Christian Heritage School Lions

December 19, 2013

Prep football: All-Star games offer another chance for gridiron fight

— Overseeing the best senior high school football players in north Georgia has been quite a treat for North Murray coach David Gann.

Eleven standouts from Murray and Whitfield counties will become teammates — along with 39 other players from north of Atlanta — on Saturday for the D.L. Scott Coa-lition Bowl Senior All-Star Game.

The game, which kicks off at 1:30 p.m. at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, pits the North Georgia All-Stars against the Central Georgia All-Stars.

It precedes a matchup of all-stars from East Georgia and West Georgia at 7:45 p.m.

Admission is $22.50 for the entire day’s schedule, which begins at 8 a.m. and includes youth football games between teams from around Georgia and southeast Tennessee.

Gann was head coach of the North team last season as it lost 10-0 to the Central squad.

“It is a great experience and I enjoy doing it every time,” Gann said. “Not only do you have the best players in northwest Georgia but you also have the best kids. You tell them to do something one time and they do it.”

The team practiced this week at North Murray’s turf stadium in preparation for the game. North-west Whitfield has three players on the team: defensive lineman Isaiah Mack (who committed Wednesday to the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga), wide receiver/cornerback Tevin McDaniel and wide receiver/kick returner Andy Whis-enant.

Christian Heritage wide receiver Nich Bartley and fullback Austin Lowe join them, as does Dalton linebacker Lyle Durham and offensive lineman Jake Roberts.

North Murray linebacker John Chastain and defensive lineman Christian Rangel are also on the team, along with Coahulla Creek running back Darius Miller and Southeast Whitfield punter Jona-thon Sanchez.

“I went in thinking I didn’t know what would happen,” Mack said. “I didn’t know half of these kids. They’re all cool guys and like me.”

The North squad also has players from Adairsville, Calhoun, Carters-ville, Chattooga, Dade County, Dar-lington, Dawson County, Gordon Cen-tral, LaFayette, Lakeview-Fort Ogle-thorpe, Pepperell, Pickens, Ridgeland, Ringgold, River Ridge, Rome, Se-quoyah, Sonoraville, Trion and Wood-land-Bartow.

Gann said he sent an email asking for nominations to coaches of all 51 schools eligible for the North squad. From there, he and his staff narrowed around 150 nominations to a 50-man roster.

“It’s Paulding County and Cherokee County up to Catoosa County and Dade County,” Gann said. “Some years you have 10 quarterbacks and one wide receiver nominated. So you have to do the numbers game. At the same time, they want you to try and represent as many schools as much as you can.”

Mack is a two-time Region 7-4A Defensive Player of the Year and The Daily Citizen’s 2012 All-Area Football Player of the Year. McDaniel and Whisenant made the newspaper’s all-area lineup in 2012 and also were on the all-region first team, along with Durham and Roberts. Sanchez made the all-region second team.

Also on the North squad is Cartersville quarterback Brooks Barden, who led the Purple Hurricanes to the Class 3A semifinals in 2012 — they lost in the second round this season — and Ringgold linebacker Dakota Baer, the 2013 All-Region 5-3A Defensive Player of the Year, who helped the Tigers make an unprecedented run to the state semifinals this season.

That is a sample of the talent Gann and the North squad coaches have had the privilege of seeing.

“It’s a joy when you can coach kids who understand everything they are trying to do,” Gann said. “All their fundamentals and techniques are good, and they all have a good football sense and knowledge.”

Joining Gann on the coaching staff from North Murray are Courtney Braswell, Bob Dixon, Tino Hernandez, Chad Murray, Don Murray, Alex Otting, Ryan Otting, Jason Poteet and Cody Rainey. The other coaches are from Cartersville, Dade County, LFO, Pickens, Ringgold and Sonoraville.

Last season, the Central team had current University of Georgia safety Tray Matthews. Gann expects the team to have athletes of a similar caliber.

“The team we’re playing against has some very good football players,” Gann said.

This won’t the only all-star game this month for Mack, who also will take part in the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association’s North-South All-Star Football Classic at 2 p.m. Dec. 30 at Memorial Stadium in Columbus.

Cartersville coach Frank Barden will coach Mack and the North squad. Helping as an assistant is Dalton head coach Matt Land, who will coach linebackers for the North squad.

This will be Land’s first experience coaching in an all-star game.

“I think one of the neat things is to coach some different kids who have been coached in different ways,” he said. “Maybe you can learn some things from them.”

Mack is the only local player — as of now — in that game, Barden said.

Having some high school teammates like McDaniel and Whisenant — and local rivals like Durham and Roberts — made the experience of preparing for Saturday’s all-star game a little easier at the start.

“As the practices went by, we found out their problems are our problems,” Mack said. “We’re the exact same people.”

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