Frank Hepler had a lot to learn about Forsyth Central football in his first season as head coach this past fall, but one of the more glaring areas he identified was the program’s depth.
That wasn’t a problem when the Bulldogs got off to a 3-0 start last season. But injuries began to mount, and Central didn’t win another game.
“That told me right away our depth was not very good,” Hepler said. “The top to bottom was not where it needed to be.”
Now, after Hepler’s second spring with the Bulldogs, it is better. Hepler, the former long-time West Forsyth head coach, and his staff identified and recruited athletes from other sports to come out for football. To help, Hepler and assistant coaches Scott Walker and Brent Jackson coached the boys track and field team, which was a fruitful source.
The effect: the Bulldogs had 110 players this spring, up from the 85 or so last year. Hepler said that number could climb to 150 when the rising freshmen arrive, a better buffer for when – not if – injuries occur.
“We were still going to have the motto that, ‘Hey, next guy up,’” Hepler said, “but I think now that next guy is going to be better than where we were last year this time or in August.”
But Hepler is excited about his expected starters.
On offense, rising senior quarterback Brad Thiltgen completed 57.7 percent of his passes and has seven games of varsity experience under his belt. Rising senior wide receiver Mark Heard broke the school record for receptions in a single season last fall with 45.
On defense, several starters return, among them rising seniors Dylan Church and Blake McDaniel and rising juniors Hunter Cagle and Jackson Leak.
And another thing Hepler learned: Greg Wozniak is a linebacker. The rising senior moved back to Georgia from Boston just before the start of last school year, so Central threw him on the offensive line in haste, where he started every game at guard. Hepler said he was a defensive player all along, and he looked like it this spring.
“He’s been a terror out there,” Hepler said.
The Bulldogs ended their spring with a scrimmage at Alpharetta, a new tradition Hepler hopes to maintain. It was part of the formula he used in Florida to turn Plantation High School into a state power, a motivational ploy that enhanced intensity during the offseason. The same formula is in place now at Central, Hepler says.
“We still have a long way to go,” Hepler said, “but we're getting there.”