Spring football round-up

Jonesboro quarterback Mario Atkinson gets a play from offensive coordinator Nathan Wardlaw during the Cardinals spring game at the conclusion of its spring drills. Atkinson will go into the summer as the team’s starter.

Jonesboro quarterback Mario Atkinson gets a play from offensive coordinator Nathan Wardlaw during the Cardinals spring game at the conclusion of its spring drills. Atkinson will go into the summer as the team’s starter.

Here's a team-by-team look at how high school football spring practices went for teams in Clayton and Henry counties:


2011 finish: 7-4, lost in first round of playoffs

Returning starters: 7 offense, 7 defense.

Spring recap: Coach Jarrett Laws said the main emphasis this spring was to add toughness to the team. Laws also re-shuffled his coaching staff after bringing on former Mount Zion coach Jamie Aull to be offensive coordinator. Laws and Aull worked together at Mount Zion. Laws also praised returning quarterback Jay Murray for a solid spring. The team also tried to develop its reserve quarterbacks.

Name to know: Marco Hill. The move-in from Chicago is expected to fill a big void by the graduation of Antonio Garcia. Last season’s junior varsity MVP, Marquis Terry, will likely fill the running back position, while David White had a solid spring in the secondary.

2012 region: 4A-AAAAA

2012 season outlook: The Titans move up two classifications after making their first playoff appearance since the school opened in 2009. If Drew can replace some of its playmakers, the Titans have a shot at again challenging for a playoff spot.


2011 finish: 5-5

Returning starters: 10 offense, 10 defense

Spring recap: Coach Jason Galt calls this the “best spring” he has had in his five years at the school. He said minor tweaks were made, but nothing major. Finding some depth was also a big emphasis.

Name to know: Ryan Kangiser. A member of the school’s soccer team, the rising sophomore could be the Bulldogs’ answer at the kicker spot.

2012 region: 4A-AAAA

2012 season outlook: Expectations are certainly high with the return of 20 starters. Bulldogs quarterback Donovahn Jones is the highest-recruited player in school history. If the team stays away from injuries, Dutchtown could have a similar playoff run like it did in 2010.

Eagle's Landing

2011 finish: 1-9.

Returning starters: 7 offense, 8 defense.

Spring recap: The search didn’t take long for Eagle’s Landing’s new quarterback. Golden Eagles coach Joe Teknipp named rising junior Bradley Dewberry the starter to replace Teknipp’s son, Tyler, a three-year starter. Teknipp also found a new home for stud linebacker Shawayne Lawrence on offense at H-back. With just 35 players practicing, health has been paramount.

Name to know: Malik Mackey. The rising sophomore is the son of former Georgia Tech basketball player, Malcolm Mackey, and it shows — he’s 6-foot-8, 280 pounds and could take over at right tackle.

2012 region: 4A-AAAA.

2012 season outlook: Two wins in the past three seasons doesn’t suggest great things for Eagle’s Landing, but the Golden Eagles do have upper-tier talent in Lawrence, tight end Bill Teknipp, cornerback Marquis Griffin and offensive lineman Uriah Horne. Filling in the rest will be the challenge.

Eagle's Landing Christian

2011 finish: 12-2, lost in Class A semifinals.

Spring recap: Coming off the program’s first semifinals appearance in school history, the Chargers are buoyed by a bevy of Division I talent, but also focused with several needs to fill — like replacing three-year starter Aaron Spratlin at quarterback, Scott Barlow at wide receiver and North Carolina signee Justin Thomson at defensive end. ELCA seemed to settle on rising junior Dalton Etheridge to replace Spratlin.

Name to know: Andrew Williams. The younger brother of former Union Grove standout and Georgia Tech sophomore Anthony Williams, the rising junior defensive lineman should help with the loss of Thomson and make a name for himself.

2012 region: 5-A.

2012 season outlook: With UCLA commit Keyante Green leading the offense and Isaac Rochell, a top-10 prospect in Georgia, leading the defense, little seems to be in the way of ELCA being a top-5 team and advancing deep in the playoffs.

