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Local players make contributions beyond the stat sheets

Photo by Derrick Mahone Lovejoy senior Terry Harper was moved from his natural position of linebacker to defensive tackle as the Wildcats coaching staff wanted to put the team's best 11 players on the field. 

Photo by Derrick Mahone Lovejoy senior Terry Harper was moved from his natural position of linebacker to defensive tackle as the Wildcats coaching staff wanted to put the team's best 11 players on the field. 

Billy Burke, Stockbridge: The senior’s name is never called across the PA system on Friday nights, but his contribution to the Tigers are so important. As an offensive lineman he rarely gets noticed until a penalty occurs or missed blocking assignment happens. Burke (6-3, 265) can play all three positions on the offensive line. He is the starting center, and has graded out at 80 percent on the season. Tigers coach Kevin Whitley calls him “very versatile and smart” as he makes most of the calls on the line. This is Burke’s first year as a full-time starter.

Deshunta Burton, Lovejoy: He might be the forgotten person in a talented secondary for the Wildcats. However, teams quickly learned that he is equally as talented at covering receivers as teammates Rico McWilliams and Jermaine Hough. Many teams decided not to test McWilliams, a South Carolina commitment, while throwing to Burton’s side. Burton held his own and has not given up a touchdown this season to an opposing receiver. The Jacksonville State commitment has had success in the Wildcats’ man coverage defensive package.

Terry Harper, Lovejoy: The senior defensive tackle is not going to impress you with his size of 5-feet-10, 215 pounds. But opposing offensive linemen would make a big mistake by underestimating his ability. He is the team’s second leading tackler. He missed-most of last season with a broken leg. Upon returning this season, he was moved from his natural position of linebacker to defensive tackle as the Wildcats wanted to get their “best 11 players on the field” on defense, according to defensive coordinator Kevin Jones. Harper has gotten some interest from several colleges. Jones says that Harper is a “hard worker who has sacrificed” a lot for the success of the team.

Quran Fite, Henry County: On a team with Chris Moody and Dalvin Tomlinson, Fite is the cornerback who’s easy to overlook, and many of the Warhawks’ opponents have done so — to their detriment. He’s not that big, but he makes up for it with football smarts and a lot of heart. “He’s a film junkie,” said Mike Rozier, Henry County’s coach. “A lot of teams think they can pick on him because he’s only 5-8 and 155 or 160 pounds.” And that’s when Fite plays big, because his rivals.com profile lists him at 5-4, 148. But Fite uses teams’ underestimations against them. He leads the Warhawks with eight interceptions and has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. Rozier doesn’t want to think of where the Warhawks might be without him. “We have other kids who fit that role,” he said. “But we’d be in trouble.”

Dalton Etheridge, Eagle’s Landing Christian: He was

out injured for much of the season with a broken bone near the shoulder, but when Keyante Green went down with a groin injury, it gave Etheridge a chance to step up. After quarterbacking the junior varsity for a couple of games, Etheridge made the leap to the varsity and immediately gave the Chargers a viable running option when John Tatum needs a rest. “He’s already an exceptional player and he’s going to be a more exceptional player,” ELCA offensive coordinator Jason Carrera said.

Tyler McCammon, Eagle’s Landing Christian: Some of the most unsung work in the trenches is performed by McCammon. When you see Justin Thomason, Isaac Rochell or one of the Shockleys (Gus and Josh) making big plays for the Chargers, it’s often because McCammon has completed his assignment successfully in ELCA’s responsibility-oriented defense. Like Etheridge, Green’s injury has given him chances to shine on defense, even though he’s not big by lineman standards. ELCA coaches use words like “unselfish,” “hard-working” and “maximum effort” when describing what he has brought to the Chargers.