Posted: Monday, August 13th 2012 at 10:19am
Football 2012: Year-two charm for Armstrong? North Forsyth hopes so
By Jeff Hart Staff
COAL MOUNTAIN -- Despite a 1-9 record in 2011, North Forsyth coach Blair Armstrong still feels good about the Raiders’ chances in 2012.
“It was a very tough region and we were in just about every game,” Armstrong said of 2011. “A few plays and we could have had two or three more wins. I thought we were a much better team than our record.”
With just a handful of seniors a year ago, dozens of underclassmen got a taste of varsity football and Armstrong said that could be a real strength as they prepare for the 2012 season. If the pattern holds for Armstrong-led teams, year two for the Raiders could be a good one.
At every school Armstrong has led, his team made the playoffs in its second season following a non-winning first year.
“I don’t know if there is anything to that,” he said. “But it usually takes a year or so to learn the system and become proficient in it. This is a hard working group and I feel like we are much farther along at this time this year than last.”
The Raiders return all 11 starters on offense that struggled early in 2011 with eight-points or fewer in the three of their first four games with two shutouts but averaged 10 or more points in their final six games. They lost two games by a touchdown or less.
Junior quarterback Harris Roberts returns to run the wing-T and will have three solid backfield mates to choose from in seniors Eric Fitzgerald, Cameron Andersen and junior Luke Slaton, who led the team in rushing as a sophomore. Seniors Colby Gossett and Tanner Short will anchor the line, which has shuffled a few players around but all five started at some point in 2011. The wide receiver position will be thin early, however, after suffering injuries to two top players.
The defense returns six starters from last year but Armstrong said it should be a much-improved unit from the one that yielded over 32 points a game last year. Seniors Madison Hoke, Joe Musulman, and Fitzgerald will anchor what should be a solid linebacker corps, while senior Christian Coussan moves over from offense to help Gossett anchor the defensive line. Fitzgerald and Musulman led the Raiders in tackles last season.
“We’re still a young team overall but we got a lot of varsity experience coming back,” Armstrong said. “I think the defense will be very good and the offense should be good once we get everyone back. We’re a hungry team that I think will be very competitive. It’s a still a tough region but we’re a year older and wiser, I hope. I’m looking forward to see how things go.”
The Raiders have a rare lopsided schedule with just four home games and six road games. They open with road games against rival Forsyth Central and Dawson County and then take on Cherokee before their Region 6-AAAAAA opener against Chattahoochee. Their first three opponents were a combined 8-22 last year giving them a chance to get some early confidence with winnable games.
“That would mean a lot for us to have some early success,” Armstrong said. “I don’t think we can look at anyone as someone we should beat but I feel like we have a chance to be very competitive early and that could give us the momentum we need once we get to the region (games).”
NORTH FORSYTH: NEED TO KNOW
TEAM COLORS: Black, Silver, & Purple
CURRENT REGION: 6-AAAAAA
HEAD COACH/RECORD AT SCHOOL: Blair Armstrong, second season, 1-9
KEY LOSSES: PK Cole Allison (now at Ga. Southern)
OFFENSIVE STYLE: Wing-T -- the Raiders like to run a balanced attack with a mix of run and pass
KEY OFFENSIVE PLAYERS: Jr. QB Harris Roberts, Sr. OL Colby Gossett, Sr. OL Tanner Short
DEFENSIVE STYLE: 4-4 -- North Forsyth will look to get its playmakers near the line of scrimmage and around the ball.
KEY DEFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. LB Eric Fitzgerald, Sr. LB Joe Musulman, Sr. LB Madison Hoke, Sr. DE End Colby Gossett
SPECIAL TEAMS: Sr. PK Vince Sciorrotta, Jr. P Cody Gottberg, Jr. KR Branson Marks, Jr. KR Luke Slaton
STRENGTH: Better chemistry and leadership -- The Raiders feel they were lacking in that department last season and that it will make a big difference this year. Offensively, with 11 returning starters the Raiders should be much-improved over last season. The linebacking corps on defense solid be solid with three college prospects in Fitzgerald, Muselman, and Hoke.
QUESTION: How well the Raiders handle themselves early in the season will tell how their season goes.
KEY GAMES: Four of final six region games are on the road, including season finale at rival South Forsyth.
TRENDING: North Forsyth saw a two-year playoff streak snapped last season, but coach Armstrong took each of his last three schools to the playoffs in his second year following a non-playoff season.
Aug. 31 at Forsyth Central
Sept. 7 at Dawson County
Sept. 14 vs. Cherokee
Sept. 21 vs. Chattahoochee
Sept. 28 at Lambert
Oct. 12 at Alpharetta
Oct. 19 vs. West Forsyth
Oct. 26 at Centennial
Nov. 2 vs. Johns Creek
Nov. 9 at South Forsyth
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