August 18, 2013

High school football scrimmage notebook

Season almost here for area teams

The Daily Citizen
sports@daltoncitizen.com

— High school football programs in Murray and Whitfield counties took their biggest step toward the season by holding scrimmages against opposing teams this past week.

While most teams didn’t have their varsity squads on the field for more than a half of action, it gave coaches and players a glimpse of how much work remains between now and the start of the season.

Dalton kicks off its 2013 schedule at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Ringgold at Harmon Field, while the rest of the area’s teams begin play Aug. 30.

Here’s a look back at each team after the scrimmages.

CHRISTIAN HERITAGE: When it came to running right at the other team, the Lions consistently found holes during Thursday’s scrimmage against visiting North Murray. Christian Heritage is a Class A school entering its second year of Georgia High School Association competition, while North Murray is a Class 3A program.

Lions coach Preston Poag attributed his team’s rushing success to line play that the skill position players were able to take proper advantage of.

“I thought we hit well,” Poag said. “I thought we were really physical. We have some really good skill players.”

Christian Heritage senior running backs Jake Stokes and Austin Lowe combined for 162 yards on 29 carries and three of the off-ense’s four touchdowns. Only one run went for negative yards, and four went for 15 or more.

Poag also was quick to praise Stokes’ defense. His interception and touchdown return in the final minute sealed a win for the Lions.

“That was a big-time play,” Poag said.

COAHULLA CREEK: Colts quarterback Blaine Williams saw growth from his team in Friday’s scrimmage with Heritage-Catoosa.

Comparing it to 2012, when Coahulla Creek finished 2-8, Williams feels there’s a lot more fight in this year’s bunch.

“Last year, we’d just fall apart and start yelling at one another,” Williams said. “This game, we kept our heads up. We were in it the whole time. Never did we drop our heads or quit.”

The game means nothing to records or standings, but Coahulla Creek lost 21-17.

“Nobody really screamed at one another or put someone down,” Williams said.

One thing he believes need work is pass protection — and he would know.

“I got hit in the mouth a couple times,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll get beat physically, because we’re big and strong, but it’s the mental aspect of knowing what to do and how to do it.”

DALTON: While coach Matt Land wasn’t pleased with his defense allowing 21 points in roughly a half of game-simulated action at Adairsville on Thursday, he said points on the scoreboard were not his concern going into or coming out of the scrimmage.

“It is hard for coaches and players to not pay attention to the scoreboard, but we had some very specific situations and some very specific personnel mixes we wanted to see,” Land said. “Now we can look at that and have a better assessment of our team.”

Instead, Land was much more interested in seeing a lot of different combinations of players. Some of them worked, others didn’t.

“I don’t think that anything that we have seen to this point has been that surprising to us,” Land said. “We saw a lot of positives and a lot of the things that we still need to work on. But those are things that we can look at and evaluate and correct and move on.”

MURRAY COUNTY: Friday’s scrimmage versus Southeast Whitfield was the first time the Indians used their new pistol offense in an 11-on-11 setting.

After a quarter and a half, they got results.

“It took us a couple possessions on offense to get going,” Murray County coach Chad Brewer said. “That happens. That is nothing out of the ordinary. We settled down and started moving the ball well and had a good chance to score right at the end of the half.”

The Indians didn’t score in the first half — the only portion of varsity play — but their last possession of the second quarter went all the way to the Southeast 16-yard line. That’s when junior quarterback Justin Smith’s pass was intercepted by Raiders safety Luis Fraire.

Murray County’s best offensive possession included a mix of run and pass plays, the type of keep-them-guessing balance the Indians are aiming for this season.

“Offensively, it’s going to get better,” Brewer said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

NORTH MURRAY: The Mountain-eers’ defense allowed 32 points per game in 2012, offsetting the 34.4 the offense averaged.

In the scrimmage versus Christian Heritage, North Murray’s defense showed mixed signs.

The Mountaineers allowed four touchdowns through 40 minutes of play and at times had mental mistakes and trouble tackling Christian Heritage’s running backs. Christian Heritage scored on half of its possessions, but only punted once as the Lions had little issue gaining first downs.

However, the Mountaineers were able to force three turnovers.

“Defensively, I think we played pretty well,” Mountaineers coach David Gann said. “We had some times where we weren’t lined up correctly. We had some busted coverage. When you play a scrimmage, you have no clue what a team will do. So they did some things our kids hadn’t seen before.”

NORTHWEST WHITFIELD: Bruins coach Josh Robinson and offensive coordinator David Crane want the offense to play at a million-miles-an-hour pace.

Maybe not that fast, but closer to it than any other nearby high school team.

When using a no-huddle spread look in the first half of Friday’s scrimmage versus Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, which was almost all the time, Northwest averaged around 10 seconds in between plays. The Bruins ran 40 plays and only possessed the ball for around 11 minutes of the 27 minutes played in the first half, meaning the average play took around seven seconds.

“We played fast out there tonight,” Rob-inson said. “Penalties were the worst thing.”

LFO’s only scoring possession, which ended in a field goal, took seven minutes. The Warriors, who only recorded two first downs the remainder of the half, huddled after each play.

SOUTHEAST WHITFIELD: The Raiders’ defense improved as 2012 progressed, and in Friday’s scrimmage versus Murray County, it didn’t leave much more room.

Southeast’s defense held their opponents scoreless through the first half, when varsity players were on the field, and again in the JV- and freshmen-heavy second half. In the first quarter, the Raiders had an interception for a touchdown and set up another score with a fumble recovery.

“We were physical, got to the ball with two or three guys every play,” Southeast coach Sean Gray said. “We scored and set up a score.

“Four of our last five games, our defense gave up (points) in the teens. In five of the last six games, we only gave up one score in the first half. We got better at defense all year.”

The Raiders scored three more times in the second half. Devin Fields scored two touchdowns — a 50-yard reception and 35-yard run — and Trey Weaver had an 8-yard carry to the end zone.