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2013 GHSA preview capsules

Terrell County

• CLASS/REGION: Class A/Region 1-A.

• 2012 RECORD: 5-5, missed playoffs.

• COACH: William Huff (17th year at Terrell County, 15 as head coach, two as an assistant).

• ASSISTANT COACHES: Raphael Kirby (RBs/LBs/special teams); Pat Cuff (WRs/DBs/OC); Juan Diaz (OL/DL); Terance Moon (OL/DL); Jack Harris (LBs).

• RETURNING STARTERS: Joe Ward (Sr., SE/DBs); Jutori Jones (Sr., RB/QB/DBs); Alteriek Caldwell (Sr., DE).

• KEY NEWCOMERS: Ki’undre Vanover (Jr., DL); Keontae Terry (Jr., OL/DE); Derrick Williams (Sr., RB).

• JONESING FOR JONES: Look, any time you lose a player the caliber of Jerkerious Scott — Terrell County’s electric senior quarterback who moved on to Division I-AA UT-Chattanooga — there’s no replacing him. Or is there? That’s where senior running back/quarterback/defensive back Jutori Jones comes in. He doesn’t have Scott’s 4.3 40-yard dash speed, but it’s close. He rushed for 940 yards last season and scored seven times in an offense that was geared around Scott making all the plays. Jones has the potential to go above and beyond 1,500 yards this season in a Greenwave offense that’s going to be geared toward the run at first as Terrell County breaks in a freshman — yes, freshman — starting quarterback in Trey Bishop. The workload will fall on Jones, who may also come in during set packages at quarterback, and Huff says his leader is ready to carry this young team — which returns just six total starters — as it matures from game-to-game. “He’s so talented athletically, we have to use him all over the field,” Huff said of Jones. “He’s had the ball in his hands for over three years now, and when he gets the ball he just makes it look so effortless. We look for a big year from him.”

• NOT THE NORM: Outside of Bainbridge — a Class AAAAA school — no other program lost as many people last season than Terrell County, which has a far smaller pool to pull from in Class A. The Bearcats returned just four starters, while the Greenwave return only six. And that’s unusual, says Huff, but it’s not an obstacle his team can’t overcome. “It’s the most in recent years, for sure. It’s unusual to lose that many starters, but with that being said, we feel good about who we have to put out on the field this year,” the coach said. “There’s going to be some growing pains, that’s natural, but they won’t overshadow our goal. We have the same expectations to make the playoffs, so it doesn’t matter the experience level. We’ve got to play hard and hopefully we can overcome those growing pains. But we’re not worried about them not having minutes under their belts. We feel prepared.”

• LINE UP!: Huff doesn’t attempt to hide the secret that there are two question marks on this year’s team — and they both have the word “line” in them. “Our strengths are that we will be balanced in our offensive and defensive attack, (but the imbalance) there is on our offensive line and our linebackers. Our line may struggle some and our linebackers are all new, but we’ve got to pick them up and have a total team effort to be victorious. We’re solid on our D-line, our defensive backs and our playmakers (on offense), but we need those other guys to come along quick, and I think they will.”

• FORGET ABOUT THE PAST: From Day 1 of practice, Huff has been telling his team that it’s a new day in Dawson and last year’s senior-laden team means it’s time to turn over a new leaf and thus change the philosophy. “We can’t be a team centered around one guy like we were last year. We have to change some things, the philosophy for example, and all take on more responsibility,” Huff said.

• X-FACTOR: It has to be Trey Bishop, the Greenwave’s freshman QB. Bishop “was a standout” last year on the middle school team. But that was middle school. This is high school, and it’s Class A smash-mouth football. The positives surrounding Bishop are strong: He has a good arm, and he’s already 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds and will only get bigger, faster and stronger. Plus he’s known he would probably be the guy to replace Scott, so he’s been prepared for this role before he ever took his first class at Terrell County High School. The negatives? Well, he’s never played a down of football at the varsity level. “We’re going to try and bring him along as quick as we can, but make no mistake that he wouldn’t be our quarterback as a freshman if we didn’t think he could handle it,” Huff said. “We’ll give him more and more responsibility as time goes on, but early on we’ll just look for him to master the little things and get some snaps under his belt before we heap more on him.”

