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Football: North Forsyth inches closer to season with padded camp
Drew Aucoin
North Forsyth quarterback Drew Aucoin scans the field Thursday during the Raiders' summer camp at North Forsyth High School. The Raiders hosted Collins Hill, Etowah, Jackson County, Mill Creek, Milton, Sequoyah, Sprayberry and Southwest DeKalb during a two-day padded camp. - photo by David Roberts

North Forsyth now knows where it stands among some of the top high school football programs in the state.

It's a stark comparison to last year, when the high school football season was anything but guaranteed, and teams approached the fall season with much trepidation.  

The Raiders wrapped up a two-day summer camp Thursday at Raider Valley, hosting perennial playoff contenders such as Collins Hill, Mill Creek and Milton.

“I think for everybody – players, fans, coaches – you just feel a lot more prepared," North Forsyth coach Robert Craft said. "There was so much unknown last year, so these are great. It’s kind of like an extension of spring practice. We scrimmage Aug. 6, so it’s going to be here right away and these are critical for us to feel like we get closer to game-ready.”

North will host a scrimmage Aug. 6 against Dawson County.

Nine teams attended the camp, including Collins Hill, Etowah, Jackson County, Mill Creek, Milton, Sequoyah, Sprayberry and Southwest DeKalb. North squared off against Southwest DeKalb and Sprayberry on Thursday.

Collins Hill boasts the state's top senior in five-star Florida State commit Travis Hunter, while the No. 1 junior in the country is Milton defensive lineman Lebbeus Overton.

“Yesterday we went against Milton and Mill Creek. Back in June we went against Collins Hill, and Southwest DeKalb is a playoff team," Craft said. "It may be our location – I don’t know – but we have been fortunate to attract some really good teams here, and that’s what we want to kind of find out. We want to know what kind of weaknesses we have. That’s what I told our guys, ‘Hey, look, we’re going to try to go against the best, so we can kind of get an idea of where we are.’ And these are still very controlled, so you just hope to stay healthy through it, and we were able to do that. It’s a big success when you can do that.”

The Georgia High School Association allows schools to participate in two padded team camps over the summer, with certain guidelines. The first camp must be in June for two days during a three-day period, while the second camp must be in July for two days during a three-day period.

Players can wear helmets and shoulder pads but cannot wear girdles, knee pads or thigh pads. Additionally, players can engage in contact but cannot tackle opposing players to the ground. 

As opposed to 7-on-7 tournaments, traditionally popular during the summer months, padded camps allow teams to put their entire unit on the field for 45-minute segments and simulate game-like situations.

"For the most part it was two-on-two, you know, two teams going against each other," Craft said. "We did a variety – we did some inside drill, we did some open-field stuff, we did some third-down situational stuff, some red zone situational stuff. But, really, we try to do as much 11-on-11 as possible to bring that team aspect into it.”

These camps are especially beneficial for teams that are replacing players at key positions, such as North with recently graduated quarterback Brady Meitz who is now at Stetson.

The Raiders will turn to rising senior Drew Aucoin to engineer the offense, which features several Division I prospects along the offensive line in Elisha Samples [East Carolina], Eli Edwards [Mercer] and Riley Smith [Charleston Southern].

“Kind of going back to comparing this summer and last summer, it’s critical when you have a new quarterback especially," Craft said. "I think probably everybody felt the different areas last year where you kind of went into the season just not as prepared or just didn’t know what you had. So, this was critical for us breaking in a new quarterback. He’s a senior and he’s been in our program four years, so we have a good idea of what Drew can bring. He’s a great leader for our team. He’s had a really good summer, so we’re excited for him.”