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AUGUST 27, 2003


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Let the season begin
Leopards to host Oglethorpe in opening of football season
With a lead late into the fourth quarter, Banks County had a shot at winning their opening game last year.
But a failure to convert on a third down play and a bad punt snap put Oglethorpe within just a few short yards of winning. The Patriots stuck it in and won.
This season, the Leopards hope to take the win over Oglethorpe to christen the new stadium.
“We’re ready to start playing people,” head coach Greg Moore said.
Banks has spent the past six weeks practicing, competing in two scrimmages to try out the team’s playbook.
The Patriots are coming off a seven-game losing streak to close out the 2002 season. They have lost their starting quarterback to graduation, a senior who put the ball in the air a lot.
This year, Oglethorpe will be putting one of two sophomore quarterbacks under center.
But the team does have lots of speed on both offense and defense.
“They’ve got real big-play capability,” Moore said. “They’ve got good speed which means they can turn the game around real quick.”
One of the Patriots key assets this season is 6’1”, 225 pound tailback David Davenport. The back, who also doubles as a linebacker, started at center for the JV team last year.
“He’s real big and strong and a good runner,” Moore said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to slow him down.”
The Patriots will likely put on three senior starters on the field, as compared to a team full for the Leopards.


Hometown Kid Makes Good
Commerce’s Michael Collins To Take Field For Clemson Tigers
The last time Michael Collins donned pads for a football game, he was helping Commerce secure one of the school’s most cherished gridiron wins — a state championship clinching victory over Buford in front of an overflow Tiger Stadium crowd of 8,000 or so fans.
But Commerce assistant football coach Rex Gregg always knew there would be a larger stage in store for the standout athlete.
He was right.
Collins, a two-sport star regarded as one of the best all-round athletes to play at Commerce, will lineup for the Clemson Tigers Saturday at wide receiver in his long-awaited collegiate debut in front of more than 83,000 fans at Memorial Stadium in Clemson’s high noon showdown with defending Southeastern Conference champion Georgia.
“Oh, yeah, I always knew that ‘Mikey’ would make it in either football or basketball,” Gregg recalled. “He worked hard, he had good skills, he had the character traits, he was a good student. He had everything you needed.”
It’s been a long, winding road for Collins.
A highly-touted prospect coming out of Commerce, School, Collins, to no fault of his own, hasn’t been eligible to play in an official football game for nearly three years after sitting out a redshirt year at Tennessee in 2001 and then sitting out again in 2002 due to NCAA rules when he transferred to Clemson.
So consider him eager to end that hiatus Saturday when afternoon rolls around.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said in a telephone interview Sunday evening. “I’m just glad to be back playing again. It’s going to be a new experience. I haven’t had that in a while.”
The popular former Tiger’s debut will be particularly meaningful to several in Commerce, especially Gregg, who was also Collins’ basketball coach.
“It will be a thrill for our whole family — my wife and my son. Mikey’s kind of like one of our own,” Gregg explained. “My wife’s from Seneca, S.C. and she kind of bleeds orange so she’s more thrilled than anybody. But I’m really just excited for Michael. He’s really worked hard for three years.”
Tiger head coach Steve Savage, who coached the receiver/quarterback from 1997-2000, said Collins has paid his dues to get to where he is today and can now has a chance to find his niche at Clemson.
“I think that he ought to be able to fit with that group,” he said. “They like him and he likes them and he fits into their scheme up there. I think he should do fine.”
A prime passing target at 6’3,” Collins will be part of a solid Tiger receiving corps this year that includes returning starters Kevin Youngblood, Airese Currie and Derrick Hamilton. Collins should see some playing time in that mix given Clemson’s pass happy offense which often features four receiver sets.
“We’re in a really tight rotation now,” Collins explained. “Hopefully it will be like that all year long and it can be an advantage for us.”
Collins has seen the Georgia Bulldogs from a distance the past two seasons while he sat out. Tennessee met Georgia in 2001 during his redshirt year while Clemson played the Bulldogs last season in his transfer year.
Now, after watching for two seasons, he looks to see his first playing time against the school from which he grew up 15 minutes away.
“That really doesn’t make a difference,” he said of the tie to home. “I’m treating it just like it’s another football game. There’s nothing personal against Georgia or anything.”
Some friendly faces from Northeast Georgia will be among the masses at Clemson’s “Death Valley” Saturday as several family, friends and former coaches will make the short trip up I-85 to watch him play, including Gregg and Savage.
Gregg expects the experience to be a memorable one.
“It’s going to be a thrill seeing him run down that hill,” Gregg said.


