School: Harris County
2014 record: 9-3
Key players: Darius Blackmon, Juan O’Neil, Josh Stein, Jakevis Jarrett, Jacob Rovig, Charlie Love, J.J. Hutchinson
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Key game: Oct. 23 vs. Carver at home
Outlook: Harris County’s 2014 senior class experienced the most success in the football program’s history. Over the past three years, they won 26 games, an average of nearly nine per season, and a pair of region championships.
But those guys are gone. And the players who are left are tired of hearing about them.
“We had a great year last year, and those guys, those seniors, were great,” Tigers coach Dwight Jones said. “But this group is tired of hearing about last year.”
The fact is that this team does have a lot to prove. Despite winning a Region 1-AAAAA title last year, it is entering 2015 with just six total returning starters, four on offense and two on defense. Quarterback TaQuon Marshall is gone, graduated and playing for Georgia Tech. So is running back Tae Crowder, who will join a crowded backfield in Athens with the University of Georgia. The entire offensive line has turned over, as well.On paper, it would be easy to say this group may have a lot of growing pains. And yet, the expectations haven’t changed.
“We expect to play hard,” Jones said. “We expect to compete.”
They’ll do it with a new crop of runners. Darius “Bubba” Blackmon joined the team this season after transferring from Hardaway, where he rushed for over 1,000 yards last season. He’ll be joined by guys like T.J. Chiles and Juan O’Neil.
Their ability to have success, though, will depend on how the offensive line shapes up over the final weeks before the season begins.
“What we’ve got to do is give (our running backs) a chance to be a good runner,” Jones said. “That comes down to doing our job as offensive linemen.”
The line will also, obviously, be counted upon to keep the quarterback — whoever that is — upright and looking downfield. Right now, the Tigers are working out junior James “Tank” Adams and sophomore Chandler lot to replace Marshall. Jones said both are pushing each other and helping each other improve, so much so that it is likely both will get playing time early in the non-region schedule.
Players like wide receiver/safety Josh Stein, wide receiver/safety Jakevis Jarrett and running back/linebacker Jacob Rovig, among others, will be relied upon for senior leadership, taking the place of those who graduated after last season.
The biggest thing right now, Jones said, is to help show the younger group how to work and compete against the difficult odds.
“Who’s going to get back up when they get hit in the mouth?” Jones asked. “Those guys last year did that. I think these guys will too, but I want to see them compete and have a little fight in them.”