Last year Columbia County's public high-school football teams combined to win just 11 games.
The local squads should fare better in 2003, but there are no guarantees. Lakeside and Evans will have to scratch for victories, and Greenbrier's season prospects are a tossup.
If the Wolfpack stays healthy, and if talented J.C. Jennings can stay in the lineup, Greenbrier could finish with a winning record.
Augusta Christian, meanwhile, will be very good this fall, and Harlem may be a sleeper in Class AAA.
But those outlooks can change. With a little luck, and some positive momentum, Columbia County's prep football teams might exceed expectations.
For that to happen, though, the top players from each squad will have to lead the way.
Following are my thoughts on Columbia County's teams, plus a look at the players to watch this fall.
Harlem quarterback Tim Camp, Ashley Brown's Preseason Player of the Year, will skipper a triple-option offense for the Bulldogs.
Photo by Mike Howell
Evans: The Knights have a proud tradition, but the gridiron has been a cruel place the past two years. This fall, former Aquinas coach Marty Jackson replaces Lee Chomskis, and coaching transitions don't always mean instant success.
Also, Evans lost starting quarterback Travis Clark, who transferred to Lincoln County.
The Knights need a huge year from tailback Cheng Ho, but even that might not be good enough.
2003 record: 3-7.
Greenbrier: The Pack lost a big-time running back when Orlando Pollard ran into off-the-field problems, but if J.C. Jennings can keep his nose clean, Greenbrier won't miss a beat on offense this season.
Defensively, the Pack needs banner years from linebackers Dustin Shirey and Daniel Landon.
2003 record: 5-5.
Harlem: Jimmie Lewis enters his 28th season at Harlem, including 11 as the Bulldogs' head football coach. Last season he guided the squad to a 5-5 record. This year the Dogs have more experience on the offensive line, and Tim Camp has tremendous potential at quarterback.
The offense should be solid, but the Dogs need to perform on defense to have a shot at the state playoffs.
2003 record: 6-4.
Lakeside: Last season was one to forget for the Panthers, who went winless for the first time since 1988, the team's inaugural campaign.
For fortunes to change this fall under second-year head coach Randy Hill, quarterback Richard Flake must limit mistakes, and Lakeside's young defense will have to play aggressively and force some turnovers.
2003 record: 3-7.
Augusta Christian: Bruce Lane stepped in last year as AC's head coach, and promptly led the Lions to nine wins and the Region 1-AAA title. This season, with quarterback Adam McKinney and tailback Cole Rabun both back for their senior years, plus a host of good athletes on defense, AC could make a run in the Georgia Independent School Association state playoffs.
2003 record: 10-3.
Preseason All-County Team
Quarterback: Brooks Robinson (Greenbrier senior). Columbia County has a good crop of quarterbacks this year, but Robinson might post the best passing numbers in 2003. He has a good arm and plenty of experience.
Running back: Cheng Ho (Evans junior). Ho is super-quick, and he runs extremely hard for his size. If the offensive line can open some holes, Ho will take advantage.
Running back: Donny DeMore (Harlem senior). DeMore should have a breakout year for the Dogs.
Running back: Cole Rabun (Augusta Christian senior). Rabun has blazing speed, and he's got some strength. The Lions have a good offensive line, and that should mean big numbers for Rabun this fall.
Split end: Ricky Crawford (Evans senior). Crawford is 6-foot-5 and he's still growing. He has the potential to break big plays, and college programs are taking notice.
Wide receiver: Eugene Rogers (Greenbrier junior). Rogers is outstanding on both sides of the ball, and has the potential to be the Pack's go-to receiver this season.
Tight end: Alex Bragg (Lakeside senior). Bragg is a three-year starter for the Panthers. He also plays defensive end, and will key the line play offensively and defensively for Lakeside. The Panthers probably won't pass much this season, and that will limit Bragg's receiving numbers, but he has all the tools.
Athlete: Tim Camp (Harlem senior). Domonique Brown, Kelvin Sturgis and now Camp - the stars keep showing up at Harlem. Camp could be the best player in the county this year, and he has an opportunity to show off his talents at quarterback by leading the triple-option.
Center: Chad Cooper (Augusta Christian senior). Cooper may be a better defensive lineman, but he's solid at center, and should excel at that slot this season.
