1-0 Indians hope to catch Tigers by the tail ... end
by Chris Goltermann
Scroll quickly through the player photos in numerical order on Archer High's football website and you can almost see the Tigers in uniform gradually expand before your eyes.
Even for a fourth-year varsity program, former East Coweta assistant and Archer head coach Andy Dyer is quickly beginning to benefit from what seems to be a never-ending talent pool available inside Gwinnett County.
'They're good, real good. They're Gwinnett County … HUGE,' said Indians head coach Clint Wade of the Lawrenceville school. 'Now Andy will sell you they're not, but they are huge.'
Either way, both teams are about to find out just how special a pair of season-opening blowouts were last week.
East Coweta crushed Henry County 49-8 with relative ease, scoring three times in each of its first-two periods of play. Archer followed much the same pattern in a 37-0 blowout of Mountain View, scoring 30 points before halftime.
Each, however, took opposite paths to 1-0 starts this fall. The Indians, behind an improving offensive line, racked up 376 yards rushing while using 14 ball carriers led by Weylin Orr's three scores, all coming before halftime.
'I didn't know we had that many on the team,' said Wade. 'A lot of kids got playing time, which was good. It helps our confidence. We've got a lot of kids busting their tail and working real hard and trying to get better. If we're doing that, then progress is being made.'
Archer, meanwhile, showed it could build off last year's potent running attack by throwing for four consecutive scores to open its season, the first coming on a reverse-pass from receiver K.J. Parmer on the first play from scrimmage.
Junior quarterback Gabe Tiller (1,165 yards passing in 2012) added three touchdown passes of his own for the Tigers, which went 6-4 last season for the first winning season in school history while just missing the Class AAAAAA state playoffs.
With Mountain View honing in on Archer's running attack a year after Tigers Sean Fowler and Ernest Alexander helped led a 27-6 win over East Coweta at Garland Shoemake Stadium, Tiller made the most of his early opportunities.
Mountain View equally hurt itself by getting its hands on four of Tiller's throws but while unable to make an pick on a night where the Bears crossed midfield just once in the first half. That's exactly where East Coweta found itself in its preseason scrimmage against Whitewater before finally getting some rhythm going in the opener against Henry County.
'We got a lot of first downs and that makes life a lot easier,' Wade said. 'We played looser and faster and that's the way we've got to play. It was different than Whitewater where we were kinda like a deer in the headlights. This week [Archer is] going to cause problems in a lot of ways. But that's football.'
The starting offense, which includes just two seniors in Parmer and fullback Duane Lee, includes a junior-dominated front line that includes three returning sophomores from last year in center Nick Williams (6-1, 285) and tackles M.J. Couzan (6-4, 260) and Mitch Hornsby (6-4, 255).
That group should present a challenge to East Coweta's eight-man front which began the year minus two injured defensive ends. It'll equally be up to an Indians secondary that came away with a key interception from Kevin Lashley at the end of the first quarter that directly led to an East Coweta touchdown, to help make a versatile Archer offense one-dimensional.
'They'll spread it out and run the zone with the spread stuff and then they'll get into a power mode and they're good at it,' Wade said. 'Andy's done a great job of getting the kids out and getting them going.'
According to the Gwinnett Daily Post, Archer has 152 players in the program from ninth through 12th grade.
The Tigers' 3-5 defense has been in rebuilding mode, much like East Coweta's, with just three returners back led by junior defensive end Robbie Armstrong (6-0, 240), senior linebacker Duane Lee (6-0, 205) and senior cornerback John Gillis (5-11, 180).
'They're physical, got a bunch of big bodies,' Wade said. 'They're very well coached and they execute real well.'
Friday's second-ever football meeting between the two schools could be one decided by endurance considering both teams are coming off wins where most of the starters were off the field by midway through the second half.