PERRY -- The Westfield Hornets under head coach Ronnie Jones spent decades chasing their elusive first state championship until ultimately breaking through in 2013. Not content with just one, the Hornets followed up that initial title run by rolling over Pinewood 52-7 in last year’s GISA title game.
Now, Westfield is poised to go down in history as only the second program in GISA Class AAA to win three consecutive titles (Tattnall Square 1988 to 1990).
“Coming in sophomore year, nobody had ever (won a championship) at Westfield,” senior Giles Amos said. “To do it three times would be unbelievable and something to really leave our mark on the school with.”
If Westfield is to raise the trophy once again, it will do it on the backs of its skill players. Just five starters return offensively, but among those are leading rusher Josh Jenkins, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and leading pass-catcher, Amos.
The 6-foot-4 standout wide receiver and safety is a mismatch for almost every Hornets opponent on the outside, but Jones will give him time along the line of scrimmage this season in an effort to showcase Amos’ abilities to potential college recruiters.
“We’re going to move him around a little bit because I believe Giles is a tight end type at the next level,” Jones said. “He started for us in the ninth grade. I’ve been a lot of places; I’ve been in public and private, but he may be the best athlete that I’ve ever coached. He’s special, and he’s worked hard. I just hope that he’s able to go to the next level.”
“I’m looking forward to showcasing my talent and showing everybody that I’m more than just a wide receiver,” Amos said. “I’m not afraid to get physical in the trenches. I love hitting, and I’m lucky to get the chance to do it this year playing more up on the ball.”
Westfield was hit hard by graduation along the line of scrimmage last season but does return an anchor in John Walker Moore. Jones believes the competition for playing time at the open positions alongside his entrenched senior has given his team an edge in preseason preparation.
“It’s exciting when a lot of kids know that they have a chance to play because we lost quite a few people, especially among the offensive and defensive linemen,” Jones said. “We have some young people and some inexperienced people vying for jobs right now, and they know that, so you probably get a little more out of them.”
Westfield had the luxury of starting 19 different players a year ago, but many more will have to play all three phases of the game this season due to its depleted depth.
The Hornets will be tested early. After opening the season at Southland, Westfield will head back on the road the following week to face reigning Region 3-AAA champion Valwood. That game in Valdosta will begin a streak of five consecutive opponents who reached the playoffs last season. Jones hopes that the tough games early will prepare his young linemen for the region contests to come.
Westfield will host fellow 2014 Class AAA semifinalist Deerfield-Windsor on Sept. 11 and John Milledge on Oct. 16.
“We’ve got some tough games early, and we’re going to be the type of team who isn’t as good early in the season as we hope to be by the end of the year,” Jones said.
ABOUT THE WESTFIELD HORNETS
Head coach: Ronnie Jones (335-123-5 in 40 seasons overall; 206-66-2 in 21 seasons at Westfield).
Assistant coaches: Rhett Farmer (defensive coordinator); Jake Walls, Thomas Craig, Ken Fowler, Rob Fitzpatrick.
Offensive scheme: Wing-T.
Defensive scheme: Split-six.
2014 record: 13-1.
Region: GISA 4-AAA.
Returning starters: Five on offense; six on defense.
Players to watch: Ryan Fitzpatrick (Sr., QB); Giles Amos (Sr., SE/FS); John Walker Moore (Sr., DT); Josh Jenkins (Sr. FB/OLB); Gavin Edmondson (Sr., TE/OLB); Austin Doyle (Sr., G); Griffin Elmore (Sr., PK); Reagan Waller (Sr., CB/RB).
Aug. 21 at Southland
Aug. 28 at Valwood
Sept. 4 Trinity Christian-Sharpsburg
Sept. 11 Deerfield-Windsor
Sept. 25 at Bulloch
Oct. 2 Westminster
Oct. 9 at Gatewood
Oct. 16 John Milledge
Oct. 23 Flint River
Oct. 30 at Augusta Prep