FORT VALLEY -- A perfect 10-0 regular season in 2014 crumbled in the opening round of the GHSA Class AAA playoffs as Peach County was upset by Appling County in a mistake-prone performance.
The Trojans turned the ball over as many times in that contest as they had the first nine games, and the sting has not been forgotten by the program’s coaches and players.
“It’s gone and done with now, but that was a tough pill right there,” Peach County head coach Chad Campbell said. “We had played so well most of the year and really played our best game of the year in Game 10. Then we just had one of those nights that you can’t explain. It was a tough way to end the season.”
“There’s a real bitter taste when you look back, especially when you think about how hard you worked and how good of a season you had,” senior cornerback Tyrique McGhee said. “It just makes you stronger, though. Guys around the state are looking at you wondering if we’re overrated, and that just makes you work harder.”
A younger Trojans team with just 10 seniors will look to lead a talented bunch back to playoff success this season.
Campbell’s brother, Lee Campbell, joined the Peach County staff during the offseason and will call plays for a defensive unit that returns six starters and held opponents to 7.9 points per game a year ago. Lee Campbell won a state championship as the head coach at Hawkinsville in 2004.
“I think (the move to Peach County) has just rejuvenated (Lee),” Chad Campbell said. “I think we have the capability on defense to be really, really good.”
McGhee returns as the only senior in a secondary with new faces all around. The Georgia commitment’s ability to play single coverage on his side of the field will allow the defense to get creative on the other side.
“We may not be as good as a whole group playing man-to-man coverage, but we can do things with (McGhee),” Campbell said.
“I can lock it down on my side, and we can run a bunch of stunts and stuff on the other to just confuse the offense,” McGhee said.
Peach County should be solid along the offensive line once again, but it will need new starters to step forward at the skill positions.
Sophomore Antonio Gilbert’s emergence at quarterback offsets the transfer of former starter Robert Allen to Hart County and means McGhee won’t have to play on both sides of the football full time.
Gilbert commands a unit that will look to speed up the pace of the game.
“He’s really taking strides, and we’re throwing a lot of stuff at him right now that he probably won’t see during the year,” Campbell said.
Joining the sophomore quarterback in the backfield will be the electric James Jackson. Trojans fans were able to get a good look at the speedster a year ago when he spelled starting tailback Keyshawn Lowe.
“J.J. is going to have a big year,” Campbell said. “He played last year and showed some really quick spurts of being a really good back. I’ve put more expectations on him this year, and he’s really had a good summer. I expect big things out of him this year.”
With the departure of leading receiver Saire Davis to Charleston Southern, Peach County will need pass catchers to step forward and make plays on the outside. Campbell said that group was hit or miss during the preseason.
“They haven’t shown right now that they can be depended on, so my wideouts right now are a sore point for us,” Campbell said. “Somebody has to be able to step up and be the guy.”
ABOUT THE PEACH COUNTY TROJANS
Head coach: Chad Campbell (86-16 in eight seasons overall and at Peach County).
Assistant coaches: Todd Cooper (offensive coordinator); Lee Campbell (defensive coordinator); Ricky Wray (running backs); Bruce Mackey (wide receivers); Sherwin Lyons (offensive line); Hubert Hogan (quarterbacks); Jeff Bailey (linebackers); Craig Johnson (safeties); Terry Smith (cornerbacks); Deitrich Everette (defensive line); Cam Black (defensive line).
Offensive scheme: Multiple-I.
Defensive scheme: Odd front.
2014 record: 10-1.
Region: GHSA 2-AAA.
Returning starters: Six on offense; six on defense.
Players to watch: Tyrique McGhee (Sr., DB); Bryce Mackey (Sr., OL); Kyle Nixon (Jr., LB); Kevin Nixon (Jr., LB); Kendrick Johnson (Jr., WR); James Jackson (Jr., RB); Fletcher Hooks (Jr., LB); Leondre Kincy (Sr., DE); Keenan Dodson (Sr., NG); Kearis Jackson (Soph., WR).
Aug. 28 Warner Robins
Sept. 4 Perry
Sept. 11 Southwest
Sept. 18 Spencer
Sept. 25 Rutland
Oct. 2 at Central
Oct. 9 Kendrick
Oct. 16 at Jackson
Oct. 23 Jordan
Oct. 30 at Westside