Date Opponent (2013)
Aug. 29 Dawson County (5-5)
Sept. 5 at Woodland-Cart. (4-6)
Sept. 12 at Cass (4-6)
Sept. 19 at Kell (13-1)*
Sept. 26 Riverwood (7-4)*
Oct. 3 Off
Oct. 10 North Atlanta (0-10)*
Oct. 17 at Sprayberry (2-8)*
Oct. 24 at North Springs (1-9)*
Oct. 31 Cambridge (3-7)*
Nov. 7 TBD
*Region 7-AAAAA, Div. B game.
When Shane Williamson took over as head coach at Forsyth Central before last season, he inherited a 2-8 Bulldogs team and an array of unfamiliar faces peering back at him in the huddle. He arrived after 11 years coaching in southeast Georgia (Swainsboro, Toombs County) to new opponents and a new community. He transitioned Central from a Wing-T to a spread offensive team. The Bulldogs finished 2-8 yet again.
Following a productive spring full of meetings and film breakdown, and a summer camp at the University of West Georgia, Williamson is in better command of his program.
"I’m much closer to the players now than I was last year," he said. "We went to camp, got to know each other a little bit. The attitude is more positive around here."
After less than a year spent running the spread, Central shifts back to a flexbone offense (similar to what Paul Johnson runs at Georgia Tech), which Williamson believes will put his players in better position to succeed.
"It fits our personnel and talent level much better than the spread. I had to reconsider what we were doing offensively after last year," he said. Central finished last in the county in total offense and scored just 18.3 points per game.
The good news for Central, though, is the breadth of talent coming back on defense. Victor Peppers, a First Team All-County linebacker, quarterbacks the unit. The Bulldogs return three starters in the secondary — Robbie Repasz, Noah Aguirre and safety Ryan Hintz. Depth along the line is a concern — a recurring theme for many teams in the county — meaning a number of sophomores will have to learn on the fly.
"On paper, we’re still young, but we’ve got a lot of young guys who played snaps last year and had great summers in the weight room," Williamson said. "I want to see us get more physical and play with more attitude. We’ve worked all summer on blocking and tackling, just learning how to hit people."
The spread experiment at Forsyth Central lasted only three games last season before Williamson moved to the flexbone.
Quarterback Michael Branigan gained 646 total yards and seven touchdowns (three rushing) in his senior season. Aubrey Blackmon played in spurts (167 passing yards, one touchdown) and will take over starting duties this season.
"Aubrey should be much more comfortable this year," Williamson said. "There’s not as much pressure on him to throw the ball. He can just run the offense. Aubrey’s a smart kid who we trust to make calls at the line and to execute in play-action."
Jake Gorczyca, now graduated, saw an uptick in production upon Central’s system switch, allowing him to earn Second Team All-County honors at running back (588 yards, five touchdowns). Sabrian Howard (So.) split carries with Gorczyca and gained 337 yards, including a 148-yard performance in a loss to Sprayberry.
Patrick Little (Sr.), a 6-foot-4 tight end, can split out wide to provide a towering receiving threat. Williamson raved about Pierce Nufer (Jr.), who will play fullback, outside linebacker and punter.
"He had an awesome spring and summer. I love his attitude and the way he’s worked," Williamson said.
Along the line, three-year starters Hunter Lamm (Second Team All-County) and David Allen return to anchor a line that will feature an array of untested sophomores and juniors.
"Those guys will have to step up," Williamson said. "They’ve done that so far this summer, but we won’t know for sure until they get under those lights."
The way Victor Peppers played for the Bulldogs last season, Central’s stadium public address announcer probably got tired of calling his name. Hope he enjoyed his time off, because Peppers is back in the middle of Central’s linebacker corps after a 98-tackle junior campaign. Williamson was effusive in his praise for the senior defender.
"Peppers…man, he’s just a special guy and a joy to coach. He’s what any father would want their son to be," Williamson said. "He carries himself so well, with such character, and he’s one good football player on top of it all."
At defensive back, Central returns three veterans in Hintz (Sr.), Repasz (Jr.) and Aguirre (Sr.). Repasz made 77 tackles while splitting time between running back and safety. Hintz intercepted three passes last season, the fourth-best tally in the county.
"Having an experienced secondary will be huge for us as we try to defend the spread," Williamson said.
Cameron Daube (Sr.) and Logan Tate (Sr.) comprise the only known commodities on the defensive line for Central. Williamson said several offensive linemen, including Lamm and Allen, will rotate in at nose guard to bolster depth.
Central lost the most productive special-teams duo in the county. Michael Branigan averaged 39.5 yards per punt on 29 kicks. Anel Ramic made all 24 of his extra point attempts and five field goals. Pierce Nufer continues Central’s run on versatile punters, while Devin Wozniak and freshman Michael Corona compete for placekicking duties.