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2014 high school football preview: West Forsyth

Business as usual for Wolverines in new era

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

Offensive linemen Mich Toure (from left), Alan Pearson and Carson Adams lead a revamped unit in front of senior quarterback Hampton McConnell, the 2013 Forsyth County Offensive Player of the Year.

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Head coach Frank Hepler is gone, but West Forsyth remains well-positioned for a fifth straight state playoff appearance under new head coach Adam Clack.

Clack joined Hepler’s staff when the West football program started in 2007 and spent the past three seasons as the Wolverines’ offensive coordinator. Clack’s spread-option attack averaged 34.3 points per game over the last three years and scored more than 40 points per game during West’s run to the Region 6 title and the Class AAAAA quarterfinals in 2011.

Hepler finished his tenure at West with a 49-18 record in six seasons.

Gone are two key offensive linemen in center Andrew Marshall, now at Georgia Tech, and tackle Jayce Ratliff. The duo combined for more than 50 career starts, according to Clack.

Gone also is running back Trevor O’Brien, who transferred to Lambert for his senior season. O’Brien led Forsyth County in both rushing yards (1,052) and touchdowns (15) last season.

Clack said the goal this year, and every year, is to compete for a region title.

"The talent in this county keeps getting better, so it keeps us competing with ourselves to get better," he said. ""When we start playing backyard opponents, we know we’re going to get their best and they’re going to get our best."

The biggest question for the Wolverines: without the threat of O’Brien running the ball, who will step up to take opposing defensive attention away from Hampton McConnell?

Offense

Quarterback Hampton McConnell (Sr., 6-3, 196) returns after earning county Offensive Player of the Year and First Team All-Region honors last year — his first full season as a starter. Little else is settled around him.

McConnell, a Georgia Southern commit, led the county in every major passing category: completions (129), completion percentage (62.9 percent), yards (1,704) and touchdowns (11). McConnell rushed for 794 yards and added another 11 touchdowns on the ground as West averaged a county-best 33.5 points per game.

West will have to rely on two untested running backs in juniors Kwan Miller and Luke Lingo, neither of whom recorded a carry last season. Senior Grant Anderskow (32 carries, 206 yards, five touchdowns) is the leading returning rusher not named McConnell.

First Team All-County receiver Nathan Schmitz (Sr., 6-1, 175) is a familiar target for McConnell after leading West with 26 receptions for 422 yards and four touchdowns. Anderskow added 21 receptions for 223 yards and a touchdown out of the slot and backfield and set a school record with 10 catches in a 45-20 win over South Forsyth.

Mitch Toure (Sr.) leads an otherwise inexperienced offensive line. Carson Adams (Sr., 6-1, 250) played eight games as a defensive lineman for the Wolverines last season but will play both ways in 2014 to add depth.

"It’s been our major area of retooling this spring and summer," Clack said. "When you lose two staples of your offensive line like we did, it’s tough, but the young guys have taken a next man up mentality. I’ve been pleased with how they’re coming along."

Defense

A trio of All-County players are back to lead a Wolverines defense that allowed just 21.2 points per game in Region 6-AAAAAA play last season.

Defensive linemen Alec Coburn (Sr., 5-11, 220), a Second Team All-County selection, and Hunter Stewart (Sr., 5-10, 200) combined for 130 total tackles (21 for loss) and 10 sacks last season. The pair will have to replace Air Force signee Josh Davis’s production (73 total tackles).

Senior S/OLB Ryan Guthrie (5-11, 165) earned an offer from NAIA school Reinhardt University after a strong junior season (33 tackles, one interception, two fumble recoveries). Linebacker Austin Sanders (Sr., 5-10, 187) earned First Team All-County honors with 83 tackles last season.

West must replace two First Team All-County defensive backs, Jordan Harris and Nick Walker. That’s where Kyndall Phillips (Sr., 5-11, 170) steps in. Phillips’ Second Team All-County selection as a junior gained the attention of Lehigh and Cornell, among others.

Special teams

Clack said a week into West’s fall camp that special teams were still yet to be settled.

"As of now, we’ll probably just stick McConnell back there [to punt]. He can boot it pretty good, and our opponents can’t put anyone back to return because he still poses a threat," Clack said.

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