Offensive Player of the Year (so far):
David Almeda, sports reporter: Ze’Vian Capers, WR, Denmark
There were a couple of others that I considered for this, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find a player as instrumental to his team’s success as Capers has been for the upstart Danes. He gives quarterback Ben Whitlock a big, experienced target down the field, opens up opportunities for other pass catchers like Adonnis Tolbert to get open, and on his own, he can be a one-on-one matchup nightmare with his 6-foot-4, 200 pound frame.
So far, Capers has racked up 543 receiving yards on 28 catches to go with a county-leading seven touchdowns, with five of them coming last week against Chestatee. Having a Division I prospect is not a luxury many first-year teams have, but I’m sure Denmark doesn’t feel sorry for any of them.
Ian Frazer, sports editor: Honus Wagner, RB, North Forsyth
Well, we can’t see that we saw this coming. We did put Wagner on one of our Player of the Year watch lists before the season, but it was for the defensive side, for his work as a strong safety/linebacker. But then Bryson Trigg broke his collarbone in the Raiders’ season opener, and North realized that it would have to rely much, much more heavily on the run to generate offense this year, and Wagner rose to the occasion.
The senior has been highly productive, with 732 rushing yards on 93 carries, and exceptionally efficient, gaining 7.9 yards per take and gaining 146.4 yards per game. North’s big, experienced offensive line surely deserves credit here, but Wagner has been remarkable so far, which is even more true when taking to account that he’s played most of the Raiders’ defensive snaps, too.
Defensive Player of the Year (so far):
Almeda: Gallil Guillaume, DE, Lambert
Lambert has scored the least points of anyone in the region,
and the fact that the Longhorns are 3-2 is in large part because of Guillaume.
An all-FCN second team selection for last season, he’s been the cornerstone of
what has been a good defensive Longhorns team so far. He leads the county in
sacks by a wide margin with 10.5, eclipsing last year’s mark of four.
He’s also logged 40 total tackles, an interception and two fumble recoveries. He secured two of his turnovers against Lanier last week, including a fumble return touchdown that put Lambert on the cusp of a potential comeback. If Guillaume keeps this up, he’s a lock for Defensive Player of the Year when all is said and done.
Frazer: Gallil Guillaume, DE, Lambert
It seems to be genetically coded in most football coaches to avoid highlighting individual accomplishments whenever possible, but after the Lambert’s 16-15 road win over Gainesville on Aug. 31, Longhorns head coach Louis Daniel couldn’t hold back when it came to senior defensive end Gallil Guillaume.
“He wrecked them the entire night,” Daniel said late that Friday.
That game, where he tracked up 6 ½ tackles for loss, has been the peak so far for Guillaume, but it hasn’t been uch of an outlier. In the next game, a 7-0 win over Peachtree Ridge, the Cornell commit had four tackles for loss, and while he was tightly covered in Lambert’s loss to Lanier, he still had a sack, a scoop-and-score, and swatted down a pass from quarterback Zach Calzada. So far, Guillaume had 17 tackles for loss and 10 ½ sacks, both of which easily lead the county.
Coach of the Year (so far)
Almeda: Terry Crowder, Denmark
Crowder had more on his plate going into this year than any other coach in the county. As the first head coach in Denmark history, he had to build the Danes from nothing, and by playing a full varsity schedule with no seniors on his squad, there were bound to be some growing pains. That’s still been true, but so far, Denmark has surpassed the preconceived expectations of what a first-year program is supposed to be.
Crowder and his staff have done a good job of making due with the best players that they have – They’ve played Capers and linebacker Nick Carozza on both sides of the ball, which has been successful to this point. Combine that with the job younger players have done, and the Danes have a real shot at continuing to defy expectations.
Frazer: Louis Daniel, Lambert
Lambert’s 2017 season, a year removed from a campaign that saw a region title and playoff win, was quite the letdown, and then the Longhorns went and lost most of their important contributors from that team to graduation. Disaster in the making, right?
Not quite, it turns out, because the Longhorns are 3-2, with one of those losses coming to a Wheeler team that’s now 5-0 and the other to a Lanier squad led by four-star Texas A&M-committed quarterback Zach Calzada. They’re not scoring much, but the defense has been a spirited, cohesive unit, and Lambert has shown multiple times to have a distinct never-quit quality. Entering the season, the Longhorns were one of the more unproven, unknown units – and not exactly in a good way – but Daniel has made them into a very intriguing group, one that looks to have definite potential for a playoff berth.
