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• CLASS/REGION: GHSA Region 1-A
• 2013 RECORD: 4-6; missed playoffs
• COACH: Jeremy Rayburn (1st season)
• RETURNING STARTERS: QB Algin Merritt (Sr., 5-11, 170); RB/LB Rod Williams (Sr., 6-0, 180); OL/LB Luke Sheffield (Sr., 5-10, 185); OL/DL Julius Figueroa (Sr., 6-0, 200); RB/DB JJ George (So., 5-7, 160); RB/LB Jakobe Cooper (So., 5-7, 180); WR/DB Tim Clay (Sr., 5-11, 150)
• TOP NEWCOMERS: WR/DB Cody Chapman (Jr., 5-10, 180), OL/DL GJ Douglas (Fr., 5-10, 250)
• 2014 SCHEDULE:
Aug. 29 — Marion County
Sept. 5 — Early County
Sept. 12 — at Pelham
Sept. 19 — at Seminole County
Sept. 26 — at Baconton Charter
Oct. 3 — Randolph-Clay
Oct. 18 — at Mitchell County
Oct. 24 — Calhoun County
Oct. 31 — at Schley County
Nov. 7 — Terrell County
• NEW COACH, NEW ATTITUDE: Jeremy Rayburn is ready to bring some swagger back to Miller County.
The Pirates finished below .500 last season for just the second time since 2006, and first-year coach Rayburn, who is taking over for longtime coach Frank Killingsworth, wants to return Miller County to the top of the Region 1-A food chain.
“I’m trying to bring a positive attitude here that seems to be lacking,” said Rayburn, who coached at Mary Persons High School for seven years and is also a former coach and player at Thomasville. “I want to create a culture where these kids want to be a part of this program. I want to give them something to look forward to.”
Under Killingsworth, who is now an assistant coach at Early County, the Pirates ran a Wing-T offensive formation and an eight-man front on defense. Rayburn is moving to a 4-3 defensive formation and will give the offense several different looks.
“We will be an I/shotgun/pistol team that runs the football first and sets up the pass with the run,” he said.
Rayburn will run the offense, and former Chattahooche County defensive coordinator Chad Martin will direct the defense.
• MERRITT-BASED OFFENSE: Senior quarterback and three-year starter Algin Merritt was one of Region 1-A’s top offensive players as a junior but might be on the verge of a breakout 2014 season.
The dual-threat QB didn’t miss a day of summer workouts and has impressed Rayburn in the early stages of his senior season.
“We are building our offense around him,” Rayburn said. “I told him that he is going to be the QB and that he is going to have to be the man. He’s worked hard to get there and is trying to be the leader of this team. The kids have responded well to him.”
Sophomore running back JJ George will complement Merritt out of the backfield.
“It will be those two,” Rayburn said. “(George) is one of those guys who isn’t very tall, but he is solid. I think he will be a good inside runner but also has the speed to run stuff outside and be elusive, too.”
George is one of several younger players who will be called on to play big roles for the Pirates. Rayburn currently has 32 players on his roster but only 12 are seniors or juniors.