Posted: Thursday, August 15th 2013 at 9:41am
Football 2013: Speed, experience an exciting combo for Vikings
By Morgan Lee Editor
EAST HALL: NEED TO KNOW
TEAM COLORS: Black and Gold
CURRENT REGION: 7-AAA
HEAD COACH/RECORD AT SCHOOL: Bryan Gray, seventh season, 16-44
2012 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 5-5
KEY LOSSES: QB Zach Groover, DT Devonte' Benton, DL Cody Andrews, MLB Dustin Rodgers, LB Schqwon Tanner
OFFENSIVE STYLE: Multiple -- East Hall will incorporate a number of elements into its attack, looking to make the most of its athleticism
KEY OFFENSIVE PLAYERS: 9 returning starters -- Sr. RB Edward Vergara, Jr. QB Devin Watson, So. QB Thaddeus Webb, Jr. RB Juwon Merritt, Jr. RB Jacques Ash, So. RB Jiel Vargas, Sr. WR Milton Whelchel, Sr. WR Dre Brawner
DEFENSIVE STYLE: Multiple -- The Vikings will look to use their athleticism to break up offensive attacks before they can get going.
KEY DEFENSIVE PLAYERS: 8 returning starters -- Sr. LB Jorge Hernandez, Sr. LB Quay Jarrells, Sr. LB Corey Reece, Sr. DL Leon Ellison, Sr. DL Kintavious Johnson, Jr. Saf Devin Watson, So. CB Jacquen Hopkins
SPECIAL TEAMS: Jr. P Junior Lee, Placekicking duties still undecided as of publication time.
STRENGTH: Athleticism/experience -- With 20 seniors on the roster and 17 starters returning, the Vikings will field their deepest, fastest and most talented squad in years.
QUESTION: Size -- East Hall may be fast, but they face a region full of imposing lines of scrimmage, which could prove difficult against teams like Buford, North Hall, White County and Dawson County. The Vikings are excited about their chances, however.
KEY GAMES: Opening the 2013 season a week earlier than most (Aug. 23) against a Dawson County team coming off a state playoff appearance will set a tone for the campaign and give the Vikings an extra off date in the middle of the season. White County (Sept. 27, home) should prove a big test, and the Vikings will play at North Hall on the very next Friday (Oct. 4). A bye week before facing West Hall (Oct. 18, away) could be key.
TRENDING: East Hall is no longer in the football wilderness, having posted two straight 5-5 seasons, and the Vikings are continuously improving and building under Gray. This is the season they hope to take another big step and reach the playoffs. An abundance of speed should give East Hall an edge in 2013.
Aug. 23 vs. Dawson County
Aug. 30 vs. Chattooga
Sept. 13 at East Jackson
Sept. 20 at Johnson
Sept. 27 vs. White County
Oct. 4 at North Hall
Oct. 18 at West Hall
Oct. 25 vs. Banks County
Nov. 1 at Buford
Nov. 8 vs. Fannin County
RABBITTOWN -- When Bryan Gray took over the East Hall football program in 2007 he faced a program in disarray.
Those days are, happily, in the rearview mirror.
"It seems like yesterday we were just starting and looking at seven returning varsity players," Gray said. "Now we have 85-90 players."
Amongst that sizable group are 20 seniors and 17 returning starters. And after years of building, there is plenty of hope in East Hall -- after back-to-back 5-5 campaigns -- that the Vikings are on the verge of something special.
"We're motivated, and we understand we have a chance to take the next step," Gray said. "It's a pride issue for these guys. They have bought in and got on with it. And we're excited. We've never had more than 10 seniors, and these guys are great, character kids."
That experience is providing plenty of anticipation but perhaps even more exciting is another factor.
"We can run," Gray said. "We're very small overall size-wise, but all our kids can run."
"We're going to have to make it a track meet," Gray said. "We're going to have to wear down the big bulldozers. In a region of big bulldozers, we're the Fiat."
There is currently a fierce battle to earn the keys to the Vikings' offense, as returning junior starter Devin Watson looks to hold off sophomore Thaddeus Young.
"They're 1-A and 1-B right now," Gray said. "They're both taking ownership of the offense, and both could be very good by the time they leave here."
Either quarterback will be supported by an impressive stable of running backs, including senior veteran Edward Vergara, juniors Juwon Merritt and Jacques Ash and sophomore Jiel Vargas. East Hall also features two standout receivers in seniors Milton Whelchel and Dre Brawner.
"We've run it for seven years, but we have to be able to throw it some too," Gray said. "Hopefully they all progress. The kids have accepted the challenge, and we're in shape and focused."
That includes the offensive line, which will look to offset any size mismatches with quick feet and strong technique.
"We've got eight linemen fighting for five spots," Gray said.
Likewise, East Hall's defense will look to disrupt opposing offenses by getting to the ball carrier early and en masse.
Certainly the Vikings have the linebackers to run with anyone, as four-year starters Jorge Hernandez and Quay Jarrells combine with three-year starter Corey Reece to form a formidable corps.
The defensive line will be anchored by seniors Leon Ellison and Kintavious Johnson, while the secondary features Watson at safety and sophomore Jacquen Hopkins at cornerback.
East Hall will look to replicate the start and finish it put together in 2012, when it opened 2-1 and closed by winning three of its last four contests.
Gray knows that won't be easy in Region 7-AAA, however.
"It's brutal," Gray said. "North Hall could have the best team it's ever had. Buford lost count of how many stars they have. White County is deep. West Hall is going to take a big step. Fannin and Dawson are huge. Banks is on the rebound. Everybody we see will be very good."
That is by no means dimming the outlook in Rabbittown, however, and East Hall is excited to open the season a week early against Dawson County on Aug. 23 at home.
"We're going to compete for the playoffs," Gray said. "That's our goal every year, but we have to worry about game one. Dawson County is very good, big and physical. If we can stay healthy, not turn the ball over and continue to grow then we're in the fight."
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