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2014 high school football preview: North Forsyth

Young talent boosts Raiders' confidence despite turnover

POSTED: August 20, 2014 6:30 a.m.
Micah Green/Forsyth County News

North Forsyth seniors Logan Cross (from left), Brinley Rhys and Mason Quarles hope to get the Raiders back to the state playoffs despite losing nine seniors on defense.

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It’s not often that a team has to replace two starting quarterbacks at the same time, but that’s what North Forsyth must do heading into the 2014 season.

Harris Roberts, who held down the starting job since his sophomore year, suffered a broken collarbone in the Raiders’ sixth game last season. Cody Gottberg, the team’s punter, stepped in and amassed 972 total yards and 10 touchdowns (four rushing) on the way to Second Team All-County honors. Neither returns.

Because of head coach Jason Galt’s double wing system, a run-heavy offense that seeks to create number advantages on the line of scrimmage with two tight ends, two ‘wing backs’ and one fullback, North’s quarterback void could be a non-issue. The Raiders must replace All-County offensive guards Michael Carter and Derrick Roughton and center Clay Barton, but offensive tackle Jackson Bardall (Jr., 6-4, 295) provides a road-grading presence.

Galt started using the double wing system as the head coach at Henry County’s Dutchtown High School seven years ago after observing a pattern with the most consistent, good teams in Georgia.

"I realized, the longer I coached, that there were certain teams making runs in the state playoffs every year," Galt said. "They usually had good athletes, but they all did three things: played great defense, were sound on special teams, and ran the football. We may pass the ball only three or four times a game, but I’d rather win 12-7 or 14-13."

North lost nine starters from last year’s defense that allowed 19.1 points per game, including All-County standouts Jerret Paige and Joshua Petz.

"For what we’ll be lacking in experience on defense, we’ll make up for in athleticism," Galt said. "This is our second year in the system. Everyone is much more comfortable with what we’re trying to do and can just play, instead of thinking."

Now that North is settled in Class AAAAAA, Galt believes the Raiders are poised to enjoy success similar to what they enjoyed from 1999-2001, a run that included 30 wins and a trip to the 2001 Class AAA state semifinals. Whether Galt’s program can replicate a run that deep remains to be seen.

Offense

North brings back a stable of young running backs, led by Zac Slaton (Jr., 5-7, 140), the team’s leading rusher last season.

"We’re going to feed Zac the ball," Galt said.

Jesus Torres, who Galt described as one of the fastest players on the North roster (4.5-second 40), slides over from defense to carry the ball. Raiders’ coaches love the athletic ability of Jeffrey Rice, Griffin Heffington and Simon Holcomb, all varsity newcomers. Joseph Morone (Sr.) transferred from North Atlanta High School and should see playing time.

Junior quarterback Jacob Bailey (6-2, 210) takes the reins at quarterback and could be an ideal fit in the double wing.

"He’s going to be a load," Galt said. "It’s like having a big tailback there. He can punish people."

Colton Miller (Sr.), a Second Team All-County selection at wide receiver (26 receptions, 337 yards, three touchdowns), is a reliable target when North does throw the ball. Both starting tight ends, Tony Hudson and Jake Hubbard, return.

Jackson Bardall — perhaps the best offensive lineman in the county and only a junior — leads North’s physical offensive line play. The Raiders used Bardall at fullback at times last season. It was a scary sight. Andrew Johnson (Sr.) mans the other offensive tackle position.

Defense

Besides quarterback, North’s main question is how effective nine new starters prove on defense.

Galt, naturally, is optimistic.

"Our philosophy is to play our best players on defense," he said. "We use a ton of pre-snap movement, blitzes, stunts and rolled coverages. Usually, the average high school quarterback and offensive line is not able to handle that."

Brinley Rhys (Sr., 6-2, 220) earned honorable mention All-County honors at defensive end with a 41-tackle, 1.5-sack campaign. Jamal Davenport (Sr., 6-0, 230) moves from running back, where he gained 435 yards and scored four touchdowns last season, to defensive tackle.

Second Team All-County defensive back Logan Cross (Sr.) returns after intercepting three passes last season. Linebacker Mason Quarles missed all of the 2013 season due to injury but returns healthy for his senior season.

Special Teams

Gottberg punted 26 times last season (34 yards per punt). Joshua Bailey made 19 of 22 extra points and three of four field goal attempts last season. Chase Goode (Jr.) takes over at punter, while Harrison Reynolds (Sr.) and Jacob Whitten (Jr.) will compete for placekicking duties.

 

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