A large group of Campbell High seniors will take to the field Friday night when the Spartans kickoff their 2011 season against visiting Centennial High.
A solid core of those seniors will serve in the offensive trenches as first-year coach Harris Rainbow is excited to return experience and leadership along the team’s offensive line. "We are expecting to see a lot out of these guys,’’ he explained. “They have come in and worked hard all summer. They have done everything we have asked of them and I believe they are ready for the challenge ahead."
Center Cory Hawkins has been working hard alongside fellow seniors Dewight Hansard, Kendrick Plemming and Jamie Walker at the guard positions, along with tackle Alec Brown and tight end Charlie Scharitz.
The team has struggled in posting a 3-17 record the last two seasons, but that’s in the past. "Last year, after our final game, we were all real down,’’ Scharitz admitted. “I even told my dad I did not want to go through another season like my junior year. But I woke up the very next day and heard a new head coach was being named.
"It was hard at first, because none of us knew Coach Rainbow. But he has really believed in us and taught us what it means to leave a legacy for our school and one for our town to be proud of."
Establishing that legacy begins Friday when the Knights come to Smyrna for the 7:30 p.m. game.
"We might not win a game, but we have made some changes in our commitment to each other and our coaches,’’ Scharitz said. “We are a family and have already started a new tradition of pride around here." Hansard agreed, "It's just not the same Campbell, we all have a lot to prove."
Assistant coach Brad Hawkins has been associated with the program for the last 13 years. This season, however, he has been a part of a noticeable change, one that he says has been a long time coming.
"It's a ray of hope for these kids to see the new staff come in and take to them like they have,’’ Hawkins said. “They believe in these kids and in this community. It is genuine."
As a 36-year member of the Smyrna-Vinings community, he brags, "The boys see the difference on the practice field and in the weight room. I have never seen a team at CHS more ready to stand side-by-side with their coaches and go to battle with this type of enthusiasm and confidence."
Here’s a preview of the other teams in Campbell’s Region 4-AAAAA complied by Patch contributor Meredith Milligan. Last year, McEachern topped the eight-team region with an overall record of 10-2.
Harrison comes into the 2011 season following a disappointing early outing in the state playoffs last year. The Hoyas went 5-6 under head coach David Hines in 2010.
Harrison returns two of its top tacklers from last season in seniors Judd Haley (LB) and Zach Osborne (OL). Justin Brooks (RB/DB), Derek Day (DB) and Kyle Holmes (WR) are other seniors whose experience the team will rely on.
The Hoyas are also looking for a quarterback to lead their team after graduation took its leader last season. The team must also replace three starters on the defensive line.
Harrison will play West Forsyth in Cumming on Friday to open its 2011 campaign.
Last season, Hillgrove went 10-3 under head coach Phillip Ironside and finished tied for second in the region. The Hawks also are coming off their second straight state playoff appearance.
This season, Hillgrove’s offense will be led by Alabama commit Kenyan Drake (RB). Drake averaged 7.6 yards per carry with the rock (four rushing TD’s) and had a total of six touchdowns on 19 receptions. Seniors Nakevion Leslie (WR/DB) and Jordan Marshall (WR) will also be key to the Hawks receiving core.
The defense must replace Jabari Hunt-Days, who is now at Georgia Tech, but senior John Silas Jr. (LB) is expected to fill those shoes and lead the defensive core in the upcoming season.
Hillgrove will kickoff its season at Sprayberry on Friday.
Kennesaw Mountain may have went 1-9 during the 2010 season, but this year the Mustangs will be returning more experienced players.
Head coach Chad McGehee said his offense will be running a spread offense to give them more chances to score. Key returning players are Ryan Clay (WR), Drew McCollum (OL) and Dalin Finley (QB).
The Mustangs will also return their top defender from last season, Justin Becker (OLB). Kennesaw Mountain will have a 4-3 defense that will be led by Trever McNeal (DL), Tyler Cooper (LB) and Christian Fleming (DB).
“We have a tough region to compete in,” said McGehee, who enters his second season at the helm. “Every week you must come ready to play. If you don’t, you stub your toe on playoff chances.”
The Mustangs toughest opponents this season will be in-region rivals Hillgrove and McEachern, but they also play at Pope on Sept. 2.
Kennesaw Mountain will play its season opener at Allatoona on Friday.
McEachern comes into the 2011 season looking to improve on their 10-2 record last year and beat one of their toughest opponents this season, intercity rival Hillgrove.
The Indians’ offense will be led by senior quarterback Trent Thompson. Wide Receiver Amba Etta is also expected to produce big things on offense. McEachern has a total of five starters returning for the offense.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Indians return eight starters from last year’s squad. Seniors Darius English (DE) and Jed Nwankwoh (DT) will hold down the line for the Indians.
Special teams will also be a strength for McEachern, with its starting kicker returning in senior Nick St. Germain. He kicked two 50-yard field goals last season.
“There are a lot of positive things happening in Powder Springs all the way from sixth through 12th grade,” said head coach Kyle Hockman.
McEachern is 1-0 on the season after Saturday's come-from-behind 26-17 victory over North Gwinnett.
North Cobb, who went 5-5 last year, will be relying heavily on its defensive unit this season to stop opposing teams from scoring. Seniors Tre Griffin (DE), Elijah Slaughter (LB), Mark Stokes (DL), Kelvin Bowen (LB) and Kyle Ford (DE) will lead the way. Griffin, a Vanderbilt commit, was North Cobb’s leading tackler last season with 31.
One of the weaknesses head coach Shane Queen faces is finding a steady quarterback as the season progresses. Running backs Demetrius Hill, a senior, and Quentin James, a junior, hope to find a lot of running room so they can score points for North Cobb’s offense. Also returning will be Jalen Williams (WR), who had four receiving TD’s last season and was believed by some to be Region 4-AAAAA’s top receiver.
North Cobb will play Alpharetta for its season opener on Friday.
Second-year coach Randall Smith hopes to improve on Pebblebrook’s 4-6 record last season. Over the past two years, Smith has gone 10-10.
The Falcons will look to senior linebackers Khalid Henderson and Charles McCline to lead the team’s defensive efforts. After giving up more than 20 points in five games last season, bolstering the defense will be Henderson and McCline’s main priority.
Pebblebrook also return senior quarterback C.J. Goodman after finishing tied for fourth in last year’s region standings. Goodman threw for 612 yards and six TD’s last season, adding another 278 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Sertonuse Harris will also be the Falcons leading rusher coming into the 2011 season. He has three TD’s on 45 carries during the 2010 year.
Pebblebrook will open its season at Lowndes County on Friday.
After tying for second place in the region last year, South Cobb looks to improve its rankings behind head coach Ed Koester in 2011.
The Eagles had made significant improvements between the 2009 and 2010 seasons. In 2009, South Cobb won only a single game and last year they went 7-6.
Coach Koester must now face the task of replacing three of his top offensive players from last year’s squad in Marlon Peterson (QB), DeMarcus Adkins (RB) and Garrison Ushery (OL). However, expect senior Chris Beck (RB) and junior Niles Hamilton (OL) to fill two of those shoes.
A solid defense returns for the Eagles this season with Carlos Anderson (LB), Gary Jones (DB), Josh Kimble (CB) and Jamal Thomas (CB) leading the way.
The toughest opponents this season for South Cobb will be McEachern and Hillgrove, who took first and tied for second, respectively, in the region last season.
The Eagles open their season at Marietta on Friday.