Forest Park

2011 finish: 1-9

Returning starters: 6 offense, 5 defense

Spring recap: Acting coach Don Williams, who led the wrestling team to a successful season last winter, had only four days to install his offensive and defensive schemes. The Panthers will run a West Coast-type offense if Williams is retained as the coach for the season. Williams said about 42 players went through the two-week drills. Sophomore Kyle Bailey and junior Ervin Balfour were battling for the starting quarterback spot.

Names to know: C.J. Dixon and Blake Kennedy. A pair of offensive linemen that were impressive. Brandon Williams had a good showing at the linebacker spot.

2012 region: 4A-AAAAA

2012 season outlook: The Panthers have only won seven games in the last six years with five different coaches. Williams was named acting coach in the second week of spring drills. If the school names a new coach, the players must learn another offensive and defensive system over the summer.

Henry County

2011 finish: 7-5, lost in second round of Class AAA playoffs

Returning starters: 3 offense, 3 defense

Spring recap: How do you replace an all-state athlete (Chris Moody), all-state defensive lineman (Dalvin Tomlinson) and your coach for the past 11 seasons (Mike Rozier)? That’s first-year head coach Joe Dupree’s task. Junior T.J. Freeman and sophomore Marquez Souder battled to replace Moody at quarterback, and will continue to throughout the summer. Dupree said both grasped his new offensive system quickly and were impressive.

Name to know: D’von Isaac. A 6-foot-4, 280-pound defensive lineman, Isaac doesn’t have the hype that Tomlinson did, but he already has an offer from Memphis, and will help on the offensive line, too.

2012 region: 2-AAA

2012 season outlook: A sixth-straight state playoff appearance is at stake with an inexperienced team playing in a brand new region.


2011 finish: 9-2, lost in first round of Class AAAA playoffs

Returning starters: 4 offense, 6 defense.

Spring recap: Replacing starting quarterback Cedric Nettles was the big focus during spring drills. Coach Tim Floyd said that rising junior Mario Atkinson emerged as the starter heading into summer workouts. Running back Patrick Petty returned after missing the last part of the season with a shoulder injury. Floyd said he was pleased with the work from a revamped offensive line as T.J. Bridges and Marquis Murray played several positions on the interior front. Isaiah Seise was moved from defensive end to linebacker.

Name to know: Mario Atkinson. He is being counted on to start at quarterback. The rising junior will have plenty of weapons with multi-talented rising seniors Taurean Ferguson and Cameron Sutton.

2012 region: 4B-AAAA

2012 season outlook: The Cardinals were a special teams play away from advancing to the second round of the playoffs. If the offensive line can jell and depth is found, Jonesboro should again challenge for a playoff spot.


2011 finish: 14-1, lost in Class AAAA title game

Returning starters: 8 offense, 8 defense

Spring recap: With a high number of returning starters, the team spent a great part of spring drills installing new offensive packages. Coach Al Hughes said spring was basically a refresher for most of the returning starters, which includes several highly-recruited players.

Names to know: Jonathan Griffin and Brandon Davis. A pair of running backs got to see some time, although leading rusher Travis Custis is returning. Preston Williams missed the spring game because of track, but should see time at wide receiver. Jeffrey Murphy was impressing at defensive back, and Mike Davis had a good spring on the defensive line.

2012 region: 2B-AAAAAA

2012 season outlook: After winning consecutive region titles, the Wildcats will move to the state’s highest classification this season. Lovejoy is the early favorite to win the title. Hughes beefed up the non-region schedule with Colquitt County, Alpharetta and East Coweta. The Wildcats return one of the top defenses in the state.

Locust Grove

2011 finish: 2-8

Returning starters: 9 offense, 9 defense.

Spring recap: With fourth-year head coach Clint Satterfield’s first group of seniors on board, the spring focus has been on having fun, fine-tuning the timing of execution on offense and watching an offseason’s worth of work in the weight room pay off. “It feels good to go out in practice and see the growth of your program,” Satterfield said.

Name to know: Cortez McDowell. He’s just a rising junior, but the safety and wide receiver was offered by N.C. State and Syracuse this spring, and more offers figure to be on the way.