Guard: Rashad Dunn (Greenbrier senior). Dunn will attract some college scouts this season. The three-year starter has the size and strength to play at the next level, and he will lead the Pack in 2003.
Guard: Foster Moore (Harlem senior). Moore will be a real key to the Dogs offense, and he's working hard to fulfill that role.
Tackle: Josh Adams. (Augusta Christian junior). Watch out for Adams this year. You can't miss the 6-5, 270-pound lineman.
Tackle: Robin Jacobs (Evans senior). Jacobs has started for Evans the past two seasons, and his third year with the Knights should be his best.
Kickoff returns: Cole Rabun (Augusta Christian). Here's some advice for AC's opponents - kick the ball away from Rabun, or suffer the consequences.
Punt returns: Philip Sadler (Lakeside senior). Sadler has sure hands, and he is an elusive runner. That's a winning combination for a return man.
Place kicker: Reid Tankersley (Evans junior). No relation to former Greenbrier kicker Ben Tankersley, who set the standard for the position the past three years. Reid may not match Ben's numbers, but he enters 2003 with more game experience than any other place kicker in the county.
Punter: Adam McKinney (Augusta Christian senior). The strong-armed quarterback has a leg to match.
Long snapper: Jordan Whitaker (Harlem senior). At 5-10, 170, Whitaker's not big, but he's as tough as they come.
Defensive end: Daniel Landon (Greenbrier junior). The Pack has produced some great pass rushers over the past few years, including David Weitz and Brent Edwards. Landon will need to fill that role this fall.
Defensive end: Bryan Kelley (Evans junior). Kelley is a bit banged up right now (bad shoulder), but if he gets healthy, he'll have a big year for the Knights.
Defensive tackle: C.J. Wiltz (Evans senior). Wiltz has the potential to dominate a game, and that's not only because of his ability, but because he is willing to work hard.
Defensive tackle: Dustin McAlphin (Lakeside senior). He will be relied on to anchor the Lakeside line, and has to fill the void left by Charles O'Byrne.
Linebacker: Sam Jasinski (Lakeside senior). A tough customer and an extremely smart player who is always around the ball, which is why he led the Panthers in tackling last year.
Linebacker: Marcus Paschal (Augusta Christian junior). Paschal was an all-region player as a sophomore, and should be a defensive stopper for the Lions as a junior this fall.
Linebacker: Dustin Shirey (Greenbrier senior). Shirey is the Pack's defensive captain, and is expected to lead by example this year. For Greenbrier to have a shot at a winning record in 2003, he'll nee to have a great senior campaign.
Cornerback: Dwight Banks (Augusta Christian senior). He will play safety for the Lions, but deserves a spot on the preseason squad at a defensive-back slot. Banks can defend the pass, and is great against the run.
Cornerback: Eugene Rogers (Greenbrier junior). Rogers is the only selection for both sides of the ball. He's that good.
Strong safety: Dixon Revell (Lakeside junior). Revell had an impressive sophomore season, and should be one of the county's top tacklers in 2003.
Free safety: Andrew Fisher (Augusta Christian senior). Fisher has a knack for making big plays on defense, and he will also be a standout receiver and return man for the Lions.
Athlete: J.C. Jennings (Greenbrier junior). Jennings is one of the most physically gifted players in CSRA, but he's run into early problems after violating team rules. To reach his potential this year, he must prove himself to the Pack coaching staff.
Preseason Player of the Year
Tim Camp (Harlem). Simply a super athlete. Camp will definitely be one of the top players in the CSRA this season, and he could be the best player in Columbia County on either side of the ball.
Honorable mention: Evans - Ben Stapleton (safety), Nick Barr (offensive line), Allen Ligon (receiver), Jay Acree (fullback); Greenbrier - Bill King (offensive line), Michael Newman (safety), Reggie Rice (linebacker, kick returns), Erik Smith (fullback), Ben Lawson (linebacker); Harlem - Robert Jones (offensive line), David Dye (offensive line); Lakeside - B.B. Brandenburg (defensive back), Richard Flake (quarterback); Augusta Christian - Dan Wiley (cornerback), Sam Pitts (defensive line), Daniel Whinghter (offensive and defensive line).
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