Crisp Academy RB Justin McKinney runs the ball downfield during last Friday’s 19-0 scrimmage win against Sherwood Christian. McKinney will be a key cog in the Wildcats’ offensive attack this year. (Peggy Crenshaw/Cordele Dispatch)
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 Friday, we’ll take a closer look at WESTWOOD and TERRELL COUNTY. Enjoy!
CORDELE — Crisp Academy’s Wildcats have gotten good at learning on the fly.
For the fifth consecutive year, they’ll have a new coach, new faces and a new system to absorb. The lack of continuity within the program has led to a downturn in recent years — a trend the Crisp Academy seniors intend to reverse in 2012.
“We’ve basically had four different offenses in four years,” senior lineman Chip Posey said. “We have to scramble a little bit in the offseason to get everything learned, but our guys know how to play, and they’re starting to learn (the system).”
The man in charge is a 28-year coaching veteran who is looking to lay down some roots and bring stability to the Wildcats’ football family that once dominated GISA Class A a decade ago.
“With me looking to build something solid where I can stay a good long while, I think this is a great match both for the school and for me. The next time I leave coaching, I’m out of it for good,” said Crisp head coach Ron Drummonds, who replaces Mike Ellis after last season’s 5-5 finish.
Drummonds has been the head man at Calhoun County, Baker Academy in Hawkinsville, Macon County, Coosa High and Tiftarea, where he served as headmaster. Drummonds took some time off from football, but has returned in hopes of leading the Wildcats back to prominence.
“I’ve been the young coach looking to move up and willing to move on in order to do so,” Drummonds said. “Now, I’m an old coach looking for a place to get back into coaching and stay.”
Crisp, which last finished with a winning record in 2005, has just 23 players on the roster but much more experience than it had a year ago. Drummonds has opened up competition at nearly every position, even under center, where junior Jeff McKinney started last season. Now McKinney and fellow juniors Hunter Chambers and Jake Smith are all competing for the QB job.
The position battles will only help in getting the competitive juices flowing again in Cordele.
“You’ve got to earn your spot,” Posey said.
Drummonds likes what he’s seen thus far in preseason practice, especially in the backfield.
“We’ve got some pretty good people at the skill positions, including three young men challenging each other for the starting quarterback spot,” Drummonds said. “They’re all making it hard to reach a decision on who’ll get the job.”
At running back, Drummonds insists he has “a stable of good ones we’ll shuffle in and out trying to decide who does best.”
They include Justin McKinney, his brother Jeff McKinney, Chambers — who’ll be at running back if not at quarterback — Corey Stewart and John Wright.
The added experience and depth in the backfield is one of the team’s strengths.
“Last year we were young,” senior Justin McKinney said. “We had a bunch of freshmen. This year they’re going to be sophomores and a few juniors who will step up.”
Swapping out at fullback will be Matt Wright and Rush Brown.
Jordan Howard, a highly-touted baseball player who hasn’t participated in football for a while, will line up at tight end, while Will Krause and Banks Folsum will play at receiver in the Wildcats’ multiple formation offense.
Posey, Chris McGee, Chandler Larkin and Greyson Farrow will help anchor the offensive and defensive lines.
Drummonds said the defense continues to catch up with the progress of the offense, but the expectations remain high, especially after waving goodbye to two-time defending state champ Westwood in Region 2-A; the Wildcats from Camilla have moved up to AA.
“I’m just real excited about the prospects here,” Drummonds said. “We don’t have big numbers, but the kids have been working hard. The keys to how we eventually fare hinge upon staying away from penalties and turnovers and remaining healthy. Do that, and I feel confident that we have the chance to be successful. The kids and coaches are all excited at the thought of what lies ahead.”
Cordele Dispatch sports editor Harvey Simpson contributed to this report.
Crisp Academy’s 2012 season outlook
HEAD COACH: Ron Drummonds (first season as head coach at Crisp Academy, 15th season overall with head coaching stops in Calhoun County, Baker Academy in Hawkinsville, Macon County, Coosa High and Tiftarea).
2011 RECORD: 5-5.
ASSISTANT COACHES: Don Odom (WRs, DBs); Michael Miller (OL/DL).
RETURNING STARTERS: Chris Posey (Sr., OL/DL); Justin McKinney (Sr., LB/QB); Rush Brown (Sr., FB/DL); Jeff McKinney (Jr., QB/DB); Matt Wright (Jr., (FB/LB); Hunter Chambers (Jr., QB/DB); Banks Folsom (Jr., DB); James Wessel (Jr., OL/LB).
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Jordan Howard (Sr., TE/DE); Grayson Farrow (Jr., C); Will Krause (Jr., WR); Jake Smith (Jr., QB/DB); Corey Stewart (Sr., DE).
2012 Crisp Academy Wildcats’ schedule
Aug. 31 vs. Nathanael Greene, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 7 vs. John Hancock, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Covenant, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 28 vs. Terrell Academy, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 5 at Tiftarea, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 12 at Fullington, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Fredrica, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 26 vs. First Presbyterian, 8 p.m.
Nov. 2 at Robert Toombs, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 9 vs. Randolph Southern, 7:30 p.m.
-- BOLD denotes GISA Region 2-A game