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Football: Denmark enters season with stout defense, some questions on offense
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Denmark seniors Treston Jordan, left, and Kenon Dicks will patrol the secondary for an experienced defensive unit. - photo by Jacob Smith

2021 Football Schedule

Aug. 20 – Cedartown at Denmark

Aug. 27 – Banneker at Denmark

Sept. 3 – Denmark at Shiloh

Sept. 10 – Denmark at Lanier

Sept. 16 – North Forsyth at Denmark

Sept. 23 – BYE

Oct. 1 – Denmark at Forsyth Central

Oct. 8 – Lambert at Denmark

Oct. 15 – BYE

Oct. 22 – Denmark at South Forsyth

Oct. 29 – Denmark at Gainesville

Nov. 5 – West Forsyth at Denmark

Denmark graduated a couple of the school’s all-time leaders on both sides of the ball this offseason.

There’s quarterback Aaron McLaughlin, an early enrollee at North Carolina State who accounted for more than 3,500 passing yards and 53 total touchdowns during his two seasons with the Danes.

Then there’s linebacker Harrison Halder, who racked up a school-record 242 tackles over three seasons at Denmark.

2020 Results

6-5 Overall, 5-1 Region 6-7A

Greater Atlanta Christian 20, Denmark 0

Shiloh 7, Denmark 0

Lanier 38, Denmark 27

Denmark 20, North Forsyth 10

Denmark 21, Forsyth Central 0

Denmark 52, Lambert 14

Denmark 36, South Forsyth 22

Denmark 24, Gainesville 21

West Forsyth 20, Denmark 10

Denmark 61, Discovery 0

Collins Hill 17, Denmark 6

Second-year coach Mike Palmieri suspects he knows who will make the bulk of those tackles this year.

Junior linebacker Dee Crayton’s recruitment exploded this past offseason after a sophomore season that saw him make 62 tackles, including eight tackles for loss, and lead the team with five sacks.

Crayton, listed at 6-foot-2 215 pounds, is considered a four-star recruit by 247sports and has offers from Arkansas, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Syracuse and Central Florida.

“Really good kid, hard worker, committed to the game, loves football, which is really important,” Palmieri said. “Good in the classroom. He’s coachable and can take criticism. [He] wants to know what he can do better. The sky is the limit with him. We expect big things with him.”

As for McLaughlin’s replacement, that’s still up in the air.

Trophy Case 

First varsity season: 2018 

Playoff appearances: 2 (2019, 2020) 

Region titles:

State titles: 0

Palmieri said sophomores Michael McClellan and Jacob Nelson are auditioning for the role of QB1, a competition that could spill into the start of the season.

“Right now they’re just battling,” Palmieri said. “The scrimmages, and even up until the first couple games of the season, we’re going to be dealing with young quarterbacks. You can’t press the panic button with them. We have to put them in good positions and make sure that we make a good decision. Eventually, we’ll pick a No. 1 because we don’t want to rotate guys all year long, but that’s still up in the air.”

Running back Amon Williams [97 carries, 433 yards, 6 TDs] returns after an impressive sophomore campaign and will run behind a revamped offensive line.

Left tackle Shamurad Umarov also saw his recruitment take off, earning offers from Florida, North Carolina, South Florida and Virginia. Returning starter Jake Seubert will join Umarov on the offensive line, as will Northview transfer Cody Dickey, and a pair of two-way players in Asher West and Hayden Songer.

Denmark must also replace its top five receivers from last season, but Palmieri believes a group of juniors in Aiden Brozena, Lake Thoman and Che Ojarikre can help bridge the gap.

On defense, linebacker Austin DeCarlo [47 tackles, 11 TFL] also enjoyed a productive sophomore season and will help fill out the Danes’ linebacking corps.

West and William Hodges return on the defensive line, while Georgia Southern commit Treston Jordan [43 tackles, 4 INTs, 4 PBUs] and Kenon Dicks [39 tackles, 5 PBUs, 2 INTs] will patrol the defensive secondary.

But while Denmark’s defense returns a wealth of experience, the Danes will start a sophomore at quarterback and must break in a relatively young group of receivers.

Still, Palmieri expects the same production as last year’s offensive, which twice hit the 50-point plateau.

“Everybody offensively has got to step it up,” Palmieri said. “We’re not making any excuses that we’re young. At Denmark, we don’t make those excuses. We expect those kids to play at the same level the kids played at last year.”