• TONIGHT’S 2013 SEASON OPENER VS. CLASS A MARION COUNTY (7:30 P.M.): “Marion is coming off a region championship, and they’ll be balanced offensively and defensively again,” Huff said of what to expect in tonight’s season opener. “We lost to them last year at their place (24-12 to open the season), so we’re excited to get another shot. It’s going to be a tough contest. But then again, all of our non-region games (at Chattahoochee County, vs. Central, Talbotton and at Schley County) are going to be tough. That’s the way we want it before we get into region.”

Crisp County

• CLASS/REGION: GHSA Class AAAA, Region 1-AAAA

• 2012 RECORD: 3-7, finished tied for fourth in region play but missed the playoffs after losing a tie-breaker to Worth County.

• HEAD COACH: Lee Campbell (third year at Crisp and 18th year overall as head coach)

• ASSISTANT COACHES: Chad Averett (OC/OL), Adam Turner (DC/DL), Terry Smith (Special Teams/DBs), Kenneth Sanders (RBs), Barrett Wilkes (QBs), Jeff Wilson (WRs), Cam Black (LBs).

• RETURNING STARTERS: Witt Campbell (QB, Jr.), Breon King, (Sr., OT), JT Black (So., C), George Almond (Sr., OL), Rashad Buckholts (Sr., OL), Landon Whitman (Sr., WR), Keven Mygrant (Sr., RB), Kaaun Daniels, (Jr., DE), Elijah Johnson (Sr., DL), Gregory Harvey (Jr., LB), Alfred Patrick (Jr., LB), Montre’ Hartage (Jr., DB), Jarvis Lavant (Sr., DB), Elijah Lee (Sr., DB), KJ Bryant (So., S).

• KEY NEWCOMERS: Jarkevious Glover (Jr., RB/LB), Aquarian Coley (So., DB), Demond Troup (So., DB), Van Carden (So., OL).

SO CLOSE: In Lee Campbell’s first two years in Cordele, the Cougars have fallen agonizingly short of the playoffs, losing tie-breakers in both seasons that kept them from advancing. But with 15 returning starters, 2013 could be the season that the Cougars, who started last year 1-7 before rallying to win their last two games, finally break through. “Last year we were a team that was really, really young, and we could have folded the tent up because it didn’t start well,” Campbell said. “The biggest thing we saw last year is that we got better each week and won those last two games when we could have easily packed it in and gave up.”

• PLAYMAKER: Montre’ Hartage. The 175-pound junior will be the anchor of the secondary and can be a lock-down corner — which will come in handy when the Cougars go against QBs from teams like Valdosta, Monroe and Americus-Sumter. “He has the fundamentals and is a great cover corner,” Campbell said. “He can be a lock-down corner and is a good tackler.”

• X-FACTOR: Witt Campbell. The junior quarterback and head coach’s son has developed immensely since starting last year as a sophomore and is expected to improve on his 1,000 passing yards from the previous season. “Witt’s arm has gotten a lot stronger,” Lee Campbell said. “He will be running the ball more and has good speed.” The Cougars will be throwing in a lot of read option into their running game, and much of that responsibility falls on the shoulders of Witt Campbell, who will be asked to make calls on the fly.

• TONIGHT’S SEASON OPENER AT CLASS A TURNER COUNTY (7:30 P.M.): Last year Turner County shut down Crisp in a 6-0 season opener, and the host Rebels are led this season by first-year coach John Gamble, who runs a no-huddle, wide-open offense. “Whenever a team gets a new coach, there is going to be some new energy,” Campbell said. “They are going to have some really good skill players, and we are going to have to contain those players.”

Americus-Sumter

• CLASS/REGION: Class AAAAA/Region 1-AAAAA.

2012 RECORD: 4-6, missed the playoffs.

• HEAD COACH: Reggie Mitchell (first year at Americus-Sumter, sixth season overall as head coach — three years at Albany High and two at Sherwood Christian).

