For Forsyth County’s football teams this fall, success could come down to getting stops.
That’s often true in football – no coach will underplay the importance of defense – but it could be especially so in the county’s landscape this fall. Every school will have a new quarterback starting on the first gameday. Signal-callers like Lambert’s Peyton Rich and South Forsyth’s Drew Morris have prior starting experience, but neither has a full season of experience under their belt, like North’s Ben Bales did last fall.
Add in the loss of names like All-FCN Offensive Player of the Year Marcus Chatelain of Lambert, Vanderbilt signee Ben Bresnahan of West, and South’s Jared Honey, the county’s leading touchdown scorer, and it becomes clear that the returning talent this year – at least in terms of quantity – skews defensive.
Here are five of those players that look like early contenders for county Defensive Player of the Year.
Abe Camara, West Forsyth
Camara certainly doesn’t shy away from contact in the secondary: His 94 tackles in the secondary for the Wolverines last season led West and were more than most first and second-level players in the county.
Camara has shown that those hits can be of the thunderous kind – as seen in the Wolverines’ win over North last year – and has some of the best speed in the county, serving as an effective kick returner for the Wolverines and competing on the track team’s top 4x100 meter team in the spring. He’s received offers and interest from a number of FCS schools, as well as Liberty, an FBS independent.
Mikhari Sibblis, West Forsyth
Sibblis is certainly one of the more versatile gridiron athletes in the county: He’s moving from defensive end to a more linebacker-like role this fall, and he started at forward for the Wolverines’ basketball team during the winter, helping them to a second-place finish in the region tournament.
The agility required to play both sports is evident in Sibblis’ game, and his 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame makes him a physical presence deserving of attention. He had 77 tackles and four sacks for the Wolverines last fall, and he currently holds offers from Columbia, Campbell and Tennessee State, among others.
Jamal Camp, South Forsyth
Jalen Camp was one of the top playmakers on a 2015 South squad bursting with offensive talent, serving as a dangerous target for crafty quarterback Davis Shanley’s passes. Jamal Camp doesn’t exactly inspire flashbacks of his brother: The younger sibling, a 6-foot-2, 275-pound defensive tackle, works mainly at the point of attack, and he racked up five tackles for loss and 22 quarterback hurries as one of the few underclassmen on 2017’s stellar South defense.
But the pure football talent is there in both brothers. Jamal Camp is set to be an important leader on a South team that took significant losses from the opening of Denmark, and he holds offers from schools like Tennessee, Tulane, and reigning FCS champion James Madison.
Jackson Leak, Forsyth Central
Central continued its struggles in head coach Frank Hepler’s second year, going 0-10, but the Bulldogs might have had the single most productive defensive player in the county. Leak’s 112 tackles led the region, and he did it in a hybrid linebacker/rush end role. He averaged 11.2 tackles per game, which led the region easily.
With the return of Leak and Mitch Weber, who racked up 12 tackles for loss as a sophomore, and the addition of former West defensive coordinator David Rooney, the Bulldogs’ defense has a chance of stacking up with the best in the county. Leak holds offers from FCS programs like Stetson, Brown and Morehead State.
Honus Wagner, North Forsyth
North’s offense set records and was easily the most productive in the region last year, and with high-talent returners like Jeremy James, Nicky Dalmolin and Bryson Trigg on that side of the ball, the Raiders shouldn’t take much of a step back. Their ability to make the leap forward and host a playoff game, however, could depend on how their defense develops.
That could very well center on Wagner’s production. The two-year starter had 78 tackles last year, with 61 coming unassisted, and regularly worked on both the second and third levels of the defense. He was also dangerous when the ball was in the air, recording four interceptions and five pass break-ups.
Others to watch: Landon Sims, South Forsyth; Zach Burchfield, Denmark; C.J. Ford, South Forsyth; Jake Weldy, West Forsyth; Gallil Guillaume, Lambert