The fourth annual Forsyth Sports Media day saw plenty of answers about the upcoming season from the county’s head football coaches and players. Even so, there were still some questions left in limbo, and some that can only be resolved once the season is well underway and the pads start popping.
Here are four pressing questions we still have heading into the upcoming season.
How will South look with its many changes?
The War Eagles have had the most success of any county team over the past five years, but this season, the longest active playoff streak in the county will be challenged with some additional changes added to the ones they faced last year.
South will have turnover at two of the most important offensive positions. With Drew Morris now graduated, South will be fielding a new starting quarterback this year, but head coach Jeff Arnette wasn’t ready to name a starter just yet.
“We can’t make those kinds of statements this early without pads being on, but at our quarterback position we’ve got two guys doing a great job there with (Joe) Slott, and we’ve got young kid in Kyle (Durham),” Arnette said. “I think both those guys are doing a good job. We just have to see where that goes.”
The same goes for tailback, a position held last year by Jordan Brunson, who is now at Denmark. Tre’von Green and Gavin Morris are fighting for the lead spot there. On defense, the changes continue, not just with the departure of linebacker C.J. Ford (also at Denmark), but with a change at defensive coordinator with Trevor Williams leaving to take the head coaching job at Creekview. Ross Walker will take over that post for the War Eagles.
“There’ll be some changes (on defense) not necessarily because he’s taking it over, but we try to adapt to the players that we have as long as it fits our philosophy,” Arnette said. “You may see some different stuff this year.”
Can West fare any better in non-region play?
West stumbled out of the gate in 2018, but not due to any real fault of its own. The Wolverines played the toughest non-region schedule in the county, but while they were competitive in most of those games, they only had a 1-4 record to show for it. Ultimately, though, that didn’t matter too much with West wrapping up the No. 2 seed in Region 5-7A later in the year.
“We’ve got to develop some depth in this preseason five-game run we have in the beginning, because as our kids found out last year, at the end they don’t matter,” West coach Shawn Cahill said. “They’re fun, we want to win them and we’re going to do everything we can to win but in the end they don’t matter.”
Still, Cahill voiced some regret in how he prepared his players for those games, feeling like he overworked them by the time they got to the fourth game of the slate. West will be conducting those preparations differently this year, and with those changes, it will be interesting to see how the Wolverines react to playing the same tough opponents again this year.
“I’m always going to schedule that,” Cahill said. “I want our kids to get better, I want our team to get better and I want them to see what real Friday night lights (are) like.”
How will Denmark fare under the newfound pressure?
On paper, Denmark looks to be in a very good position to make a deep run in Class 4A in just its second year of existence. The Danes bring basically everyone from their inaugural season back, and have added some more Division I college recruits to join 2018 All-County Offensive Player of the Year Ze’Vian Capers. High-profile quarterback Aaron McLaughlin transferred in from Buford, and former South players Jordan Brunson and CJ Ford have also joined.
With all those names come expectations higher than most players at Denmark have ever faced, but they wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I don’t think pressure’s a bad thing,” Arthur Marsden said. “I think it should make us better.”
While a 5-5 record in the school’s inaugural season was seen as an accomplishment, anything short of the playoffs in year two will be seen as a disappointment. Head coach Terry Crowder knows that nothing is a sure thing, and has done what he can to keep his team’s focus exclusively on the short term.
“I can’t predict anything,” Crowder said. “I can’t predict our record. I know what our expectations are for us each day at practice. New guys, old guys, we all came in and it’s about day-to-day. We don’t talk about anything at the end of the year now – we talk about the first game. I want to see how good we can play against Cherokee Bluff.”
What will North look like offensively?
Duke commit Nicky Dalmolin is one of the county’s best receivers, and North is extra glad to have him back, partly because he’s all that the Raiders are bringing back on the offensive side from 2018.
Head coach Robert Craft said that he’ll be looking to utilize Dalmolin in all the ways he possibly can, but other than him, the Raiders have plenty of question marks on offense. Last year, North shifted to more of a run-first attack as opposed the air raid philosophy that it embraced in 2017. Craft has already named a new starting quarterback to replace the graduated Carter Mullikin, but it’s uncertain just how much free rein the Raiders will give him in the passing game. It’s unclear which way North will lean this year, but the Raiders are hoping whatever they decide do will work well.
“There’s going to be some new names,” Craft said. “We feel good about our quarterback, Brady Meitz. We’re excited about him – he’s worked so hard to be in the position he’s in right now. Our offensive line is a group that’s going to have youth and inexperience but (there’s) some great players in that group.”