2012 region: 4A-AAAA

2012 season outlook: No longer needing to play “money games” against the likes of Tift County and Coffee, the Wildcats hope a more balanced schedule and a senior class led by Blaine Christian, Nathan Hensley, Patrick Hicks, Lucas Hughes and Dusty McCulley leads to taking the step up from back-to-back 2-8 seasons.


2011 finish: 4-6

Returning starters: 3 offense, 6 defense.

Spring recap: Luella entered spring practice with one alarming question mark and will leave with it intact — who will play offensive line? All five spots on the line are up for grabs. Second-year coach Nic Vasilchek said rising junior Keith Jones emerged as a solid lineman. Finding more will be critical to protecting returning quarterback Jalen Hendricks.

Name to know: Trae Bonner. The rising junior running back seized the starting role late last season and averaged 6.9 yards a carry. He’s going to be the focal point of Luella’s offense. “Everybody’s going to know about him,” Vasilchek said.

2012 region: 2-AAAAAA

2012 season outlook: The Lions got better by finally getting out of the same region as perennial playoff contenders East Coweta, M.L. King, Stephenson and Westlake. But Luella would be optimistic regardless, with the likes of fourth-year starting defensive lineman Tevin Jones returning on what should be a tough defense.


2011 finish: 0-10

Returning starters: 3 offense, 7 defense.

Spring recap: It was all about first-year coach Andre Pickering installing his offensive and defensive systems and getting acquainted with the roster. Except, Pickering doesn’t have a teaching contract yet, so he wasn’t allowed to attend practices. Instead, he had to give orders through his coaching staff. Pickering learned enough to know quarterback Courtney Heard, a rising sophomore, should be comfortable in the Mustangs spread offense.

Name to know: Tyler Lewis. The rising junior wide receiver is 6-foot-1, 180 pounds and should get plenty of opportunities in the Mustangs’ new pass-friendly offense.

2012 region: 2-AAAAAA.

2012 season outlook: After six coaches in 12 seasons, if Pickering can win over the team and establish some continuity at the top, Morrow will be heading in the right direction. Pickering said what he wants most out of his team is confidence. Moving into the state’s highest classification won’t make it easy.

Mount Zion

2011 finish: 3-7

Returning starters: 6 offense, 7 defense.

Spring recap: New coach Ervin Starr spent the majority of the spring emphasizing toughness, something he said the team lacked in the past. Starr moves over from nearby Rex Mill Middle School. The team also installed some of its offensive and defensive schemes and worked on building confidence.

Name to know: Randy Johnicon. The freshman could prove to be a go-to receiver for the Bulldogs as they look to pass a little more this season. Norris Degree surprised a lot of coaches with his ability during workouts.

2012 region: 4B-AAAA

2012 season: Experience shouldn’t be a problem with 23 seniors on this season’s roster. Starr said the team will be counting on some of the younger players to add depth as he builds his foundation for the future.

Mundy's Mill

2011 finish: 2-8

Spring recap: The Tigers spent the spring getting familiar with new coach Greg Manior. He said the team will be starting from stratch as he tries to instill a winning attitude. Manior said the team spent a lot of time doing contact drills and installing some of the offensive and defensive schemes.

Name to know: Manior did not want to single out any players, but said he was impressed with the overall attitude of the entire team as it adjusts to a new coaching style.

2012 region: 4A-AAAAA.

2012 season outlook: The Tigers move into a new classification and region, but several familiar opponents will be on the schedule. Mundy’s Mill be looking for its first winning season in five years.

North Clayton

2011 finish: 7-4, lost in first round of Class AAAA playoffs.

Returning starters: 9 offense, 7 defense.

Spring recap: Replacing three-year starting quarterback Dennis Johnson was the main need for coach Max Wiltz, who enters his second season as head coach. It was a three-player battle between Jeremy Davis, Isaiah Thomas and Quenterrio Page. Wiltz said the team will go into the summer workouts without a clear starter. After handling both the offensive and defensive coordinators duties last season because of a shortage of coaches, North Clayton hired several assistants. Wiltz said he will make his decision on which side of the ball he will concentrate on later this summer.

Name to know: Quan Bond. He is expected to see a lot of time at the running back position. With all five offensive linemen back, the Eagles should see some improvement in its ground attack.

