tight end last season, made a move to guard for the betterment of the team, Carroll said.
The Hornets will have a first-year starter at quarterback, either sophomore Clarence Almond or junior Lorenzo Church. Church also plays defense, so Almond is slated to start early on, Carroll said. Junior receiver Tre’Von White, at 6-foot-5, has already gotten some college looks.
Denzel Jackson, Smith and Logan Barrett will lead what will have to be a run-stopping defense against the power rushing attacks in the region.
Following winless seasons in three of five years before Carroll’s arrival, nearly making the playoffs last season has provided confidence to a Hornets’ squad full of 18 seniors hungry for another shot.
“(Missing the playoffs) is on our minds, but we’re trying to get this team together and become as one,” Jackson said.
Carroll, who has about 50 players practicing this summer, knows what awaits with the schedule he put together, but he believes a tougher Hornets team will come out swinging.
“We’re much improved from last year,” Carroll said. “Now whether that’s going to be enough, I don’t know. South Georgia football is tough every week. You’ve got to bring it every week or somebody will knock you off.
“That’s what we’re going to try to do — knock ’em off.”
Pelham’s 2012 season outlook
HEAD COACH: Frankie Carroll (2nd season at Pelham, 9th season as head coach overall; 93-18-1 career coaching record).
2011 RECORD: 4-6.
ASSISTANT COACHES: Shane Wheeler (defensive coordinator/LBs); Ian Smith (offensive coordinator/OL); Lee Taylor (QBs); Marcus Singletary (WRs); John Sirmon (DBs); Derrick Lavette (DLs); Andrew Satterwhite (RBs).
RETURNING STARTERS: Kyle Dawson (Sr., OL); Chris Rumble (Sr., OL); Tomas Garcia (Sr., OL); Corey Morgan (Sr., OL); Tre’Von White (Jr., WR); Brandon Smith (Sr., LB); Calvin Shelton (Sr., DB); Stephen Hornsby (Sr., LB); Denzel Jackson (Sr., LB/RB); Lorenzo Jackson (Jr., RB); Lorenzo Church (Jr., DB/RB).
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: C.J. Drake (Jr., DB); Clarence Almond (So., QB); Justin Smith (So., OL); Darren Jackson (So., DL); Desmond Parker (So., RB); Logan Barrett (So., LB); Clifford Stewart (Sr., DB); Dre’mon Jenkins Sr., DB/WR); Je’Vontez Burden (Jr., LB/TE); Kyle Howell (Sr., DB/WR).
PLAYERS IN COLLEGE OR HIGHER: Robert Dill (OL/DL), Missouri Valley; Elijah Haywood (DB), Missouri Valley.
2012 Pelham Hornets schedule
Aug. 31 at Baconton Charter, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 07 vs. Mitchell County, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 14 vs. Miller County, 7:30 p.m.
Sept 21 at Seminole County, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 28 vs. Fitzgerald, 7:30 p.m.
Oct, 12 at Cook, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 19 vs. Brooks County, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 26 vs. Berrien, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 2 at Early County, 8 p.m.
Nov. 9 at Thomasville, 7:30 p.m.
--- BOLD denotes GHSA Region 1-AA game