Posted: Monday, August 13th 2012 at 9:38am
Football 2012: Stephens Co. motivated by past, focused on future
By Morgan Lee Editor
TOCCOA -- Stephens County football accomplished some impressive things last season, finishing second in Region 8-AAA and reaching the second round of the state playoffs.
What has kept the Indians motivated this offseason, however, are the memories of two games from 2011.
“We were very disappointed about what happened in the region championship game (against Gainesville) and at Cairo (in the second round of the playoffs),” Stephens County coach Travis Noland said of contests the Indians dropped by a combined score of 102-21. “We didn’t handle adversity very well in two big games, and I’ll be interested to see how we do that this season.”
Looking at the roster, Stephens certainly returns plenty of talent -- including perhaps the top running back in north Georgia in Chaz Thornton -- and experience, with eight starters back on offense. But Noland says his team can’t just expect to be better because it has another year under its belt.
“We can’t be satisfied with what we’ve achieved at any point this season; we’ve got to take another step every day,” Noland said.
The Indians, who finished 9-3 in 2011, will also turn to some new faces in 2012, especially on defense, where Stephens returns just three starters. That trio is pretty impressive, however, and includes all-region linebacker Jabacus Wiley, a three-year starter for the Indians. Jordan Williams is also a three-year starter and will be featured at defensive end and outside linebacker, while all-region strong safety Luke Gibbs returns to anchor the secondary.
A number of the Indians’ new starters also received plenty of field time in 2011, as Stephens scored three wins by four touchdowns or more last season.
“We’re just going to line up and be sound fundamentally; it’s no big secret what we do,” said Noland, whose defense allowed just 17.5 points per game last season -- and only 8.8 per game in nine wins.
Noland’s words are echoed in the fact that every team that faces the Indians offense will know about Thornton. The fleet-footed senior rushed for 2,182 yards and 21 touchdowns as a junior and also has the toughness to take on tacklers.
“He’s physically and mentally ready for his senior year,” Noland said of Thornton. “He’s a great player -- but he’s only as good as what’s around him.”
Surrounding Thornton is an experienced offensive line that returns four starters, a bruising fullback in DK Dooley (a three-year starter) and a senior quarterback in Dionte Mayfield that took control of the starter’s role last season. Receiver T’omas Colbert is also an explosive player that can burn any secondary.
“The terminology is the same for us and we’ve been able to rep rather than install this preseason,” Noland said.
One change will come in the form of competition, as Stephens County prepares to move up to Region 8-AAAA. Yet many of the Indians foes in the new league will be familiar, including former Region 8-AAA rivals Lumpkin County and Chestatee. Old rivals Habersham Central, Franklin County and Hart County make up the non-region schedule.
“It’s a tough schedule, and we’re getting ready for a challenge this year,” Noland said.
STEPHENS COUNTY: NEED TO KNOW
TEAM COLORS: Red and Black
CURRENT REGION: 8-AAAA
HEAD COACH/RECORD AT SCHOOL: Travis Noland,eighth season, 60-21
KEY LOSSES: LB Aaron Trotter (all-region selection), DE Ryan Hudson (all-region selection), DB Andrew Randall (knee injury)
OFFENSIVE STYLE: Multiple-I -- the Indians will look to run first, controlling the ball, but will also take shots downfield when possible.
KEY OFFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. RB Chaz Thornton (2,182 yards rushing, 21 TDs last season), Sr. QB Dionte Mayfield (7 passing TDs last season), Sr. FB DK Dooley, Sr. WR T’omas Colbert, 4 offensive line starters return
DEFENSIVE STYLE: 4-3 -- Stephens will try to control offenses by keeping everything contained but will blitz on occasion.
KEY DEFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. LB Jabacus Wiley, Sr. LB/DE Jordan Williams, Sr. SS Luke Gibbs
SPECIAL TEAMS: Sr. PK Matt Moon, P still undecided as of publication time
STRENGTH: Offense -- The Indians feature one of the most explosive running backs in the state in Thornton, a bruising fullback in Dooley and an experienced QB in Mayfield. With an experienced offensive line in front, Stephens County may be set for big things on offense in 2012.
QUESTION: Resiliency -- coach Noland says his team will never forget two losses last season -- the region championship defeat to Gainesville and state playoff loss at Cairo (by a combined score of 102-21). When things get tough this season, how will the Indians respond?
KEY GAMES: Stephens faces traditional rival Habersham Central early on (Sept. 7, home), and travels to face Hart County the next week (Sept. 14). The Indians face old Region 8-AAA foes Chestatee and Monroe Area in successive games (Sept. 28 and Oct. 12, respectively).
TRENDING: The Indians have fully rebounded from a 3-7 showing in 2009, going 8-3 in 2010 and 9-3 last season. With the weapons at Stephens County’s disposal, 2012 could represent yet another step forward, though the Indians will want to keep pressure off a young defense early, as the unit returns just three starters.
Aug. 31 at Franklin County
Sept. 7 vs. Habersham Central
Sept. 14 at Hart County
Sept. 21 vs. Walnut Grove
Sept. 28 vs. Chestatee
Oct. 12 at Monroe Area
Oct. 19 at Madison County
Oct. 26 vs. Lanier
Nov. 2 vs. Eastside
Nov. 9 at Lumpkin County
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