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GHSA preview capsules (continued)

Seminole County

• CLASS/REGION: GHSA Class A, Region 1-A.

2012 RECORD: 9-3, won Region 1-A title, reached second round of Class A state playoffs.

• HEAD COACH: Alan Ingram (10th season as head coach, all at Seminole; assistant for 33 years before coming to Seminole).

• ASSISTANT COACHES: Steve Reese (RBs/DBs); Michael Savage (OL/DL); Danny Rambo (TEs); Johnny Roy Parks (DTs); Wes Williams (QBs/LBs).

• RETURNING STARTERS: Matt Williams (Sr., C/OT); Brandon Williams (Jr., RB/FB); Robert Speights (Sr., RB); Danny Rambo Jr. (Jr., WR); Justin Elijah (Sr., SE); Aaron Baskerville (Jr., TE); Javonte Smith (Sr., SB).

• KEY NEWCOMERS: Alex Travon Fudge (So., QB).

• LITTLE GUY WITH BIG HEART: Remember the name Alex “Travon” Fudge. That’d be Seminole’s new quarterback, and here’s what you need to know about this young anomaly: He’s a sophomore. He’s 5-foot-2. And he weighs 110 pounds soaking wet — with a sack of potatoes under his arm. Last year’s starter, Jakhari Martin, was 5-10, 180, so the change under center this offseason for Seminole has been dramatic, but Ingram couldn’t stop bragging on his new guy. “I’m not joking when I say this, I never thought I’d start a kid that small or ever see a kid that small start at quarterback. He’ll be lucky if he sees 5-4 by the time he’s done growing,” Ingram laughed. “I could seriously put this kid in my back pocket. But ya know what? He’s tough as nails. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a kid that small have as much heart as Fudge. He’s fast, can cut, runs the read-option well and we can roll him out to throw so he can actually see downfield — cause he can’t see over any line just about. And if we win region this year, it’ll be because of him. And I’ll push for him to be region Player of the Year. He started two games for us last year, both wins, and he is picking everything up real quick. He told me the other day at practice, ‘Coach, I’m gonna figure this all out one day, and when I do, it’s not gonna be me crying and getting hit anymore. Other people are gonna be crying.’”

• HUGE LOSS: That’d be sophomore returning running back Thomas Aiken, who is out indefinitely. Aiken was thrust into the lineup a year ago as a freshman after injuries to other players and responded in a big way with nearly 1,100 yards — and he hit numbers like that despite missing five games with injuries himself. Ingram would only say Aiken is not currently part of the team and the coach cited personal reasons, but he didn’t hesitate to acknowledge what a huge loss Aiken was. “He might be even better on defense, if you can believe that. He’s a hoss. An absolute hoss,” said Ingram, who didn’t rule out a return by Aiken at some point. “We’ll see what happens.”

• PLAYMAKER: That has to go to Fudge again. But it will only be the new QB if he can grasp the Indians’ option attack, which will feature a four-headed RB attack of Brandon Williams, Robert Speights, Justin Elijah and Javonte Smith, a split back who Ingram says could be the guy to break one for 80 yards. Although, Ingram also admitted with Aiken out, he doesn’t have that prototypical highlight-reel guy this year. “Maybe he’ll come, but right now we’re still trying to find him,” he said. “Javonte probably has the most potential right now. Then you have guys like (WRs) Danny Rambo and Tyler Peters who could also come up big downfield.”

• X-FACTOR: There isn’t one, says Ingram — at least not right now. “It’s so early and we don’t have a lot of experience, so our key is to get a few early wins, get some confidence and keep getting better.”

• FRIDAY’S 2013 SEASON OPENER AT HOME VS. CLASS AA EARLY COUNTY (7:30 P.M.): The Bobcats embarrassed the Indians last season in their opener, 55-20, when Seminole went all butter-fingers and had near double-digit turnovers in the loss. “We put that dadgum ball on the ground five or six times in the first half,” said Ingram, who expects another defensively-minded squad from Early this season. “They’ll be tough again. It’s your typical 4-4 defense and they’ve been running it for years. This is a big rivalry game, and they’ve beaten us two years in a row. They’re a hard, aggressive bunch. We have to be ready.”

