December 22, 2012

All-star prep football: Former rivals able to find common ground

By Chris Whitfield

— Throughout this high school football season, Northwest Whitfield linebacker Jarrod Farmer worked with the goal of beating Region 7-4A teams like Ridgeland, Dalton, Southeast Whitfield, Gilmer, Pickens and River Ridge.

This week, the senior was happy to have teammates from those same schools as he and his fellow North Georgia All-Stars prepared for today’s D.L Scott Coalition Bowl in Atlanta. The North Georgia All-Stars will take on Central Georgia at 3 p.m. at the Georgia Dome as part of a day of activities that includes six youth games and the East-West Metro Atlanta All-Star Game in a 7 p.m. finale.

“These are the same guys that you practice to beat them all through the year, and now we are on the same team,” Farmer said earlier this week. “We have hit it off well and are just laughing it up. I have played against the guys from Dalton all my life, but there is a bonding thing that happens when you are on the same side with each other. There are so many people who could have been picked, and they picked us, so it is an honor to know that you were picked for this team.”

Ten other area seniors will compete for the team: Coahulla Creek’s Cordarius Tarver (defensive lineman); Dalton’s Brandon Dale (wide receiver), Robert Hardaway (linebacker), Laighton Reese (defensive end) and B.J. Rowland (offensive lineman); North Murray’s Christian Bukle (fullback), Brady Swilling (quarterback), David Martin (tight end) and Jacob Mays (wide receiver); and Southeast Whitfield’s Jayro Perez (defensive end).

The team’s roster includes players from high schools in Bartow, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cherokee, Dade, Floyd, Fannin, Gilmer, Gordon, Murray, Pickens, Walker and Whitfield counties.

North Murray coach David Gann, who finished 5-5 this year in his first season leading the Mountaineers — the team went 1-19 in its first two varsity seasons before Gann was hired — is the coach for the North. Joining Gann on the coaching staff are Coahulla Creek coach Jared Hamlin, Southeast assistant Alan Jackson and North Murray assistants Courtney Braswell, Marcus Jones, Chad Murray and Cody Rainey.

The group had its first practice on Sunday at Dalton High’s McClurg Activities Center, and Dale said it didn’t take long for the former foes to act like teammates.

“We all get out there and we cut up and talk about the season, but it is all in good fun,” Dale said. “I have heard some things the past couple of days and I haven’t stopped laughing. But it challenges you because you are going against guys who are top notch and all go. But it’s been a lot of fun.”

Dale said the biggest eye-opener for him has been the speed of his teammates. Used to being one of the fastest players on his team, Dale is now surrounded by others who are like him.

“The tempo is just so fast,” he said. “Everyone on this team is used to being the standout on their team. The reaction times are impressive.”

Even though Perez has plans to play college football, he wasn’t ready to let go of high school just yet.

“It is exciting just to put on the pads one more time and play in the Dome,” he said. “When coach Gann told me, the first thing in my mind was that it is an honor to play with the best in North Georgia.”

Farmer is not sure if he’ll have the chance to play in college, but he and Perez are in agreement about the opportunity they have today.

“It is a great thing to be a part of,” he said. “I was kind of bummed out that I was going to have to hang the pads up, but I get to strap the helmet on one more time.”