High School Football
Headed in right direction, Indians pack up and head for Harrison
by Chris Goltermann
East Coweta's 42-14 victory over Arabia Mountain last Friday didn't exactly appear out of thin air. But an Indians offense that didn't return a starter at quarterback or at running back - be it while also learning a new scheme - managed to rack up 397 yards of total offense in its season debut.
But it was just the first step in what hopes to be an upward climb for firstyear head coach Steve Pardue and his staff.
'We're no where where we need to be,' Pardue said, 'but I think we're headed in the right direction.'
After staying close to home in August between a preseason scrimmage against Griffin and last week's win over the Rams, East Coweta takes its first road trip under Pardue tonight in a trip to north Cobb to face Harrison.
The Hoyas, led by South Carolina commitment Lorenzo Nunez at quarterback, have quickly jumped out to a 2-0 start with victories over Pope (40-21) and Wheeler (33-21) while putting up solid offensive numbers of their own.
Harrison came up one win shy of reaching the Class AAAAAA playoffs in its first season under head coach Matt Dickmann last fall while erasing some of the sting of three consecutive losses that put an early end to 2013.
Nunez, a three-year starter, heads into this year under the same offensive scheme since debuting as a sophomore. As a junior, he threw for 1,148 yards and five touchdowns, with four of his seven interceptions coming in one game.
'They've got other guys too, so you really can't get caught up in him,' Pardue said. 'That's the problem. If it were him, and nobody else, it'd be different. But they've got a couple of other skill guys and a nice passing game. They're a challenge.'
While running the wing-T much like East Coweta, Harrison's version is a hybrid that feeds off motion that forces defenses to stay disciplined.
'You've got to play your responsibilities,' Pardue said. ' I think we've got a plan. Now it just comes down to executing. The guys have worked hard and we've got a few more days to go over it. They're a good program. They rarely beat themselves.'
Last week's opener wasn't without its hiccups, some more immediate than others. Pardue admits that watching Arabia Mountain quarterback Jakobi Meyers march his team 80 yards on four consecutive passes for an opening touchdown just 1:21 into the season 'was a bit scary.'
From there, however, the first half was dominated by East Coweta's offense, which reeled off 28 unanswered points. Junior running back Devonte Brown and sophomore quarterback Will LaGuardia scored their first varsity touchdowns while LaGuardia also threw for two scores, the first on a 9-yard strike to Jacob Bergstrom.
Brown, who emerged as a starter at shortstop last spring on the baseball diamond, made an auspicious debut among a group of six ballcarriers that entered the season with just a dozen varsity carries.
The sophomore rushed for 157 yards on just 17 carries, including a 38-yard jaunt for East Coweta's first score of the season. Alex Branch added 56 yards rushing and a score, while LaGuardia - stepping into a big hole for 2013 Newnan Times-Herald Offensive Player of the Year Bryce Gemmel - impressed with two rushing touchdowns to go while accounting for 28 points from the Indians.
Just as impressive, it came with All-Region 3-AAAAAA offensive lineman Dawson Ellis spending last Friday as a starter on defense. East Coweta's front consisted of guards Sean Simmons and Devin Looney, senior tackles Anthony Griggs (6-1, 270) and Collin Morgenroth (6-3, 220) and sophomore Logan Dockery (6-0, 218) at center.
'What we're doing fits some of those guys. Sean Simmons and Devin Looney at guard to me, they are wing-T type guards,' Pardue said. 'Both tackles played really well and we've got two tight ends, Jaquez Williams and Dontavious Burks who are bigger bodies.'
A key to success tonight could be which defense is able to adjust quicker to an offense they've yet to face this season. East Coweta saw spread formations against Griffin and Arabia Mountain, while Harrison has also yet to face a wing-T opponent following efforts against Walton and Wheeler. The Hoyas counter with a 3-4 defense led by senior inside linebacker Jonathan Grimes (5-11, 220). The defensive backfield is also a strength led by senior Seth Cowan (5-11, 170), who had three interceptions last year.
'For us, only thing we've seen them against is spread teams,' Pardue said. 'That's the bad thing. The good thing is that they haven't seen us. Some of it is we have to project what they're going to do [against us].'