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Defending champion Lions coming in under the radar

Posted: August 21, 2013 - 12:06am
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Photo by Jim Blaylock  Augusta Christian coach Keith Walton adjusts the helmet of one of his players during practice.
Photo by Jim Blaylock Augusta Christian coach Keith Walton adjusts the helmet of one of his players during practice.

Coach: Keith Walton

Assistant Head Coach: Charles Cooper

Offensive Coordinator: Keith Walton

Defensive Coordinator: Charles Cooper

Region: South Carolina Independent School Association

Last year: 13-0, SCISA Class AAA champions

Key returners: Thomas Banks, SR-TB/DB; Nick Fortenberry, SR-WR; Hunter Beyersdorfer, SO-QB; Zach Giella, JR-OL/DL, Kobie Brinson, JR-DB, Tyquan Burns, SR-LB

Schedule

(Games at 7:30 p.m.)

8/30: vs. Wilson Hall

9/6: at Ben Lippen

9/13: vs. Cardinal Newman

9/20: at Fox Creek

9/27: at Pinewood Prep

10/4: vs. Laurence Manning (HC)

10/11: at Porter-Gaud

10/18: vs. Hammond

10/25: at Heathwood Hall

11/1: vs. Orangeburg Prep

11/8: State 1st Round

11/15: State Semifinals

11/23: State Championship

It’s hard to believe that a team that won its state title while recording a perfect 13-0 mark could go under the radar, but that’s where Augusta Christian finds itself heading into the 2013 season.

To a degree.

The South Carolina Independent School Association defending champion Lions are ranked second in Class AAA behind Hammond High School, who the Lions beat for the title last year. It’s easy to discount the Lions after losing key pieces such as four-year starting quarterback Tyler Roberson, who accounted for 43 touchdowns, two-way standout Matt Herzwurm and Terin Quarles, who had 12 sacks, among others.

“The quarterbacks are young, but what’s around the quarterbacks isn’t young,” said head coach Keith Walton. “They’re able to help them. The one that backed up Tyler last year, Hunter Beyersdoerfer, he sat and watched and soaked all this stuff in.”

It doesn’t hurt that the quarterback will have senior Thomas Banks at running back.He ripped off a school-record, 98-yard game-winning touchdown run in the title game. He rushed for 1,436 yards and 15 touchdowns, catching five more. At receiver, senior Nick Fortenberry caught 48 balls for 976 yards and nine scores.

Helping pave the way will be a big offensive line that loses just the center, Herzwurm.

“We’ve got the size to do whatever we want to do,” said junior right offensive tackle Zach Giella, who is 6-foot-7 and 300 pounds. “We’ve just got to be able to get up the gumption to do it. We need to give Thomas room to run.”

And having a big, experienced line will be key to helping the new quarterback.

“It just helps with the run game, which takes all the pressure off the quarterback,” Walton said.

Defensively, junior Kobie Brinson and senior Bryson Ashmore head a secondary a year after picking off four passes apiece.

“We can communicate so well,” said Brinson. “We’ve all started since we were freshmen. It’s amazing how we communicate and work in the secondary.”

If they need it, the secondary will help take pressure off the defensive line.

Being overlooked to a degree plays into how Walton wants his team to be.

“We want to be mentally tough and we define mental toughness as emotional consistency,” said Walton. “You can’t be emotionally consistent when you’re allowing the pats on the back to poke your chest out.”

AT A GLANCE

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