Well, the 2014 football season is here. In less than a week, all but one of our county prep football teams will take the field to open this year’s campaign. There is a lot of excitement at several of our schools.
At Lakeside, the Panthers feature three or four Division I prospects led by the county’s first AJC Super 11 selection in safety, Rashad Roundtree. The Evans Knights ended last season with a thrilling win over Lakeside and feature a game breaker at QB in Matlin Marshall. And, at Greenbrier, a team that went 0-10 last season, the Wolfpack faithful are ready to see their new squad, led by Jarrett Troxler.
All five of our public schools must compete in a difficult region, but there is no shortage of individual talent. As a matter of fact, 2014 will feature the finest group of college prospects the county has ever assembled in one season. So, there are plenty of reasons why there is so much anticipation for this season to get underway. Well, here is my stab at a preseason Columbia County Football Poll.
Last Season: (6-5)
Predicted Regular Season Record: 7-3
I realize Evans knocked off Lakeside a year ago, and the Panthers lost popular Head Coach Jarrett Troxler. However, they are too talented not to be No. 1. They return 14 of 22 starters including more than a half dozen college prospects. QB Hunter Banks graduated, but junior Nick Patterson may be an upgrade as a passer. Couple that with the athletic trio of Rashad Roundtree, Stephen Houzah, and B. J. Raymond and the fact that the junior Varsity Team went 7-0 last year, and that should make the Panthers the top dog in the county.
Last Season: 5-5
Predicted Regular Season Record: 6-4
The Knights have a chance to be a playoff team. They just need more consistency in 2014. If Matlin Marshall stays healthy he should make enough big plays for the offense to be improved. Defensively, the Knights have big Devon Lampkin at nose tackle and Carlos Dorsey at linebacker to lead the way. Their season will likely hinge on their final three games versus Houston County, Jones County and Greenbrier.
Last Season: 0-10
Predicted Regular Season Record: 4-6
I fully understand that Greenbrier was 0-10 a year ago. I also am aware that they only averaged 5 points per game and were outscored by over 37 points per contest. I also am a believer in the importance of a high school football coach, and the Pack have a really good one in Jarrett Troxler. Without even taking the field, he has already changed the culture at Greenbrier. Not to mention several quality athletes that were not playing, are now back on the gridiron wearing the Green and Gold. Keep an eye on Jamal Richard, Warren Coombs and Adam Sasser to emerge as top offensive players in the county.
Last Season: 2-8
Predicted Regular Season Record: 4-6
The Warriors do return 13 starters from last season, and have two extremely talented defenders in D’Ante Smith and Ben Jean, but I am not sure they have enough to compete with Evans and Lakeside. They are basically a coin flip with Greenbrier in my opinion. Last season, they edged the Pack 17-14, and Greenbrier will likely be much improved this season, therefore I gave the Pack the No. 3 spot.
Last Season: 7-3
Predicted Regular Season Record: 3-7
A lot of Harlem fans look at their 7-3 mark from a year ago and are probably wondering why I have them at No. 5 and last among our public schools. Well, two things: first, I was thrilled to see Harlem win seven games a year ago, but in all honesty, they did have a very easy schedule in 2013. This year, they play in a much tougher region. Secondly, they will have a chance to prove me wrong versus a couple of county foes in their first two games and they have a pair of winnable non region games in Weeks 3 and 4.
6. Augusta Christian
Last Season: 3-8
Predicted Regular Season Record: 5-6
The Lions are looking to bounce back after an uncharacteristic 3-8 season a year ago. The Lions feature Clemson signee Zach Giella and speedy Kobie Brinson. They will need some young players to step up if they want to return to form in 2014.
7. Augusta Prep
Last Season: 11-1
Predicted Regular Season Record: 5-5
Augusta Prep is coming off a remarkable 2013, that saw them win a State/Regional Championship. They are also extremely well coached. However, they are simply losing too many top players from last year’s team. Nolan Brandon (1,798 yards and 29 touchdowns rushing), TE Mike Downing (75 Knockdown blocks), and QB/DB Nate Pylant (First Team All-County) is a trio that will be sorely missed. They will need to find some new leaders in 2014.