• ASSISTANT COACHES: Cedric Stegall (DC, assistant head coach); Mark Daniel (offensive coordinator); Brandon Courson (RBs); Oscar Ellis (QBs); Antwone Savage (WRs); Kedrick Thomas (LBs); Andre Slappey (DL); Jason Reese (OL); Mark Prater (LBs); Ernest Scott (WRs); Carl Willis (special teams); Darren Samas (assistant coach/DL).

• RETURNING STARTERS: Jonathan Thomas (Sr., QB/DB); Wesley Fields (Sr., RB); DJ Harris (Sr., WR); Dylan Morgan (Sr., WR); Johnathan Leverett (Sr., OL); Henry Battle (Sr., OL); Mike Russell (Sr., WR/RB); Damion Jones (Sr., DT); David Tyson III (Jr., DE); Q’Nealus Bell (Sr., LB); Eric Merritt (Sr., LB); Jaylen Harris (Sr., CB); Deandre Holmes (Sr., FS).

• KEY NEWCOMERS: Kyshon Davis (Jr., TE); Leonard Williams (Jr., OT); George Woods (Sr., FB); Tyler Clark (So., DT); Xavier Mitchell (Jr., LB); Kwuntavious Jackson (Sr., DE).

• NEW GUY IN TOWN: Coach Mitchell came into a tough situation in Americus, where the head coach was fired midseason and the assistant who took over was not retained after inheriting a 4-1 Panthers team and losing five straight to close out the season. The result was a 4-6 record and a seat on the bench in the postseason for the Panthers, who turned to former area head coach Reggie Mitchell (Albany, Sherwood) to take over. Like any new hire, Mitchell admits there was was backlash to his hire, but in the four months since the announcement was made Mitchell has made quite the impression, he feels. “The players have bought in, so that was most importantly first, and I think the fans see what we’re doing in practice when they come and watch and they like the direction we’re heading,” the coach said. “The reaction from the community — there was people skeptical at first, and that’s fine — but those same people have seen us working hard and I think are willing to give (this new coaching staff) a chance. And that’s all we can ask for. As I’ve told everyone, we’re not just building for now, we’re building for the future. We want to have longevity here, do some great things and make this program successful once again.”

• PLAYMAKER(S): That’d be Jonathan Thomas and Wesley Fields. Take your pick. They’re both athletic and talented — and will both be playing at the next level in a year. Fields, who is 5-foot-1, 215 pounds, is coming off a 1,200-yard season — and that’s with missing the final two games due to injury. Thomas (6-0, 195) is slotted as the QB, but he’s so versatile, he will be moved out to receiver some and allow backup QB T.J. Harris — who Mitchell says as looked “really good” during preseason practice — a chance to become a third playmaker. Of course, Thomas is also a lock-down defensive back and will be as big of a part of the defense, as is on offense. Mitchell said Fields is being recruited by “just about everybody” and Thomas is getting looks from Middle Tennessee, Marshall and Georgia Southern. “We’ve got some guys who can make plays this year,” Mitchell said confidently. “We have no shortage of that.”

• X-FACTOR: Americus’ offensive and defensive line. Mitchell said he can’t stress enough how nothing on offense or defense will work unless this year’s line plays great. They return some experience with guys like Johnathan Leverett (Sr., OL) and Henry Battle (Sr., OL) on offense and Damion Jones (Sr., DT) and David Tyson III (Jr., DE) on defense — but there’s also plenty of inexperience. Mitchell says he knows what the team needs. “We need to gel. It’s as simple as that,” he said. “If we do that, we’ll be successful.”

• PANTHERS RECEIVERS ARE “SAVAGE”: Antwone Savage, the former Westover, Oklahoma Sooners and Albany Panthers star receiver, joined the coaching staff this offseason as the WRs coach — and the results have been nothing short of amazing, says Mitchell. “I can’t explain how thrilled I am to have him. The little bit of time he spent with the kids his first few days made me realize how good he was going to be for this program and these players,” said Mitchell of Savage, who won a national title at Oklahoma and two arena league championships with the Panthers. “Just the drills he’s doing and the knowledge he’s imparting is invaluable. He brings a log of energy to the team, and he works hard. We couldn’t ask for anything more.”

