FORT VALLEY — A year ago, Peach County began a march toward what ended up as a dream season.
The Trojans finished off an unbeaten year with the state championship in the Georgia Dome.
Outsiders may look at the losses of standouts like Patrick Taylor, Luke Crowell, Lamar Zanders, Kelcey Lewis, Tervarus Ages and LaBrandon Johnson, among others, and mark this down as a rebuilding season.
Peach County has a young offensive line and a quarterback in his third system in three years.
Running back Travis Richmond has patience.
“When they get physical, that’s when we’ll get clicking,” he said of the line. “That’s what we’re looking for.”
Peach County will be a target and is part of the new 10-team GHSA Region 2-AAA. Westside drops down from Class AAAA, Baldwin moves in from Region I-AAA and Mary Persons from Region 4-AAA. That trio went 27-8 in 2009.
Some Trojans still hadn’t quite put the championship in the rearview mirror, so seniors like tight end/defensive lineman Renard Williams are helping them do that.
“It’s in the past,” he said. “We’re trying to look forward. We want to get a state championship this year.”
Safety Jontavious Davis admitted there have been a few talks.
“We’ve had some lazy days,” he said. “The coaches talked to all the seniors and said from that point on, it wasn’t going to be like that.
“Ever since then, we’ve been picking it up.”
Head coach Chad Campbell had an abrupt “conditioning” meeting to tighten some focus, and the Trojans followed up with a solid performance in a scrimmage against Northside.
The offense is a work in progress, with a new quarterback and a young offensive line.
Brett Montgomery is the new quarterback, and he’s more of a pocket passer than his predecessors.
“He can make the throws we need him to make,” Campbell said. “He’s not a runner threat. We’re not running the ball as much out of the gun as we did last year.”
Campbell likes the potential of the line.
“They’ve gotten 100 times better (recently),” he said. “I feel like the line of scrimmage has gotten a lot better.”
Campbell praised Mathew Winters and Tevin Davis, while Williams said D’Anthony Lamar and Brandon Wiggins have looked good, but he knows how green the unit is overall.
“Right now, they need every bit of practice they can get,” he said.
Williams, also a key defender, spent two seasons on the offensive line before being moved to tight end.
“I played tight end as a sophomore, but somebody got hurt, so they moved me to tackle,” he said. “I’ve been at tackle for the last two years. I played tight end as a sophomore.”
That experience will be crucial in Peach County’s wide open offense.
A mainstay returns in Richmond, whose health is in the hands of that young offense line. But he’s not too worried.
“Coach (Todd) Cooper, he’s a real good coach,” Richmond said of the Trojans’ offensive coordinator. “They take good coaching.
“Toward the middle of the season, we’re gonna be back clicking.”
Defense shouldn’t be a problem.
“Typical Peach County defense,” Davis said. “We should be one of the best defenses in the state. That’s our expectation.”
“They’ve got a chance to be pretty dang good,” he said. “Right now, I think mindset-wise, they think they’re better than they really are.”
But it’s a group that may end up being that good, despite losing three starters in Crowell, Johnson and Lewis.
“We’re pretty good everywhere,” Campbell admitted about the defense. “Those other guys started last year, so experience is good.”
With the defense set, Campbell has to wait and see on the offense.
“We feel like we’ve got some playmakers,” he said. “We’ve just got to get the ball to ‘em and not screw it up.”
Head coach: Chad Campbell (fourth season, 31-6).
Offensive coordinator: Todd Cooper.
Defensive coordinator: Jon Smith.
2009 record: 15-0, won Class AAA title.
2010 region: 4-AAA.
Key players: RB Travis Richmond (Sr.); WR Isaiah Miller (Sr.); TE-DL Renard Williams (Sr.); OL D’Anthony Lamar (Soph.); OL Brandon Wiggins (Jr.); LB Octavius Hall (Sr.); OL Mathew Winters (Soph.).
Aug. 27: at Warner Robins
Sept. 3: at Rutland
Sept. 10: Veterans
Sept. 17: Central
Sept. 24: at Westside
Oct. 8: West Laurens
Oct. 15: at Mary Persons
Oct. 22: Perry
Oct. 29: at Howard
Nov. 5: Baldwin