Seeking redemption
After stumbling to Franklin Co. in last year’s opener, MCHS looks
to start 2003 on the right foot
Raider head coach Tom Hybl isn’t sure what kind of effect last year’s 7-6 season opening loss to Franklin County had on the rest of the 2002 season.
But he is sure of one thing — it’s certainly not how he wants to start this year.
Madison County turned the ball over five times last August and missed a key two-point conversion in the one-point upset loss to the Lions which came into the game on the heels of a 1-9 season in 2001.
“I’m not sure what it did to us last year,” he said. “We had a good chance to beat these folks and we throw the ball on the ground five times and miss a two-point conversion.”
Hybl said it’s important that the team gets off to a better start this time when it treks to Franklin County this Friday night for a 7:30 matchup with the Lions.
“It’s a new deal, a new season,” he said. “I know our seniors would like to get things started in the right direction. That’s difficult to do when you’re having to go on the road the first week.”
Madison County’s quest to start 2003 off with a win will come against a Franklin County program that is showing signs of returning to the solid foundation it had under Jeff Davis who coached in Carnesville for 20 years.
After dropping to 1-9 under Bobby McAllister after David left, the team rallied last year under first-year coach Danny Durham, beating the Raiders the first night out which sparked a four-game improvement in 2002 over the previous year.
With solid support from an already football-strong community, Durham believes things are moving in the right direction now for the program.
“Anytime you can improve on your record, it’s a success,” he said. “We’ve got a long way to go in a lot of areas, but I do consider it a success.”
Franklin County has reason for optimism this year as it returns several key players on both sides of the ball including senior quarterback Tyler Eavenson who is back to direct the Lions’ option attack and defensive lineman Brandon Akers and linebacker Rocky Farrow who highlight the Franklin County defense.
“They’ve got most everybody back up front and they’ve got their quarterback and fullback so they’ll be quite accomplished on offense and they do a great job of running the option,” Hybl explained. “Defensively, they’ll be hung up front. We’ll have a hard time handling them there.”
Hybl said he anticipates similar type contest as last year between the two schools, one that will be decided ultimately on who plays poised, fundamental football — something he said his group failed to a year ago.
“I expect it to be a real good football game with a team we matchup similarly with athlete-wise,” he said. “It’s all a matter of who comes to play and who executes.”
Durham said this year’s Raider football team is similar to the one that was a play or two away from defeating his team last season.
“Just like last year, Madison County’s a physical team, they’re hard-nosed,” he said. “The type of offense they run is hard to prepare for because it’s unique. They moved the ball on us last year. They had a couple of fumbles and without that, we don’t win that football game.”
SCRIMMAGE NOTES
Hybl said his group saw a much better opponent Friday night in Madison County’s scrimmage against Washington-Wilkes.
The Raiders were clipped 14-13 but the majority of both team’s first-stringers were out of the scrimmage after halftime.
“The team we faced was an a lot better football team that we saw in our first scrimmage,” he said. “It showed because we didn’t tackle well against the more athletic guys and we didn’t block well. It was a good example for us to look at. We’ve got a lot of room to improve.”
Hybl pointed out that they did get to work on some special teams play and was impressed with those results.
Highlights included a long punt by Travis Calloway and a return to midfield on a kick off by Tyler Johnson.
“I though our kicking game was pretty good,” he said. “Calloway did a good job punting, Johnson had a good kickoff return and I thought our coverage teams did good.”
Hybl added that we was impressed with the play of defensive ends Anthony Tilton and Garrett Hochstetler and to an extent, the Raider running backs.
“I thought our backs did a good job running the ball, I don’t know that the backs blocked all that well for each other though. We’ll have some things to work on this week.”

