Mascot: War Eagles
Last season: 7-3
Coach: Jeff Arnette (19-22 in four seasons at South, 64-46-1 in 11 season overall)
Playoff appearances: 8
Last appearance: 2010
Region titles: 1
State titles: 0
Date Opponent (2013)
Aug. 22 at Mountain View (2-8)
Sept. 5 Centennial (1-9)*
Sept. 12 at Habersham (0-10)*
Sept. 19 North Forsyth (7-4)*
Sept. 26 at Chattahoochee (4-6)*
Oct. 3 Off
Oct. 10 Northview (5-5)*
Oct. 17 West Forsyth (7-4)*
Oct. 24 at Alpharetta (9-3)*
Oct. 31 Johns Creek (0-10)*
Nov. 7 at Lambert (6-5)*
South Forsyth’s 7-3 regular-season finish in 2013 was the program’s best in a decade. One thing was missing: a state playoff appearance.
That’s the next step for coach Jeff Arnette’s War Eagles. Arnette led South to a state playoff appearance with a 6-5 record in 2010, his first season. South made a quick exit, a 49-7 loss to Kell, in the Class AAAA first round. The War Eagles finished 4-3 in Region 6-AAAAAA last season, the same record as North Forsyth. South missed out on a state playoff berth with a 17-12 road loss to North in what amounted to a winner-take-all regular season finale.
"Our kids went in to the spring and summer thinking that we had a great season but that it was just a stepping stone," Arnette said. "Trying to top what we did last year is no easy task in the region we play in, but the rallying point for us has been to take another step up."
The good news: South returns a bevy of experience at the offensive skill positions, despite the loss of running back and Army-signee Isaiah Williams.
The bad: three starters on the offensive line departed, including Vanderbilt signee Davis Winkie, First Team All-County selection Kyle Watford, and Ross Schaber, an honorable mention All-County player.
South’s season could depend on the effectiveness of newcomers on both lines of scrimmage. Arnette is cautiously optimistic.
"I feel really good about the kids we’re expecting to take up leadership roles from those kids who graduated," he said. "We’ve got lots of upperclassmen who played meaningful snaps last year and are back. I think they’ll do a good job of picking up that slack."
Matt White took the helm at quarterback for South last season and didn’t let go, earning him a First Team All-County selection. South finished with the second-best scoring offense in the county at 28.4 points per game.
"Matt has a little bit of everything: a strong arm, some running ability and a grasp of this offense," Arnette said. "Now that he’s a senior and has a full year of starting experience under his belt, we’re expecting big things."
White threw for 1,210 yards and eight touchdowns, good for second-best in the county in both categories, but completed just 81 of 166 throws (48.8 percent). His seven interceptions tied for most in the county.
Isaiah Williams and the War Eagle’s stable of backfield options took much of the pressure to move the ball off of White’s hands. Williams rushed for 1,033 yards, second-best in the county, and eight touchdowns. Grant Umberger (Jr.) added 530 yards and five touchdowns.
Williams’ backup last season, Tyler LaFlamme (766 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns), was a Second Team All-County selection. LaFlamme (Sr., 5-10, 205) played mostly on defense during his freshman and sophomore seasons before playing both ways last year. He’ll be South’s primary running back this season while playing some safety.
"He’s so good, we’ll play him pretty much anywhere," Arnette said.
Sam Walker, the county’s second-leading receiver, has moved on, but two of the top ten receivers in the county remain: Cameron Kline and Drew Witalis. Kline (Jr., 6-1, 225), a tight end and defensive end, earned second team All-Region 6-AAAAAA honors as a sophomore with 17 catches for 265 yards and three touchdowns. Witalis was a second-team All-Region selection as a kick returner and added 257 receiving yards on 15 catches. Jalen Camp, a junior, joins the varsity after serving as South junior varsity’s main receiving threat last season.
South’s offensive line will have a different look to it without the likes of Winkie, Watford and Schaber, but talent remains in Griffin Landrum and Caleb Lummus. Landrum holds early offers from Vanderbilt and the Air Force Academy. As for who will man the three other offensive line positions, it’s still a mystery.
"We’re trying through practice to get a lot of kids reps to try to build that depth," Arnette said. "It’s one of those deals where you don’t really know until they’re put into the real fire. Our kids play so hard that they end up playing better than you thought they would."
South faces major holes to fill at all three levels of their 3-4 defense. Linebacker Brett Larkin and defensive back Matt Cira, both First Team All-Region selections after combining for 146 tackles last season, are gone. Defensive lineman Zach Martin, who earned Second Team All-Region honors, is gone.
The cupboard is not completely bare — senior linebacker Robby Johnson totaled 64 tackles last season, and defensive back Manny Godswill (Sr.) added 57 tackles and seven sacks, a team-high and good for second-most in the county. Kline, a defensive end, notched 42 tackles and four sacks, four fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles.
Cornerback Austin Ataide (Sr.) added 37 tackles and one interception. Tyler LaFlamme made 49 tackles from the safety position.
Alex Barbir (Jr.) handles punting and placekicking duties. He averaged 29.3 yards per punt last season, hit 22 of 23 extra point attempts and four of five attempted field goals.