• TONIGHT’S 2013 SEASON OPENER AT HOME VS. KENDRICK (7:30 P.M.) Tonight’s season opener starts a stretch of five straight home games for the Panthers – a schedule that’s almost unheard of in high school football. But the Panthers will pay their dues later when they have to play arguably their three toughest games of the year — Westover, Monroe and Cairo — back-to-back-to-back, and all of those games are on the road. But Mitchell doesn’t want to look past tonight against Kendrick – even though he’s very aware of what awaits. “We’ll have to be the road warriors this year if we want to succeed. Five games at home is great, but those three on the road are going to be tough,” he said. “But we can’t look ahead right now. (Tonight) is all about Kendrick, and we don’t know much about them. They came to see our scrimmage against Lee County, but then theirs got canceled because of weather, so they have film on us and we haven’t seen anything on them. So the way we’ve prepared all week is just to throw everything at the kids to prepare them for almost any kind of scenario. And once we see what they’re going to do, we as a coaching staff will adjust accordingly.”

Early County

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

2012 RECORD: 9-4, reached GHSA Class AA state quarterfinals.

COACH: Trey Wolfe, 13th year as head coach, all at Early County.

• ASSISTANT COACHES: Kerry Morris (defensive coordinator); Craig Storey (assistant head coach/OL); Randy Isom (DBs); Josh Storey (OL); Michael Allred (DL); Chris Lamb (RB); Turner Floyd (WR).

• RETURNING STARTERS: Akil Teal (Sr., DE); Fred Horn (Sr., LB); Jatavis Lyles (Sr., LB); K.J. Wynn (Sr., CB); Fred Means (So., CB); Antonio Jackson (Sr., FS).

• KEY NEWCOMERS: Ranaldo WIlliams (Sr., DE); Jarquavious Smith (Sr., LB); Randy Wade (So., DL); Jawuan Ofton (So., DL); Jay Ofton (Sr., OL); Zach Williams (Sr., OL); John Walker (Sr., OL); Jalyn Bryant (Sr., RB); Shaq Mills (Sr., WR); Logan Bertrand (Sr., WR); Trent Mock (Sr., WR); Lorenzo Davis (Sr., WR); Miles Norman (So., QB); Tyrek Lyles (Jr., RB).

• REPLACING JACORI: Miles Norman is the man tasked with replacing Herald Player of the Year runner-up Jacori Taylor, who lit up the region and state last season with highlight after highlight to the tune of 1,933 yards passing and 19 TDs, and he rushed for 899 yards on 179 carries and ran for seven TDs. Norman, a sophomore, was a standout on JV last season, but he will be asked to perform a very different role this season than Taylor. “He’s young right now, so we’re not asking him to do all the things we’d normally ask of our quarterback —- not right now, anyway,” Wolfe said. “The good thing for him is that our line is getting better every day, so that should help him get comfortable quickly.”

• FEARS EASED: Wolfe admits that before preseason practice started he was “pretty concerned” about his offensive line, but in the last two months he’s been amazed at how much “stronger and quicker they’ve gotten.” Added Wolfe: “I’ve been very impressed with their progress, but now we just have to see how they do under the lights on Friday night.”

• PLAYMAKERS: Don’t ask Wolfe who his playmakers are this year —- because he doesn’t have any idea. “Lord, I don’t know,” he laughed. “We’ve got three solid backs who will run the Wing-T, and they’re all good. So it’s hard to pick any one of them out,” he said. “But again, our line will have to be good for anyone to be a playmaker. If they don’t block, it don’t matter who you put back there.”

• TONIGHT’S 2013 SEASON OPENER AT CLASS A SEMINOLE COUNTY (7:30 P.M.): The Bobcats thumped the Indians a year ago, 55-20, and will be out for revenge. Wolfe welcomes it because with this being an early, non-region contest, he wants as tough of a test as possible. “What a great test to start the season. Seminole is a hard-nosed, come-right-at-you kind of team that plays the same kind of football we do,” he said. “And they’re just the first of four tough, non-region tests for us (vs. Miller County, at Bainbridge and vs. Calhoun County), and any one of those games will give us an idea of where we stand.”