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MAHONE: Pressure mounts for some first-year quarterbacks

Photo by Derrick Mahone
North Clayton sophomore Isaac Thomas is in the hunt for the Eagles starting quarterback position this season. Two other players are competing for the spot left vacant by the graduation of Dennis Johnson.

Photo by Derrick Mahone North Clayton sophomore Isaac Thomas is in the hunt for the Eagles starting quarterback position this season. Two other players are competing for the spot left vacant by the graduation of Dennis Johnson.

It is one of the toughest positions on the football team to replace.

Several of the area coaches will find out this fall how hard it is to replace a starting quarterback.

Count North Clayton coach Max Wiltz among those that will experience it first hand this season. In only his second year at the helm, Wiltz has three players trying to earn the spot vacated by the graduation of three-year starter Dennis Johnson.

Eight days in to preseason practice, Wiltz knows it will not be an easy task.

“It’s tough,” the North Clayton coach said Friday afternoon as the team was wrapping up its last practice before heading to Covington for a three-day camp.

“The quarterback position is probably the toughest on the field,” Wiltz said.

Last season, there were some talented seniors calling the shots for their teams including Chris Moody at Henry County, Leon Prunty of Stockbridge, Tyler Teknipp at Eagle’s Landing and Johnson at North Clayton to name a few.

Now, those schools are looking for the next player to lead the offense.

The quarterback spot is a glamor position, but a lot of responsibility comes with it.

Henry County new starting quarterback T.J. Freeman knows it all too well. He must step into the shoes that were vacated by Moody, an all-star athlete who is now on scholarship at South Carolina.

Moody accounted for 2,419 yards of offense last season in leading the Warhawks to the second round of the Class AAA playoffs. Last season, Freeman played mostly on defense, and managed a few snaps on offense.

All totaled, Freeman only had six yards rushing on offense last season.

He takes over a team that has been to the postseason the last five years. Freeman doesn’t want this to the team that breaks that streak under his watch.

“I have to step it up big,” Freeman said. “It is big pressure in not being that quarterback that doesn’t lead the team to the playoffs.”

Whoever wins the starting job at North Clayton will be faced with the pressure of getting the team to the playoffs for a fifth straight season.

One advantage the North Clayton starter will have is the ability to operate behind an experienced offensive line, and a standout running back in La’Darrius Mathis.

Right or wrong, if a team fails most point the finger at the quarterback spot.

It seems this next wave of quarterbacks in the area are excited about the challenge that they are about to face.

“You have to be mentally tough and strong,” Freeman said.

Derrick Mahone is the sports editor for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald newspapers. He can be reached at dmahone@news-daily.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerrickMahone_.