Randolph-Clay

• CLASS/REGION: GHSA Class A, Region 1-A.

• 2012 RECORD: 5-5, missed state playoffs.

• COACH: Daniel McFather, 15th year as head coach, fifth at R-C; also coached at Lanier County for 8 years and Henry County for 2 years.

• ASSISTANT COACHES: Michael Adams (defensive coordinator); Michael Haufpair (DBs/WRs); Harvey Smith (DL/OL); Quan Alston (OL/DL); Marcus Adams (DBs).

• RETURNING STARTERS: Malik Murphy (Sr., C), Jacolby Thomas (Jr., RG); Marcus Teasely (So., OL); Ryan Wiggins (Sr., TE/S); Chris Jackson (Sr., OL); Quadarious Jones (Jr., OL); Caleb McFather (Sr., QB); Don Bolden (Sr., FB/LB); Cornelius Bennett (Sr., RB); Marquivious Bubba Paramore (Sr., S).

• KEY NEWCOMERS: Artie Lee (Jr., DE/RB); Trahmad Wiggins (Jr., SB/LB); Marcus Smith (Jr., SS); Morris Belcher (Jr., DE); Joshton Millsap (So., DT); Gary McCray (Jr., LB/WR/RB).

• EXPERIENCE A PLUS: Randolph-Clay has two terrific running backs – seniors Don Bolden and Cornelius Bennett – who have lit up the stat sheet the last couple of years, including several 200-plus-yard games. But that’s not where the “experience” factor comes in. That’s the Red Devils’ offensive line, which returns all five starters. Bolden rushed for 1,600 yards as a sophomore, while Bennett ran for 1,100. Bennett’s numbers went up last year just slightly (1,200), while Bolden’s dipped because R-C used him more on defense at linebacker. But with a line as big and tough as Randolph-Clay has this year, you can expect the Red Devils to churn out the yards down after down. “We’ve got the line to block and the running backs to bust long runs,” McFather said. “So we’re going to ride those two strengths all year.”

• KEY INJURIES: Receiver/linebacker/running back Gary McCray, one of the most intimidating players for the Red Devils at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, hurt his knee in last Friday’s scrimmage against Calhoun County (a 20-6 R-C win) and is questionable for Friday’s season opener against Hancock Central. McCray is also a Herald Super 6er in basketball and was the Red Devils’ leading scorer last season.

• PLAYMAKER: It could be Bennett or Bolden, but it’s more likely Bolden because he plays both ways so much. “He’s a heck of a running back, but he’s just as good — if not better — on defense,” McFather said of Bolden, who led the team in tackles last season. “But when he gets the ball in the back field, once he breaks it, no one catches him.”

• X-FACTOR: It’s not one side of the ball or any player here, the X-Factor for Randolph-Clay this year is simply playing sound football. The Red Devils fumbled four times during last Friday’s scrimmage and still managed to win, 20-6. But most times, that score would be reversed with so many turnovers. “It’s no secret we’re going to run, so we must hold onto the football,” McFather said. “I think our offense is good enough this year that we will put up enough points to win ball games, but we’ll never get that chance if we turn it over.”

• GOALS: Randolph-Clay is 17-23 in McFather’s four years as head coach, and for the first time he feels he has a team that can truly contend for the title in Region 1-A, one of the toughest Class A regions in the state. The coach hesitated to admit that he has mentioned to his team once or twice that this could be “their year,” but he says it has come up. “We’ve talked about it. Not a whole lot, but we’ve definitely talked about it. They know we have a lot of people coming back and we’re more experienced and healthy than ever before,” the coach said. “But that being said, I also remind my guys every day that to be champions and play for a championship, we have to practice every day like champions. If you’re hot, tired or banged up, you’ve got to let that go and think like a champion every day. The group has the potential, we just need to grow up a little more. And I think we will with every game. It’s all about believing we’re supposed to win the game every time we step on the field. We need to have that swagger.”

