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Jonesboro takes on quality teams in tourney

Photo by Derrick Mahone
Jonesboro offensive coordinator Nathan Wardlaw says he has been pleased with the progress that quarterback Cedric Nettles has made this summer. The Cardinals will play in a seven-on-seven tournament today at Grady Stadium.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Jonesboro offensive coordinator Nathan Wardlaw says he has been pleased with the progress that quarterback Cedric Nettles has made this summer. The Cardinals will play in a seven-on-seven tournament today at Grady Stadium.

By Derrick Mahone

dmahone@news-daily.com

Jonesboro quarterback Cedric Nettles is getting plenty of work this summer as he prepares to take over as a starter this season.

The rising senior will get another opportunity to gain some experience when he leads the Cardinals into today's NFL High School Player Development Program's (HSPDP) seven-on-seven regional tournament at Grady Stadium.

Also participating in the one-day tournament is M.L. King of DeKalb County, the defending regional champions. Host Grady, Mountain Arabia, East Hall, Mays, Jonesboro, Columbus and Carver-Columbus will participate in the tournament. The winner will represent the Atlanta Falcons and advance to the national tournament in Cleveland, Ohio.

"This is some good experience for Cedric," Jonesboro offensive coordinator Nate Wardlaw said. "He is developing into a real good leader for us."

Nettles is competing with rising sophomore Mario Atkinson for the starting position with rising junior Cameron Sutton getting a look from the coaching staff.

"I've definitely been waiting on my opportunity," said Nettles, who also starts at safety. "I'm getting very comfortable playing the position."

Jonesboro qualified for today's tournament sort of by default. Only one other team showed up for the qualifying tournament at Creekside High last week. The Cardinals were able to advance.

Regardless of the circumstance, Wardlaw said the experience for the team against some other playoff quality teams should be helpful as they prepare for the upcoming season.

"This is a golden opportunity for teams from different counties and different schools throughout Georgia to compete against good competition for free," said former Falcons player and executive Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, the NFL-HSPD NFC South regional director. "The HSPD Program is one of the best kept secrets when it comes to player development, especially at the high school level."

Nettles is competing for the starting position since last season's starter Alejandro Bennifield transferred to Lovejoy this past spring. Last season, Bennifield passed for 730 pass yards and eight touchdowns before missing the last three games of the season with an injury.

"We have faced some good competition throughout the summer," Wardlaw said. "Cedric has made a lot of progress."

Next week, Jonesboro will play in a 12-team seven-on-seven league at McEachern High in Cobb County. The Cardinals are guaranteed six games with the top four teams advancing to the championship round. Last summer, Jonesboro went 4-2 in the tournament.