High school football: Top questions and storylines surrounding the '13 season

dmitchell@ledger-enquirerAugust 20, 2013 

Like a handful of football teams that will scrimmage this week, and a couple that will play for real, I am starting my game-week schedule.

That means I submitted my votes for state football polls Monday and will release the first “Hits and Misses” blog of the season, this evening.

That also means that it’s time to take a closer look at the season, locally and statewide, in a series of blogs leading up to the beginning of the season in the Bi-City area on Friday. The schedule for the rest of the week looks like this:

Tuesday evening: GSWA Poll Hits and Misses

Wednesday: Season’s best games—a look at the top games for each week of the season and naming our top must-see games for the entire year; Region and state outlooks—Where do teams stand in the region, what will it take to come out on top and where does that place them on a statewide scale?

Thursday: Lock it in—a handful of predictions for the weekend’s games; a post-game blog from the Central-Carver scrimmage

Friday: A post-game blog from Unity Christian at Calvary Christian

Saturday: A wrap of the week’s action, including notable performances and a peek at next week

Sunday: Power rankings—the first of a weekly blog ranking the top five teams in the Bi-City area

In this blog, however, I’d like to take a look at a few of the top storylines around the Bi-City area this season.

Like every season, this one is sure to take on an identity of its own, and it’s doubtful I or anyone can accurately predict what will end up defining a season.

For example, no one saw Harris County’s magical run after an 0-4 start last season. No one saw former Carver coach Dell McGee taking a job at Auburn University (though, to be fair, that was well after the season ended). The point is the same, though—right now, it’s all conjecture.

With that said, here’s a look at a few things I’ll be interested in watching as the season goes along.

Changing of the guard at Carver

We all know about McGee’s departure making way for new coach Joe Kegler, a first-time head coach who played at Carver under Wallace Davis.

There’s more to the story, though. Former quarterback Torrance McGee is gone. He’ll be lacing it up at wide receiver at North Cobb this year.

(For a look at how he’s doing, see the YouTube video below from a scrimmage against Allatoona last Friday.)

Enter: Sophomore Jawon Pass.

If you don’t know about Pass, here’s a quick rundown:

He is 6-foot-4 and between 180 and 200 pounds, depending on the source. He hasn’t started a game yet, but he has already secured scholarship offers from North Carolina, Clemson and Mississippi State, with more sure to come. He’s an athlete who can get out of the pocket, but he’s billed as a pocket passer with the potential to light up opposing secondaries.

On a couple of occasions, former coach McGee told me Pass had a big arm and an even bigger future. His abilities in the passing game, of course, have to make you wonder a little bit.

In the past, Carver has typically been a more run-first team. Balanced, yes, but favored the run more than the pass, even with former wide receiver and current Florida Gator Marqui Hawkins as a target.

With Pass’ potential as a big-play quarterback, will the reins come off on the Tigers passing game? Could we see them air it out a little bit more? Or will coaches ease Pass into the offense and let his ability come through with time and experience?

And I guess this all comes back to the coaching change, as well. Kegler was the offensive coordinator for Carver over the past two seasons, but now he has the program to himself.

What will he prefer? What does he think will give this very talented team its greatest chance at success?

That’s ultimately what it will come down to in regards to the changes in the program. Things may not change at all. As far as wins and losses, I think we all expect that to remain high. How the Tigers attain that success, though, may look a little different in the near future.

Columbus and Jordan try to end losing streaks

I don’t include this to highlight a team’s shortcomings. It’s simply a matter worth watching.

Right now, both the Blue Devils and Red Jackets are in the midst of their longest losing streaks in program history: 17 for Columbus and 24 for Jordan.

They still have a ways to go to catch Russell County’s 28-game streak in the late 1980s, Shaw’s 32-gamer from 1984-87 or Spencer’s 39-game skid that spanned from 2002-06. That said, I think I can safely speak for both teams when I say they’re ready for it to end.

The roads aren’t easy for either team, but particularly Columbus as far as schedules go. The Blue Devils play non-region games against Brookstone, Hardaway and Northside before entering a region slate that includes Class AAAA’s current No. 1 and 2 teams, Sandy Creek and Carrollton. They won’t get a break with LaGrange or Shaw, either.

Jordan’s schedule may not be that daunting, but it’s stiff nonetheless. It will open with Class AAAAA teams Hardaway and Northside, and it will get Heard County (12th highest votes in GSWA poll) out of the region. Teams like Kendrick, a playoff team last year, and Spencer won’t give the Red Jackets a break, either.

I’ve outlined the difficulty, but here’s pinpointing a little hope: The teams aren’t without talent. They have players with ability and signs are that they are improving.

Improvement doesn’t always equate to wins, unfortunately, but both teams will certainly give it a shot this season.

Teams try to get over the hump

It’s a story that can be told every season, and once again there are a handful of teams that appear poised for breakout seasons.

Last year, we saw Harris County make a big jump, making it to the state quarterfinals for the first time in the program’s history. That was a good jump, but those guys will be the first to tell you they want more. It will be trying to make the leap from a very good team to a great team this year, trying to establish themselves as an elite program in the state.

The Tigers have had their fair share of elite players—current Georgia Bulldog Jordan Jenkins comes to mind—but they would like to contend more consistently on a state level.

Other teams trying to make leaps in 2013 include, but are not limited to, Hardaway, Smiths Station, Spencer and Pacelli.

Hardaway, despite only three wins last year, has a handful of very talented players and a lot of returning experience to put itself in the region conversation. Can it beat out Thomas County Central and Harris County to take it all? That’ll certainly be tough. With that said, it’s not a reach to consider the Hawks as a contender for a home playoff game, at the very least.

Smiths Station nearly earned a playoff spot a year ago and returns a lot of experience this season. A handful of its starters will be at the top of the depth chart for the third consecutive year. That will give the Panthers a distinct advantage in a lot of games.

The Panthers would love to get one of those four playoff spots out of Class 5, Region 3 in Alabama, but their work will be cut out for them. Central, Opelika, Auburn and Carver-Montgomery are all talented teams capable of earning playoff spots. It will be interesting to see whether the Panthers can squeeze one of them out this season.

Spencer is trying to do what Kendrick did a year ago: End a long playoff drought.

The Greenwave hasn’t made the postseason since 1993. This season, it may have the right formula to end that skid.

It has talent returning all over the skill positions on offense. Points won’t be a problem. The main questions is whether the defense has improved enough to get over the hump this year.

Finally, Pacelli—it has improved from zero wins in 2010 to one in 2011, to four last season. It returns its quarterback Wyatt Peterson and a potential star on the defensive line in Chris Rehak. Can this be the year that the Vikings make it back to the playoffs?

Stories abound everywhere, and this, though long, is hardly an exhaustive look at the potential questions this season holds.

Pay attention to the blog over the next couple weeks, and I’ll continue to open some doors in the 2013 season.

David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.

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