By Doug Gorman
Henry County football coach Mike Rozier can't help but point to someone who plays baseball for the Atlanta Braves when describing his team.
It might seem a bit of a stretch for a high school football coach to mention a baseball player when describing his squad, but Rozier says the Braves' Brooks Conrad and his work ethic remind him of his own team's positive approach to the upcoming football season.
Like Conrad, who does a little bit of everything for the first-place Braves, this year's Warhawk football team has a roster full of hard-working athletes who don't always get recognized, but show up every day to help get the job done.
In Rozier's own words, the 2010 edition of the Warhawks have that "blue-collar, hard-hat mentality" coaches would love to bottle and pass out each and every year.
"We are kind of an under-the-radar, punch-the-clock and go-to- work football team," Rozier said. "It's the hardest working team we have had here. I think the community is going to like this team."
The blue-print for this year's squad could start with how the offensive line performs.
Led by four-year starter Bobby Taylor, and junior Dalvin Tomlinson, a former state wrestling champ, who already has an offer to play football at South Carolina, Henry County's offensive line has all the tools a coach looks for when building that piece of the team.
They are big and strong and ready to continue Henry County's winning ways.
There is also a new approach to how the team's 0-line conducts its business, and it starts with new position coach Kent Booth, who comes over from Eagle's Landing High School.
"He has taken things to a new level," Rozier said. "They are really listening to what he's trying to teach. He brings a lot of energy."
The line is definitely responding to the positive vibe.
"We really don't have pressure on us, because we just know we have to go out there and do our jobs," Tomlinson said.
The rising junior says he has seen a commitment from both the offensive and defensive lines, especially during the off-season workouts.
"We have shown real dedication this summer. We are spending a lot of time in the weight room," Tomlinson said.
Three division I wide receivers and a record-setting quarterback helped account for much of team's past success, as wide receivers Chris Jackson (Georgia Tech), Jamal Patterson (Stanford), Markeith Ambles (Southern Cal) and quarterback Drew Little (Georgia State) raised the bar after helping the Warhawks post a 27-8 record the past three seasons.
The unprecedented accomplishments include back-to-back 10-2 seasons and two region titles, something never achieved on the football field by a Henry County team, and they have been playing the game since 1954.
Henry County football fans shouldn't panic now that four of the best players to ever don a Warhawk uniform have moved on to the next level.
Offensive coordinator Rex Robertson has been around long enough to coach some of those great players of the past, and he hopes this year's collection of football players steps up and continues the tradition.
"It is going to be a little bit different then the past few years, but we are expecting the same production," Robertson said.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for the Warhawks is moving to a new region and bigger classification.
After spending the past few seasons in Class AA, Henry County moves up to Region 4-AAA even though with the school's enrollment numbers they could have stayed in Class AA.
"There are not going to be any gimmie games, we are going to have to come to play," Robertson said.
Taylor is convinced the Warhawks are ready to make the leap to the new classification.
"Everybody keeps talking about us moving up, but to me it doesn't really matter," Taylor said. "We are going to play just as hard as we always have and hopefully go far in the playoffs. Our goal is to win a state title."
That solid offensive line might play a bigger role this year as they open the holes for a more defined running game.
Quarterback Chris Moody is described as a duel threat.
A year ago, he battled for the starting job before settling in as the backup. Now, the job is his, and the Warhawks' new man under center draws comparisons from his coaches to Tech quarterback Joshua Nesbitt.
Like Nesbitt, Moody has plenty of size, and can run the football. He is not afraid to take a pounding. He also has a strong arm, so the Warhawks won't abandoned the passing game totally.
Throw in slot receiver Stephon Brown, and the trend of sending Division I athletes to college could very easily continue for the Warhawks.
Brown quietly flew under the radar the past few seasons, but should begin to get noticed as his playing time increases now that guys like Ambles and Patterson are playing on Saturdays.
"There is not a whole lot of pressure on us," Brown said. "The seniors on this team want to leave a lasting legacy for the younger guys. We know what has been accomplished the last few years, and we want to keep it going."
Despite all the changes, Rozier is anxious to get things stated.
"They welcome the pressure," Rozier said. "When you get things going, you get a little tradition. We want to make the playoffs again this year, and we know it's going to be a difficult challenge with teams like Sandy Creek now in our region, but we are up to it."