Panthers travel to Winder-Barrow to kick-off regular season
The worrying is nearly done, the dog days of summer training camp have now passed and Friday night fever is once again ready to explode in the GHSA.
All that’s left is for high school football teams to suit up and butt heads, which is exactly what will happen this week as the 2003 season kicks off.
Locally all three Jackson County teams will be in action, but none have perhaps been as eager to begin the new season as much as Jackson County.
After suffering through a miserable 0-10 season last year the Panthers have been busy. Whether it has been spending countless hours in the weight room, busting their humps on the practice field or going over various game tapes on their own, the 2003 squad has had last season’s disappointment in the back of their mind all the time.
“It’s a chance to see how far you’ve come in your off-season program and see whether we have made some strides,” said second-year Jackson County head football coach Brent Brock.
Brock’s team travels to Winder-Barrow this Friday to take on the Bulldoggs in a battle of recent cellar-dwellers in Region 8-AAAA the past few seasons.
It presents a meeting for two similar programs, each looking to improve on the past and build some tradition. With just one win between the two schools last season (Winder-Barrow was 1-9 overall with their only victory coming against the Panthers) something has got to give Friday night.
“I think there are a lot of similarities that I see between the two of us,” second-year Winder-Barrow coach Brian Allison explained. “We’ve both been down the last few years and we’re both trying to right the ship and build.”
His counterpart with the Panthers agrees.
“I do think that there very much are some real similarities between us,” Brock said. “Coach Allison has done a great job over there and they’re like us, trying to improve and get better each and every year.”
With some 15 seniors on their squad the Bulldoggs definitely appear to have an advantage in experience come Friday night. But, they’ll be going up against a squad that only loses five seniors from a season ago in the Panthers. For Jackson County though there’s a bit of an attitude change heading into this season say’s Brock.
“A year ago we really weren’t confident as a football tam but this year because of some of the types of things we have done in the off-season we can go into the game knowing what it takes for us to be successful.’
What it will likely take, he says, is the usual formula his team strives for to achieve success.
“It’s going to be very important for us to take care of the fundamentals and secure the football offensively,” Brock explained. “And then we have to be able to come out and limit the big play on defense.”


Dragons to open season Friday at Apalachee
The first games of the season can be a bit puzzling for football coaches, as they try to make the transition from the preseason to the regular season as smooth as possible. Such is the case Friday night when Jefferson and Apalachee will square off in the opening game of the 2003 season for both teams.
With players at key positions from last season now gone for both teams, Friday’s game could be determined by which squad fills their voids the best. But in the eyes of Jefferson head coach Bill Navas the secret for his team will be something they can control.
“We’re just going to have to out-work them, that’s it,” Navas said.
On offense, Jefferson will have to cope with starting quarterback J. Wood’s absence Friday, as the junior is out with an ankle injury. Filling in for him is sophomore Wade Johnson.
“He had a good scrimmage the other night and we feel good about things with him in there,” Navas said of Johnson.
Johnson is one of several players hoping to replace departed seniors from 2002’s game. He will look to fill the void left by last year’s starter Brantley Gilbert, fullback Brandon Vinson looks to fill the void of the departed Jeremy Smith and a young group on the line will have to contend with a run-stopping Wildcat scheme across the ball as well.
Although they have 19 upperclassmen at starting positions, Apalachee is also not without the need to fill voids. Gone are last season’s quarterback, Mike Odie and leading wing back Will Jackson.
Odie threw for 159 yards on 13-for-25 passing last season but Jefferson still won 27-19 at home. Tailback Bobby Duncan, a four-year starter, was the arguably the most impressive player on the field a season ago and if the Class AA Wildcats are to enact revenge for last season’s defeat, Duncan will likely be a key player for them. The tailback had a solid all-around performance a season ago with 123 yards receiving and 68 yards on the ground.
“He’s an awesome player,” Navas explained. “We’re going to have to execute on defense (to stop him)...but we’re familiar with their offense (the Wing-T) because we run it.”
Defensively the Wildcats tend to focus on the run according to their coach Brian Moore. Their defensive scheme is headed up by tackle Wesley Smith and linebackers Julian Miniard and Jasper Jackson, both juniors.
For Jefferson the linebackers will look to set the tempo defensively as Vinson, Tito Moon and Montray Riley head up a solid trio at that position. But a young line in front of them will also have to contend with an experienced group across the ball.
During the 27-19 Dragon victory the Wildcats were plagued by poor handling of the football as three turnovers in their first four possessions led to a 21-0 Jefferson lead in the second quarter. Apalachee responded with 19 points of their own, but proved that winning the turnover battle is often what can make or break a team.
“They’re a very good football team and they look solid on both sides of the ball,” said Moore. “They definitely run it well, so we’ll need to control the line of scrimmage to be successful.”

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