Timori Northcutt definitely had a favorite target to throw to last season.
The Rutland quarterback was quite at home throwing to Shakenneth Williams, a receiver who went on to sign with Georgia. The pairing became a big reason why the Hurricanes (6-5) posted just their second winning season in the program’s 11-year history last season and also claimed the team’s second all-time playoff berth.
They also shined on the basketball floor, where they led Rutland to the third round of the GHSA Class AAAA tournament. A three-point loss to eventual state champion Jonesboro was all that stood between the Hurricanes and a spot in the Final Four.
“He had the speed, the size,” Northcutt said of Williams. “Sometimes we’d call the play, I just threw it up to him, and he went and got it. He’s just a playmaker.”
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Northcutt, a senior this fall, now faces the task of running Rutland’s offense without Williams. Nor will he have the services of Montez Cheney at tailback. In fact, Rutland returns just four starters on offense.
After throwing for 1,386 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, Northcutt is already being challenged to further step up his leadership role.
“No doubt, with Shakenneth Williams at receiver and Montez Cheney at tailback, it wasn’t as much on Timori’s shoulders as it is going to be this year,” Rutland head coach George Collins said. “He’s got to grow up and really understand and totally understand the offense for us to be successful. He’s got his work cut out. He’s going to have to have a good fall.”
A good chunk of the summer, as well as preseason practice, has been spent on working on routes with new backs and receivers. Collins has thrown open the competition for starting spots.
“The other receivers are improving,” Northcutt said. “We have people to fill that spot. I have faith in the team.”
Those younger players will have to adjust quickly. Rutland opens the season against Westside, a matchup of county and region rivals.
Rutland and Westside met to close the 2013 season, with Westside topping Rutland 33-13. The Hurricanes have yet to beat the Seminoles, although the 2011 and 2012 games were decided by a touchdown or less.
“Each senior group has done a little bit more and a little bit more,” Collins said. “Two years ago, that senior group, we were competitive. We played with everybody; we just couldn’t quite find a way to win. Last year, we got closer. We made the playoffs. They took a stride from being competitive to winning some ballgames.
“This year, we’ve got to win some that people think we’re not supposed to. We need to find a way to beat the Westsides, the Peach Counties and the people on our schedule that when we play them we’re going to be underdogs. We’re going to have to find a way to win those games.”
RUTLAND IN 2014
Head coach: George Collins (40-91 in 13 seasons overall; 19-42 in six seasons at Rutland).
2013 record: 6-5.
2014 region: 2-AAAA.
Returning starters: 4 on offense; 6 on defense.
Players to watch: BJ Bawn (Sr., S); TJ Faulks (Sr., RB); Willam Scruggs (Sr., DE); Timori Northcutt (Sr., QB); Derek Moye (Sr., T); Dallas Smith (Sr., WR): Rashaad Royal (Sr., LB).
Nov. 29 vs. Westside
Sept. 5 vs. Northeast
Sept. 12 vs. Howard
Sept. 19 at Kendrick
Sept. 26 Peach County
Oct. 3 at Jordan
Oct. 10 vs. Southwest
Oct. 16 at Spencer
Oct. 31 vs. Central
Nov. 6 Jackson