By Brian Paglia
The problem with having the most decorated senior class in a football program's history - one that introduced Henry County to playoff football, that won two consecutive region championships, that made players like Drew Little, Jamal Patterson and Quan Jones household names - is eventually they leave.
And what's left are the understudies, many who lingered in the shadows, few who offer evidence of how they can perform during games.
But that is what the summer is for, specifically the passing leagues, when fresh talent is discovered, and Warhawks coach Mike Rozier seems pleased with what he has discovered thus far.
Henry County went 8-0 Saturday in a passing tournament, defeating Eagle's Landing Christian 15-14 in the championship game when the Chargers missed on a two-point conversion that would have swayed the outcome.
"I thought we did extremely well," Rozier said, "especially having a young team this year and having to find a quarterback."
What Henry County is forced to replace on the field this season is unprecedented in its history, but those replacements are beginning to emerge.
To step in for Little, quarterback candidates Dylan Shaddix, Andrew Brunnert and Chris Moody have all been given an opportunity to make their case. Each are transfers digesting the Warhawks playbook for the first time. Each took snaps this past weekend. And each has peaked Rozier's interest.
"They're making it difficult," Rozier said. "Early on the Shaddix kid I thought was making the most progress. But just in the last three weeks Brunnert has really on come on.
"If the season started tomorrow, right now I'm inclined to use both of them, but we'll keep letting it play out."
To step in for Jones, sophomore Jean Bark has shown tremendous progress, Rozier said. To pair with star receiver Markeith Ambles, in the mold Patterson established, Eagle's Landing transfer Shavarez Smith has looked good according to his new coach.
Through its first tests this summer, Henry County's youth and inexperience hasn't proven to be a detriment. Its next test will be its most formidable yet, when it participates this weekend in a qualifier tournament for the National High School Football 7-on-7 Championship at Hoover (Ala.) High School.
But Rozier and the Warhawks have embraced their tests this summer.
"I think it's good for the youth of our program to do extremely well," Rozier said. "It's a great competition and chance to compete."
Ambles almost decided
The courtship of Henry County's latest super-talented wide receiver, Markeith Ambles, has been well-chronicled and monitored by the college football recruiting industry.
And it may come to an end soon.
According to Rozier, Ambles will attend two more camps - the Friday Night Lights Camp hosted by the University of Florida July 24; and the FBU Top Gun Showcase Camp in Orlando, Fla.
Ambles would like to make his decision soon after he returns from the Top Gun Showcase, choosing among offers from Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, West Virginia and UCLA.
"After those two things, he's willing to get it over with and concentrate on the season," Rozier said.