As practice picked up for Jonathan Ward and the Tattnall Square football team, there was another set of practices in a different part of Macon that Ward had his eye on.
Ward, a senior running back and linebacker for the Trojans, wanted to keep up with what his older brother, Tyler, was doing at Mercer.
Enter social media.
“I was able to ‘watch’ their first day of camp on Twitter,” Jonathan Ward said of the many tweets Mercer sent out that day.
Tyler, also a linebacker, likes to use technology to keep an eye on his younger brother, as well.
“We’ll text back and forth, and usually when he has anything big, a combine, a game, or something like that, I will talk to him and make sure his mind is in the right place and make sure he’s ready to go,” Tyler Ward said. “I watch him play in different ways than most people watch him play for the little parts than most people notice. I think he’s a little meaner than I am. He’s definitely a good ballplayer. I love watching him, he reminds me of myself, and I certainly want the best for him.”
Both of the programs the Ward brothers participate in are going through transition periods. Tattnall is moving from the GISA to the GHSA, while Mercer, in its second season of competition, is shifting from the Pioneer Football League to the Southern Conference.
What’s also similar is the role the Ward brothers play on their respective teams. Tyler, a 6-foot, 230-pound linebacker, led Mercer last season in tackles with 101, while Jonathan (6-1, 210) is expected to be the anchor of Tattnall’s defense after recording 149 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and eight sacks a year ago.
“I didn’t have the good fortune of coaching Tyler -- he graduated the year before I got here -- but I was able to see a lot of film on him,” second-year Tattnall head coach Clint Morgan said. “He’s a very, very good football player; a very smart, instinctive player. He can find the football. He’s a dynamite football player, and he showed that last year by being the leading tackler on Mercer’s football team.
“It’s nice to have his sibling playing for me, too, and he’s a very similar football player. They both just know the game really well, and their ability to just find the football is probably the biggest factor in what separates them from everybody else.”
In addition to his duties at linebacker, Jonathan Ward starts in the Trojans’ offensive backfield, where he rushed for 506 yards and five touchdowns last season. He won’t be a full-time player offensively, but Morgan said Ward will get some touches at fullback and wingback in Tattnall’s flexbone scheme.
“He’s so smart that he knows the offense backwards and forwards,” Morgan said. “I could put him at quarterback, and he’d be able to play it. He’s a very big asset on our football team.”
Tattnall is coming off an 8-3 season in which it lost by a point to eventual GISA Class AAA finalist Stratford during the regular season -- a loss that wound up determining the GISA Region 2-AAA title -- and a three-point loss to Southland in the first round of the playoffs.
“Second year under Coach Morgan, we’re getting it down,” Ward said. “We have some new players running it. We’re going to be just fine.”
Telegraph writer Daniel Shirley contributed to this report.
TATTNALL SQUARE 2014
Head coach: Clint Morgan (94-50-1 in 13 seasons overall; 8-3 in one season at Tattnall).
2013 record: 8-3.
2014 region: GHSA 7A-A.
Returning starters: 7 on offense; 6 on defense.
Players to watch: Jonathan Ward (6-1, 210, Sr., FB/LB); Bradley Earls (6-2, 210, Sr., DE); Cole Gaylord (5-10, 175, Sr., CB); JJ Battle (5-8, 170, Sr., RB); Kell Jarriel (5-11, 195, Sr., LB).
Aug. 29 GMC
Sept. 5 at Warren County
Sept. 12 Strong Rock
Sept. 19 at Hancock Central
Oct. 3 Wilkinson County
Oct. 10 Stratford
Oct. 17 FPD
Oct. 24 at Twiggs County
Oct. 31 at Mount de Sales
Nov. 7 Region 7-A crossover