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Football: Bulldogs must replace 26 seniors
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Michael Branigan (12) scrambles outside during Forsyth Centrals spring football practice earlier this month at the Bulldogs field. - photo by Autumn Vetter

Replacing 26 seniors is a tall task, but that’s the job ahead for Forsyth Central football coach Chris Bennett.

With the Bulldogs returning just eight starters from last year’s team, Bennett said he focused on fundamentals at spring practice earlier this month.

"Working on fundaments isn’t that exciting, but it’s very necessary," Bennett said. "It’s very exciting seeing kids compete."

Central’s baseball team reached the Class AAAA state quarterfinals this year, forcing the football players who play both sports to miss spring practice. Bennett said he was proud of the baseball team, and that the absences allowed other players to compete at different positions.

"We were able to plug some different people in different spots because the baseball team was winning," the coach said.

"I was able to see how we played with what we had. Competition brings out leadership, and I was able to see some of our young players stepping up to leadership roles.

"One of the best parts about spring practice is watching competitions and seeing who wants it more."

One returning starter expected to carry much of the load in the fall is junior running back Shay Hollis, who had a 180-yard game against Chattahoochee last season out of the Bulldogs’ run-heavy Wing-T offense.

"Shay Hollis is a power back with speed," Bennett said. "It’s rare to have someone that big with speed.

"But ultimately, we will go as far as our offensive line goes. I’m glad our center is coming back, and I’ve been pleased with what I’ve seen from our line."

The defense will look a bit different under new defensive coordinator Bradley Foster.

Foster, who coached at Cherokee County last season, brings an excitement to the defense, Bennett said.

"[Foster] has a get-to-the-football mindset," Bennett said. "I’m already very impressed with what I’ve seen from the defense. Players like senior defensive lineman Ruben Rubio have worked hard."

The Bulldogs move from Region 7-AAAA to the newly aligned Region 7A-AAAAA this season, where they’ll look to improve upon last year’s 2-8 record. Their subregion includes two returning opponents from last season, Sequoyah and Creekview, as well as North Springs, Northview and newly-created Cambridge.

"We have a good team that will go out and play hard," Bennett said. "I’m excited about this team to see what they can do."

"We expect to compete with every team we play. There isn’t one team that we don’t want to play."

Though the Bulldogs will not be in a region with any other Forsyth County schools the next two years, they will face South Forsyth and North Forsyth in non-region games. The Bulldogs haven’t faced North since 2007.

"I’m glad we get to play North and South [Forsyth] this year," Bennett said. "The community always likes it when teams like that play each other, and the guys like playing them."