Game of the Year (so far)
Almeda: North Forsyth at Gainesville
North Forsyth’s season didn’t quite start out as planned: In Week 1, the Raiders lost starting running back Bryson Trigg to a broken collarbone and went through a turnover-filled mess. The Raiders still had a chance to win, but came up just short. On the road against Gainesville in Week 2, the Raiders trailed for the vast majority of the contest, but quarterback Carter Mullikin forged connections with receivers Nicky Dalmolin and Charlie Aiken to stay within reach. In the game’s final minute of regulation, Mullikin led a four-play drive that ended with a go-ahead 20-yard touchdown pass with less than 30 seconds to play. It gave the Raiders their only lead of the game, and shortly after, their thrilling first win of the year.
Frazer: North Forsyth at Kennesaw Mountain
A score like this was somewhat predictable heading into this game, with both teams showing the potential for big offense and small defense, but this was the most extreme possible conclusion of that. The numbers are shocking enough – 927 yards, 14 touchdowns and three punts between the teams – and they came in back-and-forth fashion throughout. The ending was certainly bitter for the Raiders – a missed field goal forced overtime, and then a missed extra point gave Kennesaw Mountain the victory – but fans couldn’t deny the thrill of it all.
Three questions we still have
Almeda: How much farther can Denmark go?
The Danes’ 4-1 start has been everything a first-year program could want. Denmark secured a shutout rout in week one, a defensive win over the county’s oldest school, and began its first-ever region slate with a victory. With all the milestones, though, one question remains: How much more can the Danes do, especially in Region 7-4A? Region foes Blessed Trinity and Marist are ranked in the latest Georgia Sports Writers Association poll.
Beating those two might be out of the question, but could Denmark sneak into the playoffs as a No. 3 or No. 4 seed? So far, it looks like the Danes’ spread offense could give them a shot. Upcoming games against West Hall, White County and Flowery Branch will go a long way in seeing where their fortunes fall.
How competitive can Central be in region play?
One thing is certain: The 2018 Forsyth Central football season is already a vast improvement over last year’s winless nightmare. But while the Bulldogs are 4-1, they did lose to a Class 4A team in Denmark, and three of their four wins were blowouts against competition that wasn’t exactly top-notch.
The Bulldogs have not won a region game since moving up to Class 7A in 2016. While their option attack has seen its fair share of injuries, it’s still found ways to be successful, and it will be interesting to see if that continues against teams that figure to be tougher than anything Central has faced so far. The defense could be the key – that unit has some solid players and has allowed the fewest number of points in the region.
Will West’s grueling non-region schedule pay dividends?
The Wolverines stand at 1-4 at the halfway point, but that mark could very well be deceiving. Three of West’s four losses have come by just one score, and they’ve come against talented teams like Roswell, Camden County and Hewitt-Trussville (Ala.). The challenge for the Wolverines now is to turn those close losses into wins when they really count, in Region 5-7A play.
It looks like they have a chance to do that, with a strong running game behind Stephon Bland and defensive playmakers like Abraham Camara and Mikhari Sibblis. Has playing a non-region schedule as tough as West’s was prepared them well, or will the Wolverines continue to fall just short? Only time will tell.
Frazer: What should we make of South?
For last season’s South Forsyth team, the non-region schedule was an unequivocal triumph that kicked off the War Eagles’ rise up the state rankings. But the signature wins of that slate began to look much less impressive as the year went on, with teams like Lassiter and Roswell only going down in prestige.
This year’s War Eagles made it through non-region with a less impressive 3-2 mark, but the caliber of their opponents looked significantly higher. Hillgrove, which beat South 36-14, is a bona fide top-10 team with multiple FBS recruits, and Blessed Trinity, which topped the War Eagles 35-6, hasn’t won by less than 22 points yet. Just because the losses have already come doesn’t mean South can’t run through the region like it did in 2017.
How far can Pinecrest’s turnaround go?
Terance Mathis has already assuaged some anxieties around the Paladins this year: He won the program’s first game since 2016 with a 33-6 win over Athens Christian, and then got another with a 37-30 win over Walker. It doesn’t have to stop there, though: Of Pinecrest’s final four games, all of which are in Region 6-A, three of them look eminently winnable, and the season closer against Mount Paran can’t be completely discounted. There’s a definite chance that Mathis could take Pinecrest from winless also-ran to playoff team.
What is Honus Wagner’s limit?
When Honus Wagner went down hurt and left North Forsyth’s game last week against Woodstock, the worst-case scenario for the Raiders looked to be coming true. North brushed off the injury being a long-term concern to Wagner, and the team had better hope that’s the case: The senior running back, filling in on a full-time basis for the injured Bryson Trigg, has been one of the region’s biggest offensive contributors, both in touches and efficiency. It’s worth asking, though, if the ongoing rigors of the season or the higher-stakes environment of region matchups will limit Wagner’s role. Will he stay strictly on offense, or maybe take fewer touches on both sides of the ball? He’s been one of the most impactful players this year, but something might have to give, eventually.