Spring Sidelines 2019 Episode 2: South Forsyth
Before South Forsyth’s football team even started their first drill or workout of the 2019 spring practice schedule, head coach Jeff Arnette already saw a positive: Everyone was there.
South made the playoffs in Arnette’s ninth season at the helm last year, but stumbled in, partly due to injuries, losing three of its last four regular season games. Still, after a playoff loss to powerhouse Grayson that was closer than the final score indicated, the War Eagles feel like the winning culture they’ve built over the last few years has remained intact.
“It's never stopped,” Arnette said. “Even with all the injuries and everything we dealt with, we still found a way to get in the playoffs. A lot of people feel like that's good, (but) I think these guys feel like we underachieved and are looking forward to doing better things even this year.”
Beginning with their spring, South is aiming to continue their recent run of success this year, despite some key departures from last season. They have a good amount of returners, though, and the War Eagles are optimistic that will drive them going forward.
“The good thing is we've got a lot of kids coming back who got playing time in varsity games last year,” Arnette said. “That's real big for us. We've got probably more than I've ever had coming back that have varsity playing experience, so that's encouraging for us as coaches.”
That all starts at receiver, which already looks to be a deep and experienced unit. Colby Cruz, Cameron Schurr, Chase Calloway and Josh Green are all seniors, while Mitch Thompson will play a role as a rising junior. Schurr led the team in catches last year, while Cruz was second in yardage despite sitting out the last three games of the season due to injury. Devin McGlockton could also be a factor in the red zone with his 6-foot-4 frame.
“We've got five really, really good receivers,” Arnette said. “The thing is, a lot of those guys are going to play DB also. But they're very talented and we're looking forward to getting them the ball.”
Offensive line looks to be a strength as well. Partly due to some of the injuries last season, most of them have varsity experience, and with some new pieces set to fill in on offense, having a strong line could very well be of critical importance.
“A lot of kids on the offensive line this year, most of them got starts (last year),” Arnette said. “I feel like that may be our strong suit when it's all said and done. That's a good place to start. Usually if you're good there, you're good, so we're excited about that.”
There are also some areas the War Eagles are trying to figure out, though. With quarterback Drew Morris graduated and leading rusher Jordan Brunson now at Denmark, those two positions are still being evaluated. Despite that, the mood on the offensive side seems to be positive.
“It feels really good,” Cruz said. “Last year we had a problem with our team chemistry (on offense) with blocking and passing, but this year we're on point.”
Defensively, South loses Jamal Camp and Luis Gonzalez to graduation, and linebacker CJ Ford has joined Brunson at Denmark. The War Eagles are still looking for the players to fill those holes.
One of the answers at linebacker might be senior Keegan Toner, who Arnette feels will be someone his team will rely on. He’s repeatedly fought injuries over the past few years, only starting two games last year because of them. But during his first time ever participating in spring practice, he’s excited by what he’s seen.
“We've got a strong defensive line, and they're able to get a good push on the offensive line to create holes and gaps for the linebackers,” Toner said. “Everything's just clicking. We're bringing a lot of juice to the table. We're bringing a lot of excitement. I'm feeling good, honestly.”