Posted: Monday, August 13th 2012 at 9:43am
Football 2012: Banks County ready to continue ascent
By Morgan Lee Editor
HOMER -- Philip Jones made quite an entrance at the helm of Banks County football.
In 2012 he wants to show that first scene was by no means a one-act play.
“We hope to use the success of last year to keep building,” said Jones, who in 2011 led the Leopards to a runner-up finish in Region 8-AA and the program’s third-ever home state playoff game. “We want to create an atmosphere where just making the playoffs is not good enough. We want to go deeper than the first round and advance.”
And despite graduating some standout players and moving up to Class AAA, Jones believes he has a team capable of doing just that.
“We’re excited about the challenge of moving into (Region 7-AAA),” Jones said. “We’re going up against some great opponents, but we’re getting better as a program too and we want to test ourselves against good competition.”
Certainly Jones will get his wish, as the Leopards move into a region featuring state powerhouse Buford; along with teams like North Hall and White County, which have been Class AAA playoff programs; and familiar foes Dawson County and Fannin County.
Yet outside of Buford’s 2011 Class AA runner-up finish, Banks County is the only returning playoff team in 7-AAA. And the Leopards return 15 starters from that squad.
“We did graduate seven quality starters, but I feel like we’ve got that many quality guys still on the roster,” Jones said.
The coach’s assessment certainly has to include quarterback Tyler Hubbard. The senior signal caller is the undisputed leader of the Leopards’ multiple-I attack. He averaged 8.3 yards per carry in limited carries last season but also has the ability to spread the ball around through the air. Receiver Greg Cannon may be Hubbard’s top target.
“We’re a little bit more in the shotgun this year, with some option thrown in,” Jones said. “We’re going to utilize Tyler’s talents. He throws it accurately and was voted as a team captain last year.”
Meanwhile, junior tailback Wesley Faulkner will look to take over from graduated standout Dean Ewing, who pounded opposing defenses for over 1,600 yards in 2011.
“Last year a lot of times we’d just give it to Dean; this year we feel like we can utilize more weapons,” Jones said. “Wesley’s not as big as Dean, but he’s very quick and can make some big runs.”
Banks’ biggest question may come at the offensive line where it will have to replace three full-time starters (though one starter played significant minutes last season).
That won’t be the case on defense, where the Leopards return two stout linemen to anchor their three-man front in nose guard Rayshawn Hunter and end Hayden Dilbeck.
Yet perhaps the strength of Banks’ defense, which returns eight starters, will be at the linebacker spot, where All-Region 8-AA performer Ryan Seabolt leads the way. Eli Smallwood will also be a key player after returning from an injury suffered in 2011. The secondary starters will also be strong, though depth is a concern at the position.
The Leopards will lean on two new kickers on special teams in placekicker Greg Perez and punter Carman Hicks, both juniors.
“We’re excited. We accomplished some great things last year, but we’re ready to take that forward and build on that,” Jones said.
BANKS COUNTY: NEED TO KNOW
TEAM COLORS: Blue and White
CURRENT REGION: 7-AAA
HEAD COACH/RECORD AT SCHOOL: Philip Jones, second season, 7-4
2011 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 7-4, Region 8-AA runner up, reached first round of Class AA playoffs
KEY LOSSES: RB Dean Ewing (1,600-plus yards rushing), WR Marquaze Maddox, three starting offensive linemen, S Brenton Ruark
OFFENSIVE STYLE: Multiple-I -- the Leopards will still look to run with power but will mix in the pass a bit more frequently, utilizing plenty of play-action.
KEY OFFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. QB Tyler Hubbard, Jr. RB Wesley Faulkner, Sr. WR Greg Cannon, Sr. FB Tanner Thompson -- seven starters return
DEFENSIVE STYLE: 3-4/3-5 -- Banks County will try to confuse opposing offenses with lots of shifts and motion before the snap and returns nine starters from 2011.
KEY DEFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. LB Ryan Seabolt, Sr. LB Eli Smallwood, Sr. DE Hayden Dilbeck, Sr. NG Rayshawn Hunter -- nine starters return
SPECIAL TEAMS: Jr. P Carman Hicks, Jr. PK Greg Perez -- each will be new to his duties in 2012.
STRENGTH: Offensive balance/linebackers -- Coach Jones believes that, in Hubbard, the Leopards have a dependable quarterback that can lead the team on the ground and in the air. He also believes the Leopards have a bigger group of weapons this season -- even if they don’t have one superstar. ... Banks’s linebackers are also experienced and athletic.
QUESTION: Offensive line/secondary depth -- the Leopards return two full-time starters, so they will need help quickly from some relatively new faces. ... The secondary starters are strong, but Banks needs to build some depth quickly.
KEY GAMES: The Leopards will face a stretch of former Region 8-AA opponents in October that could go a long way in deciding their fate in Region 7-AAA. Banks hosts Dawson County (Oct. 5), then travels to Fannin (Oct. 19) before returning home for a showdown with East Hall (Oct. 26).
TRENDING: Coming off two-straight, seven-win seasons, the Leopards are looking to solidify those winning ways and become a yearly power. Moving up in classification won’t be easy, but coach Jones feels he has the players in place -- 16 total starters return -- to build on last year’s strong start and make a push for the postseason in Region 7-AAA.
Aug. 31 vs. East Jackson
Sept. 7 at Athens Christian
Sept. 14 at Commerce
Sept. 21 vs. West Hall
Sept. 28 vs. Buford
Oct. 5 vs. Dawson County
Oct. 19 at Fannin County
Oct. 26 vs. East Hall
Nov. 2 at North Hall
Nov. 9 at White County
© Copyright 2013 AccessNorthGa.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.