Posted: Thursday, September 8th 2011 at 11:47am
Area round-up: Banks, Rabun happy with starts; Buford set for Henry
By Morgan Lee Editor
HOMER -- In August, Philip Jones had an idea his Banks County football team had the pieces in place for a successful start.
A week into September, Jones knows the Leopards have what it takes to make for a thriving campaign.
“You never know until you put it to the fire, but we’ve seen these kids are tough, resilient and very coachable,” said Jones, who has led Banks County to a 2-0 start in his first season in Homer after taking over from Blair Armstrong -- who left the Leopards for North Forsyth this offseason.
“From a record standpoint we couldn’t have asked for a better start, but we’re still working to get better, and we’re not settling on those wins.”
A big key to the fast start has been defense, as the Leopards have taken to their 3-4 base with aplomb, holding Social Circle and Riverside Military to 100 and 35 yards respectively.
“Everybody on the defense has done an excellent job, led by our defensive coordinator Steve Siegmund,” Jones said. “They’re playing with an attitude; they’re physical, and they’re getting after people.”
Banks County’s defense is also getting after the football, forcing eight total turnovers in two games -- four in each contest (four fumble recoveries and four interceptions).
“There’s so many guys playing well on that unit that it’s hard to single anyone out,” Jones said. “Ryan Seabolt is leading us in tackles with 12 tackles, and he’s been a real leader for us on the field. Defensive end Rayshaw Hunter has also played well, and free safety Brenton Ruark is the quarterback of the defense.”
The emergence of Chris Canup has also been impressive, as the junior safety has gone from gridiron newcomer to consistent playmaker.
“He had never even played before but came out, and watching someone like that, who was so raw, develop is really gratifying,” said Jones of Canup, who had an interception and fumble recovery in last week’s win.
The Leopards have outscored their two opponents by a combined 54-7, getting big games from running back Dean Ewing and quarterback Tyler Hubbard.
“Dean’s a big, physical kid that like to get downhill and punish tacklers; he’s giving our offense an element it needs,” Jones said. “Tyler’s really come on. He’s a heady quarterback and a great distributor. He understands what everybody’s supposed to be doing on every play.”
Banks also understands that things will get a lot harder starting Friday when the Leopards travel for a cross-region match-up with East Jackson. The Eagles blanked Banks 38-0 last season and will present a challenge despite a 35-0 loss to Oconee County last week.
“They’re athletic and they’re aggressive,” Jones said, knowing that a 3-0 start would be huge but also adding that his team is unfazed by the early success.
“These guys got used to winning under coach Armstrong,” Jones said. “They expect to play well, and they’re not shell-shocked by success.”
-- RABUN ROLLING EARLY: Rabun County has won its first two games of the season for the first time since 1999, and the Wildcats have already surpassed their win total of the past four seasons after going 1-9 from 2007-2010.
So what’s the secret in Tiger?
Coach Danny Durham says it’s simple -- literally.
Rabun has plenty of talented players, including senior running back Dyllon Crabtree and wide receivers Jimmy Stamey and Drew Titman (both seniors). The Wildcats offensive line has also stepped up, as has their special teams -- Rabun kicked a 42-yard field goal with 17 seconds left on the clock to seal a 17-14 win over Hayesville, N.C., in the season opener. The Wildcats followed that with a 21-7 win over Robbinsville, N.C., last week.
“The kids are excited; they’re still trying to figure out how good we are,” Durham said. “We’re having to teach them how to take success, because we haven’t had that in a while.”
To keep that going, the Wildcats will have to face down an athletic Oglethorpe County team this weekend on a long road trip in Lexington.
“If we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot, we can keep move the ball on Friday,” Durham said. “Defensively, we have to make them use a lot of plays to move the ball, because they’re too talented not to have some success. We just have to avoid the big play.”
-- BUFORD NOT BORED WITH TV: Would you ever get tired of playing on television? I didn’t think so – and neither are the Buford Wolves.
The Wolves will take on Yulee, Fla., at 8:30 p.m. Friday night at Tom Riden Stadium in a game telecast live on ESPNU -- WDUN AM 550 will also broadcast the contest live.
“It’s another big moment for us; and the kids are still excited about being on TV,” Buford coach Jess Simpson said. “We just have to keep the routine as normal as we can.”
Top-ranked Buford (3-0) will look to slow down Yulee running back Derrick Henry in the contest. The junior – currently committed to the University of Georgia – rushed for 5,164 yards and 64 touchdowns in his first two seasons with the Hornets. He also managed 181 yards and two TDs on 32 carries last week in a season-opening loss against Gainesville, Fla., High.
“You don’t see kids like him very often,” Simpson said of the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Henry. “They will line it up and run it right at you.”
Of course Buford’s defense will look at it at as a challenge after allowing just 53 yards rushing per game through its first three wins.
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