Senior offensive lineman Tony Alexander and the rest of the Cougars still have a bitter taste in their mouths about how season ended.
Counting down to kickoff
EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s in-depth look at BAINBRIDGE, CRISP COUNTY and CRISP ACADEMY marks the 15th, 16th and 17th of 26 prep football season previews that will appear in the sports section during the next week and a half as we count down to Kickoff 2012. On Thursday, we’ll take a closer look at WESTWOOD and TERRELL COUNTY. Enjoy!
CORDELE — They count every single point at Crisp County High School — EV-E-RY point.
That may just be the theme for the Cougars’ football season in Cordele, where Crisp failed to make the playoffs a year ago because of the fifth tiebreaker — yes, fifth — in the region bylaws, one that decides who goes to the playoffs by total-points difference between teams.
“We went from being second in the region to not even going to the playoffs,’’ said Crisp County coach Lee Campbell, whose team went into the final game of the season against Worth County with a chance to finish right behind 1-AAA champ Cairo, which later advanced to the GHSA Class AAA Final Four. Worth not only won the game, but the Rams scored enough in a 28-7 win to open the door for both Worth and Monroe, which finished tied with Crisp at 3-3 in the region and slipped into the playoffs based on point differential with Crisp.
What made the nightmare even worse is that the kids had to stay in the Worth locker room for about 25 minutes after the game before learning their fate.
“It felt like forever,’’ said Sherrod Ruff, one of the top linebackers in the area. “I was so angry. I’m bringing all that anger from last season into this one.’’
It hurt, and the Crisp kids who are coming back won’t forget that feeling.
“I remember just feeling regret,’’ said offensive lineman Tony Alexander, one of the senior leaders on this year’s team. “I just started regretting every play I didn’t make during the season. I was thinking about the close games and how this play or that play makes a difference.’’
Sherrod felt the same way.
“We want to come back and win the region title this year,’’ he said. “We know we have to win the close games. We don’t want that to happen again.’’
If Crisp County is going to win the region, the Cougars will do it with a young team that will run more than it throws and will throw the ball with a new quarterback.
Campbell’s son Witt, a sophomore, takes over at QB for a team that wants to control the ball and win with a tough, aggressive defense that returns eight players who either started or saw playing time a year ago, including Ruff (5-foot-10, 190 pounds), who roams from sideline to sideline.
Campbell says defensive tackle Elijah Johnson, a 5-11, 185-pound junior, is “quick as greased lighting.’’ Johnson was a defensive end last year who will slide over to the tackle spot on the line. Kaun Daniels, a 6-2, 240-pound sophomore who started as a freshman, is back at defensive end, and Alfred Patrick (6-1, 185), who started five games as a freshman, is back as a starting linebacker.
The secondary brings back Montre Hartage (6-0, 170), who started at cornerback as a freshman, and cornerback Montel Richard, one of the few seniors who leads this team.
Alexander anchors the offensive line and is getting a lot of attention from colleges. Campbell said Alexander might even end up at an Ivy League school.
The shift on offense is to the run.
Last year, Crisp threw the ball three out of every four plays, and Campbell wants to change that.
“By the middle of the season, everyone knew we were throwing. People figured us out and stacked their defense against the pass,’’ the coach said. “That took away all the quick stuff. I’ve got nothing against the pass, but I want balance.’’
When Lee Campbell was winning state titles at Hawkinsville, his quarterback threw for 2,294 yards and his running backs ran for 2,293 yards.
He doesn’t expect the same kind of perfect balance from this year’s Crisp team, but he does want to establish the run and pass when he wants to — not when his opponents want him to.
“We want to have balance,” Campbell said. “We want to play good defense and run the ball. The run sets up the pass. I like throwing the ball, but not when the defense likes it.’’
The Cougars will run behind an offensive line that brings back three starters: Alexander, Breon King, a 6-4, 230-pound junior who started at tackle last year, and tight end Landon Whitman, a 6-5, 220-pound junior who was the second-leading receiver on the team last season with 34 receptions.
That leaves two question marks on the offensive line, but Campbell is hoping to fill those holes because he is counting on running the ball.
He’s got three running backs to carry the load: Keven Mygrant, a 6-1, 230-pound junior tailback who led Crisp in rushing touchdowns last year with six; Jarkevious Glover, a sophomore who played last year; and Jamie White, a 5-7, 145-pound junior scatback joins the mix, giving Crisp a variety of ways to run the ball. Also, Roy Hamilton, a 5-8, 190-pound senior, returns at fullback.
“We’re going to run the ball,’’ Campbell said.
Everything should also run a little smoother. After all, it’s Campbell’s second year at Crisp.
“We’re more experienced in the system this year,’’ Alexander said. “It’s the second year, so everyone should be better.’’
And most of all, they’re planning on making the playoffs this time around.
“I’m optimistic we will be in (contention for a playoff spot) in the region,’’ Campbell said. “Monroe is loaded, and Cairo is Cairo, but everyone else is in there. Every Friday night, you can’t have a letdown, and a point here, a point there could be the difference.’’
Nobody knows that better than Crisp County.
Cordele Dispatch sports editor Harvey Simpson contributed to this report.
Crisp County's 2012 season outlook
HEAD COACH: Lee Campbell (second season as head coach at Crisp, 17th season overall with stops in Montgomery County, Hawkinsville and Dodge City; 101-82-1 career coaching record).
2011 RECORD: 5-5.
ASSISTANT COACHES: Adam Turner (defensive coordinator/DL); Chad Averett (offensive coordinator/OL); Terry Smith (special teams/DBs); Kenneth Sanders (RBs); Cam Black (LBs); Barrett Wilkes (QBs); Jeff Wilson (WRs).
RETURNING STARTERS: Tony Alexander (Sr., OL); Sherrod Ruff (Sr., LB); Landon Whitman (Jr., TE); Breon King (Jr., OL); A.J. Mobley (Sr., WR); Keven Mygrant (Jr., RB); Roy Hamilton (Sr., RB); Trey Johnson (Sr., DE); Montel Richard (Sr., DB); Montre Hartage (So., DB); Alfred Patrick (So., LB); Elijah Johnson (Jr., DE).
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Monquailes Bembrey (Sr., WR); Jarvis Lavant (Jr., RB); George Almond (Jr., OL); Maynard Pickens (Jr., OL); Travis Buford (Jr., RB); Patrick Goodin (Sr., P/WR); Jaquavin Hicks (Sr., LB).
PLAYERS IN COLLEGE OR HIGHER: Jontavious Carter (WR/Miami); Marshall Taylor (DB, Miami at Ohio); Deviontae Lewis (LB, Coffeyville CC); Trevor Shealey (QB, Point University); Tracie Walker (LB, FVSU); Devaughn Smith (DE, FVSU); Dontavious Cook (LB, Kent State); Andre Ramsey (OL, Carolina Panthers).
2012 Crisp County Cougars’ schedule
Aug. 31 vs. Turner County, 8 p.m.
Sept. 7 at Cook, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Valdosta, 8 p.m.
Sept. 21 vs. Cairo, 8 p.m.
Sept. 28 at Dougherty, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 12 vs. Westover, 8 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Worth County, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 26 vs. Monroe, 8 p.m.
Nov. 2 vs. Albany, 8 p.m.
Nov. 9 at Americus-Sumter, 7:30 p.m.
-- BOLD denotes GHSA Region 1-AAAA game