This is the 13th in a series of stories on high school football teams in the Bi-City. Coming Thursday: Pacelli
School: Hardaway High
2013 record: 2-8
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Key players: Darius Blackmon, Kamron McFolley, Deyon Hicks
Key game: vs. LaGrange, Sept. 26 and at Shaw, Oct. 3
Outlook: It's been a tough go for Hardaway over the past three seasons after making the playoffs in 2010. In 30 games, the Hawks have won just six, going 2-8 last year in a season many thought would prove more fruitful.
After two wins to begin the season, Hardaway was unable to find its momentum, losing by five points to Shaw in its third game and two points to Newnan in its fifth. It lost its final eight games of the season despite having a few experienced and talented players.
But that's all history.
The team has far less experience back, but it does have a fresh start at building for the future.
"We're extremely young right now," coach Jeff Battles said. "We plan on starting about seven sophomores and one to two freshmen right now. It's a small senior class, so we're pulling on some of those younger guys to step up and make an impact now."
On offense, there are four guys back. Junior Darius Blackmon and sophomore Kamron McFolley rushed for 368 and 222 yards, respectively, last year and will lead the ground attack this season.
The offensive line is almost completely new with only Xavier Lewis returning at center. Battles said he is pleased with the progress of the young group, though, despite lacking the size the unit had a year ago.
"We lost four offensive linemen, and I've been extremely pleased with the guys who have come in and worked over the offseason," he said. "We're going to have a much smaller group, but much faster. It allows us to get to the second level better. It's been a pleasant surprise so far."
In addition to Lewis, that group includes Miguel Masenburge, Zachery Fowler, Kyle Oliver and Robert Cook.
At quarterback, two players, Antonio Campbell and Tyler Raleigh, are battling it out. Both are sophomores who played sparingly at the end of last season but are relatively green at the position.
Defensively, it's a whole new crop of starters.
The youth could make for a lot of growing pains early, and the Hawks should be considered a long shot to make the state playoffs. That certainly doesn't mean they won't have a shot, though.
In the new Region 1-AAAAA, Carver and Harris County stand out among the rest, but the other two playoff spots will be up for grabs. A strong showing from Hardaway in its first two region games against LaGrange and Shaw could give it a chance to make a run down the stretch.