With the first games of the high school football season less than three weeks away, here is a quick look at what to watch for this fall, from A-to-Z ... or, to put Middle Georgia’s high schools in alphabetical order, Baldwin to Windsor.
@BR Box Type bold lede colon:All-Middle Georgia: The designation has a different meaning this year, with Region 2-AAA’s 10-team region completely comprised of Middle Georgia schools.
Bus trip: Twiggs County will make a trip to Daytona Beach, Fla., on Aug. 27 to play Glades Day.
Consistency: Hawkinsville running back Fabian Forrest has rushed for 1,000 yards in each of his three high school seasons. The senior will try to go 4-for-4 this year.
Dexters: Two coaches named Dexter were connected this offseason when Dexter Copeland took the head coaching job at Baldwin. His replacement at Twiggs County: Dexter Dawson.
Elephants: You might confuse the Washington County offensive line with these huge mammals. The Golden Hawks have two three-year starters up front and a giant blocking tight end that weighs 282 pounds. None of the offensive linemen are lighter than 255 pounds.
Fresh face: Plenty of Middle Georgia schools changed coaches this year, but most of the hires were locally known. The exception is new East Laurens head coach Gary Morton, who came from Florida. West Laurens also went just outside of Middle Georgia to hire ECI offensive coordinator Chad Simmons.
Gritty: Westfield running back John Lee isn’t big, but the senior will be seeking his third straight 1,000-yard season. The Hornets must replace talent up front, but Lee should be a pretty good crutch to lean on with his hard-nosed inside running.
Hello, again: The last time Northside was in Class AAAA, it won two consecutive state championships. The Eagles are back in AAAA, and many believe they can contend for another championship.
In the valley: Peach County will have the tough task as trying to repeat as Class AAA champions, and the road won’t be easy with road games at Warner Robins and Westside and a home game against Baldwin.
Joystick: Wilcox County quarterback Nick Marshall does things on the field that most people can only do in video games. The Telegraph’s Player of the Year is looking for a second straight state championship.
Kevin Kinsler: The Northside alum and longtime defensive coordinator takes over as head coach for the retiring Conrad Nix. The Eagles won’t see a dropoff with a largely intact coaching staff returning.
Laurens County turnover: Three of the four schools in the county have new head coaches, with Trinity Christian and West Laurens getting new head coaches for the second straight year.
Milestones: Several head coaches are approaching win milestones. Bleckley County’s Sam Barrs is four wins away from 150. Crawford County’s Tony Byram and Gatewood’s Gene Harper have 96 wins. Dodge County’s Lee Campbell has 93 wins.
Newbies: Veterans, the new high school in Kathleen, kicks off its inaugural season under the direction of longtime Warner Robins assistant coach David Bruce.
October 1: The date of the best rivalry in the state, Northside vs. Warner Robins, is a month earlier than last year. This should give both teams some time to recover from the intense matchup.
Potent: Johnson County’s D.J. Rozier and Zack Walker might be the most talented quarterback-receiver tandem in the state. The two hooked up for 14 touchdowns last year.
Quick attention: Leonard Floyd can’t sign a scholarship until February 2012, but the Dodge County defensive lineman is already getting offers from SEC schools.
Robins: The Warner Robins’ mascot might be getting plenty of attention now, but the school’s football team could be playoff bound after dropping to Class AAAA.
Shaq attack: Northside running back Shaquille O’Neill returns to lead a potent rushing attack a year after rushing for 1,189 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Title hopes: Many teams can jump in the championship mix as the season goes on, but it appears that Northside, Wilcox County and Tattnall Square have the best chances and the fewest question marks heading into the season.
Undersized: Piedmont’s Blake Hammock (5-foot-6, 135 pounds) might not scare people off the field, but the senior is a terror on it. He rushed for 1,676 yards and 18 touchdowns last season.
Van Brunt: Northside quarterback Briar Van Brunt was arguably his team’s MVP last season, turning in huge performances in his team’s two biggest wins on the way to the state championship game. Van Brunt helped beat Lowndes with his arm, and he used his legs to beat Newnan.
Whistling: Washington County’s standout running back Montravious Gladden rushed for 1,750 yards. “Whistle” will be a big component of a WACO team that could contend for a state championship.
X: The Roman numeral for 10 just so happens to be the number of state championships Tattnall Square has won. The Trojans have a shot a No. XI this season.
Year one: FPD makes its debut in the GHSA this year. The Vikings open up on a Thursday night against Irwin County.
Zeroing in: Fitzgerald quarterback Kaleb Nobles is comfortable focusing right at his target and delivering a great ball with a lightning-quick release. Although he’s an undersized junior, Nobles reportedly already has an offer from Clemson.