• SPOTLIGHT ON HANCOCK CENTRAL: McFather didn’t want to look past Friday’s 2013 opener, especially after Hancock whipped Randolph, 35-8, last season in their 2012 opener. “The way I look at it, it doesn’t get any bigger than this game,” McFather said. “If we can turn around and beat a team that beat us 35-8 last year, the confidence will be through the roof on this team. And, like I said, if we can get some early confidence with some wins in these (non-region) games, I think it will motivate these kids and this could be a special season.”

• FRIDAY’S SEASON OPENER AT HOME VS. CLASS A HANCOCK CENTRAL (7:30 P.M.): McFather says as confident as he is in his team, he knows Hancock has several weapons that concern him, namely a new running back he heard was dynamite. “We’re not sure where he came from, but he’s an explosive running back/receiver who we saw at a combine over the summer, and he ran a 4.3,” McFather said. “He’s out of this world. But he won’t be the only one. They run about four or five real good kids, their defense gets to the ball quick and they stay on their blocks. But I think if our line can get through their first wave, we should be able to have success against them.”

Calhoun County

• CLASS/REGION: GHSA Class A, Region 1-A.

• 2012 RECORD: 1-9.

• HEAD COACH: John Williams, 16th year as head coach at Calhoun; also was head coach at Randolph-Clay for two years.

• ASSISTANT COACHES: Tay Cody (DBs/offensive coordinator); Dedrick Wadley (defensive coordinator/OL); Brian Gaynes (special teams); Marcus Shaw (DBs/WRs).

• RETURNING STARTERS: Sharrod Williams (Jr., RB/LB); DaJohn Williams (Jr., QB/LB); Isaiah Hallmon (Sr., WR/FS); Deante Scott (Jr., RB/LB); Jalin Gray (So., OL/DL); Colby Gadson (So., OL/DL); James Ford (Sr., QB/DB); Christopher Moore (Sr., OL/DL).

• KEY NEWCOMERS: Anthony Johnson (So., TB); Jerrick Solite (So., DB).

• PLAYMAKER: RB/LB Sharrod Williams. Calhoun will go as far as Williams, the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder takes them. He led the team on both offense and defense last year with 80 solo tackles and four picks and recorded 700 yards on the ground. Of course, Calhoun won just one game last season — beating Berrien 35-26 in its season opener before losing nine straight — so Williams’ talents got lost on a struggling team last season. “He’s our guy, both on offense and defense,” head coach John Williams said. “He’s our playmaker and we need him to step up. When we lost to Randolph-Clay in our scrimmage last week, he was the only one who got us points (when he stripped the ball from a R-C running back) and took it to the house. That’s the kind of thing we’ll need from him all year.”

• X-FACTOR: Injuries. It’s very simple in Edison: With 28 total players who came out for varsity, any injury — even to a backup — can be a killer. “We just can’t afford it,” Williams said. “That’s our normal number we usually get to come out, and we needed everyone to stay healthy.”

• HELP FROM A PANTHER: Albany Panthers head coach Lucious Davis, who has led the franchise to two of the last three arena league titles, helped out with the program this summer after he and Williams became friends and began discussing football. Davis’ family lives back in Texas, so he won’t be a full-time fixture with the program, but when he’s in town, he can often be found in Edison lending a hand. “He’s been great and he’s showed us some things we think have really helped that we’re still trying to practice and perfect,” Williams said of Davis, a former New Mexico State star receiver. “I think the kids really took to him and learned from him.”

• FRIDAY’S SEASON OPENER AT CLASS AA BERRIEN (7:30 P.M.): John Williams has been making his defense work countless hours on stopping the run this week. Why? Because the Cougars are about to face a team in Berrien that has a new coach – and he loves to watch his guys gallop. Ed Pilcher, the legendary former Thomas County Central coach who left for Bainbridge five years ago, is back in the coaching ranks after accepting a new challenge at Berrien, which is year-in and year-out one of the cellar dwellers in the region with five total wins in the last three seasons. But Williams knows better than to think this will be the same Berrien team of ol’. “We’re about to face one of the best to ever coach in Southwest Georgia, and he’s got a history of turning programs around,” Williams said. “We’re hoping we can keep up, keep the game close and put ourselves in a position to win it.”

— Compiled by Danny Aller/danny.aller@albanyherald.com