Prep Football: Cougars chomping at the bit to startBy CHRIS GOLTERMANN
From the color of Griffin’s uniforms to the rejuvenated grass at an upgraded Drake Stadium, bright shades of green and yellow have to be a welcomed sight for Newnan High football players tonight — even if Friday’s score won’t count in this year’s standings.
All they’ve seen, and hit, for the last 16 days are folks wearing white, navy and gold. That is, until tonight’s preseason scrimmage.
Tonight will be the first good look McDonald and his staff in a game scenario since wrapping up a 6-6 season and a trip to the second round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs in 2011. With Newnan returning four starters on offense and six more players from last year’s defensive unit, many of the faces in uniform tonight will be taking their first live varsity snaps.
The Cougars’ spring scrimmage didn’t give their staff as much to look at on film as they had hoped despite being able to get a good head start on the fall.
“I think we had a good spring. The day we scrimmaged we just did not look good. It started raining right after school that day and the kids thought we’re probably going home and do it tomorrow,” McDonald said. “I hated that the spring ended on that, but I think throughout summer we did a lot of good things.”
Tonight’s scrimmage will be the first chance for sophomore quarterback Bailey Bryant to lead the team after playing on the junior varsity a year ago. He didn’t attempt a varsity pass last year while backing up former starter Nick Smith, who threw for 1,640 yards and 14 touchdowns in his only season behind center.
Senior right guard Jamal Carlisle, who will protect his southpaw quarterback’s blind side, is a key returner up front with 6-4, 261-pound senior David Raschen among players that saw considerable playing time on the offensive line.
“It’s the quarterback position and the offensive line. We’re going to be playing guys that this will be their first time out there. We’re curious to see how some of them handle it,” McDonald said. “Bailey’s a hard worker and he wants to do well. We’re going to see how well he reacts to being out there on Friday nights.”
Newnan coaches anticipate the offense may be a little slow at the start, but are more concerned with how well the unit executes plays coming in from the sidelines.
“There’s things we want to see. Offensively I hope we execute,” McDonald said. “It’s been getting better in practice, probably not where it needs to be. But now we can see how well we execute in a game-time situation.”
The 6-2, 166-pound quarterback will have a pair of running backs in sophomore J.K. Britt and senior Quinton Dix to rely on after both played big roles in the offense during the state playoffs.
“We’re still going to throw the ball some, but you’re not going to see us slinging it every down,” McDonald said.
Meanwhile, Griffin, coming off a 9-3 campaign where a young lineup picked up steam as the 2011 season progressed, hasn’t stopped tinkering with its offense since losing to eventual Class AAAA champion Tucker in last year’s playoffs.
A unit with 10 starters back expects to spread Newnan out tonight with a no huddle offense behind junior quarterback Jaquez Parks and receivers Darquavious Mangham (6-2, 180) and Christian Owen, a 6-6, 200-pound sophomore.
The Cougars, meanwhile, with a veteran secondary led by safeties Tray Matthews and Darrell Morrow on a defensive unit that returns six starters, but none from last year’s defensive line.
“They’re spreading it out and throwing it. We’ll have our hands full,” McDonald said. “On defense we want to play fast and physical and play hard. Those are the things that we’re looking for.