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Football: North coach hopes familiarity brings success
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North Forsyth running back Luke Slaton (33) avoids a tackle attempt by teammate Kansas Mullins during the spring scrimmage at Raider Valley. - photo by Lily McGregor

After enduring a rebuilding season at North Forsyth in 2011, second-year coach Blair Armstrong is ready to see what a full offseason with his team will bring.

The Raiders (1-9) boasted 20 rising seniors at spring practice earlier this month, and Armstrong thinks the team has a good opportunity to bounce back in the fall.

“It takes a long while for everyone to learn a new system,” Armstrong said.

“I came in last March, but my coaches didn’t come in until the summer. Then, you have to get to know the players and teach them the new system.

“There’s a learning curve involved.”

Armstrong runs the Wing-T offense, which he used to win a state championship in 1982 in Jefferson County, Fla. He also won a share of the state championship at Peachtree Ridge in 2006.

“The Wing-T is the easiest offense to be successful at [regardless of personnel],” he said. “It’s definitely an offense that can give the defense trouble. The defense has to assign players to positions, and make sure they are disciplined.”

Armstrong said the offensive line has improved “100 percent” from last season. Since North operates out of the run-heavy Wing-T, the offense should be able to put more points on the scoreboard this fall.

“We will be able to put seniors and juniors on the line,” Armstrong said. “Last year, we had 16 sophomores playing nine different positions on the field. With a year under our belt, we should be much improved.”

The Raiders are expected to rely on junior quarterback Harris Roberts to direct the offense again.

Armstrong said Roberts, who took the majority of the team’s snaps last season as a sophomore, has matured mentally and physically. The coach said Roberts has already grown three or four inches in the offseason, which should help him spot receivers.

Junior long-snapper Clay Barton participated in the Chris Rubio long snapping camp this spring and finished first out of 52 players from the Southeast. Barton is expected to be one of the top long snappers in the state.

“Clay is an exceptional young man,” Armstrong said. “He picked up on long snapping and has done a great job for us.”

Leadership is one of the most important things Armstrong teaches. He said that his coaching style is laid-back and that he doesn’t focus on the petty problems.

Armstrong lost his father to a heart attack during a game when he was a freshman playing quarterback.

Since then, he’s made building relationships with players a top priority.

“I want to get to know all of my players,” Armstrong said.

“Building relationships with young men is important to me. I want to know what’s going on in their lives.

“Some players don’t come from the best home setting.”

Although the school is moving to Class 6A this fall, Armstrong doesn’t think it will pose a problem since North has already been playing in the highest classification in the state.

“It is basically the same as [Class] 5A was for us,” he said.

“Moving up a classification is no big deal for us. We are still going to do the same thing. We aren’t the only ones who are going to be moving up.”