2012 region: 4B-AAAA.

2012 season outlook: An experienced offense should help in more point production this season after the Eagles settle on a quarterback. The defense should be solid with the return of several starters, including linebacker Aaron Adwater.


2011 finish: 2-8.

Returning starters: 9 offense, 10 defense.

Spring recap: Competition became the focus during spring with so many contributors back from a trying 2011 season. Fifth-year head coach John Kovzel was impressed by the defense, particularly rising senior Jimmy Carman, a hybrid defensive lineman/linebacker. With a brand new weight room, Kovzel said participation during offseason workouts improved.

Name to know: Jojo Spann. The rising senior will be a three-year starter at running back and wide receiver, and helps out on defense. Kovzel said he’s one of the reasons Georgia Tech coaches visited the school three times during spring practices.

2012 region: 4A-AAAAA.

2012 season outlook: The Mustangs have a manageable schedule, especially early in the season, and a team hungry to prove last season was an aberration. With its entire offensive line, secondary and offensive leaders back, there’s hope.


2011 finish: 9-3, lost in Class AAA second round.

Returning starters: 5 offense, 7 defense.

Spring recap: Coming off the program’s first playoff victory in school history, fourth-year head coach Kevin Whitley sought to augment the solid foundation he’s laid. Specifically, Whitley emphasized developing depth along the offensive and defensive lines.

Name to know: Rod Carson and Justin Noble. Both sophomores without varsity experience, they impressed Whitley during the spring and could help fill important holes on the team. Carson is a linebacker, while Noble plays guard.

2012 region: 4A-AAAA

2012 season: The Tigers move up in classification, but into a sub-region where they should be considered the favorites. Dutchtown might have something to say about that, but Whitley has Stockbridge humming.

Strong Rock Christian

2011 finish: 2-8

Returning starters: 5 offense, 6 defense

Spring recap: Second-year coach Mark Miller said the pace of practice was a lot faster this year since the players have had a year under his system. Making the players accountable was the big emphasis while instilling a “blue collar-type” work attitude. Juniors Zack Moss and Jesse Adams continued their battle for the starting quarterback spot.

Names to know: Torey McKissick. The freshman will likely see some action at both the running back and defensive back position. Andrew Stann and Asher Wilson showed a lot of promise on the offensive line.

2012 region: 5-A

2012 season outlook: Miller is hoping the team will be much improved with a year’s experience under its belt. Staying healthy with a thin roster will be essential. If the team can stay injury-free, Miller believes they have a shot at the playoffs.

Union Grove

2011 finish: 5-5

Returning starters: 4 offense, 3 defense.

Spring recap: Third-year head coach Paul Burgdorf needed this spring to gauge the level of mental toughness on a team that figures to be young and inexperienced. But he liked what he saw from rising senior Matt Ivey, who will move to center this season, but can play multiple positions; defensive lineman Tyler Vaughn; and running back and linebacker Derrick Craine, the team’s leading rusher a year ago.

Name to know: Isaiah Spencer. The rising senior quarterback played in just a game and a half last season, but could be poised for a breakout year. At 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, he’s a dual-threat quarterback with good touch on his throws.

2012 region: 4A-AAAAA

2012 season outlook: The Wolverines haven’t been to the playoffs for two straight seasons, a first for the program. They figure to battle Drew in their sub-region and hope their “young puppies are ready to bite,” as Burgdorf said.


2011 finish: 2-8

Returning starters: 9 offense, 5 defense.

Spring recap: Wolfpack coach Scott Schmitt said the theme this spring was, “Next man in,” a motto coined in Schmitt’s pursuit of finding out how much depth his roster had. Apparently, more than he thought. He identified several players who could play all 85-90 snaps in a game.

Name to know: Jevius Terry. A rising senior running back and cornerback, Terry has the kind of speed that prompted Florida assistant coaches to invite him to their camp this summer.

2012 region: 4A-AAAA.

2012 season outlook: With its entire offensive line and starting quarterback Taylor Poff returning, Woodland hopes it can contend with Dutchtown and Stockbridge for the two playoff spots out of the sub-region and get back to the state tournament for the first time since 2009.