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August 15, 2018     The Monroe County Reporter
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August 15, 2018
 

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Page 8 igkiéess seih Bedgood #60 Chris McDaniel #89 A.J. Jefferson #93 By Richard Dumas forsyth©nlymcrnet Backfield Mary Persons’ quarter— back position is as settled as it has been in perhaps any ‘ season of head coach Brian Nelson’s seven-year tenure. Senior J.T. Hartage is the undisputed starter after a record~breaking junior year in which he was named the Region 2—AAAA Offensive Player of the Year. In addition to his talented right arm, Hartage is equal- ly skilled at extending plays ‘ with his legs. After primar— ‘ ily staying inside the pocket during the regular season, Nelson unleashed Hartage’s legs during the playoffs. The quarterback responded by bursting loose for an (88-yard touchdown run in ‘a 27-0 first-round victory over Carver (Columbus). With a capable backup in junior Trippe Moore ready , J ‘ if needed, expect MP of- fensive coordinator Jason L ‘ Morrow to allow Hartage to carry the ball more in 2018. Nelson has always lauded the numbers advan— ‘ tage of having a running ' quarterback, and Hartage may be the first Bulldogs’ ‘ QB in Nelson’s tenure who is athletic enough to take ‘ advantage of that skill. Moore, who sat out last season while focusing on baseball, serve as Hartage’s primary backup " although he is also expect- ed to start at wide receiver. , Junior limbo Finch, last , year’s top backup, could see time as the third-string QB. As always, MP’s offense i if is highly predicated upon its rushing attack, and 2018 will be little different. Senior Quen Wilson has rushed for 2,136 yards and 22 touchdowns in his first three seasons and will be the clear No. '1 back The only thing that has slowed down Wilson in his career is injuries, but he said his goal in 2018 is to stay healthy and surpass former teammate Zach Harvey’s 2016 yardage total of 1,472 rushing yards. The backup running back role could be the biggest unknown on the offensive side of the ball for MP in 2018 as the squad’s 2017 backups, Bralen Harvey, Tre Slaton and Ladondre Buckner, all graduated. That trio combined for 1,229 yards and 13 touch— downs, and Nelson said they will all be missed. All-purpose standouts Antoine Davis and Des- mond Williams will get opportunities to carry the ball, as will Lamar County transfer Rico Harden. All three of those players are defensive starters as was the case with last year’s reserve threesome. Another pow- erful Option in the back- , field is senior Ladarnian Sands, a starter at line- backer, while sophomore Adrian Hughley and fresh— man DJ. Martinez bring some of the same explosive speed Wilson possesses. “We’ve always had some depth at tailback,” Nelson said. “We probably don’t have as much depth at tailback as we’ve had: The lone MP coaching change of 2018 occurred t. in the backfield where new running backs coach Delvin Jordan, 24, replaces the retired Clint Ashmore. Jordan, a Pike County high school standout, played football at LaGrange Col- lege before coaching as an assistant at Rockmart. Receivers Mary Persons could have its best receiving corp? in the program’s history in 2018 as its top two pass catchers, senior slot man Antoine Davis and senior flanker De’Adrek Alford, are back for their respective final seasons. Davis, who transferred from Tattnall prior to 2017, emerged as quarterback J.T. Hartage’s favorite target a year ago. Davis set a new program record for receptions in a season with 47 while racking up 627 receiving yards and four touchdowns, doing most of his damage in the middle of the field. Alford, who primarily plays outside the hash lines, is among the most talented physical receivers in program his— tory. Alford’s inconsistent junior year featured several spectacular catches, includ— ing circus touchdown grabs in both the season opener against Lee County and in the season finale against Blessed Trinity. In a 28—21 win over Upson-Lee on Oct. 6, 2017, Alford had one of the greatest single games in MP history with nine receptions for 170 yards and a touchdown. MP head coach Brian Nelson said he needs more MP 2018 Varsity Football Sophomores nights like that from Alford for MP to thrive. “He (Alford) can be as good as he wants to be,” Nelson said. “In terms Of size and all that stuff, he can be pretty good. It just depends on what day it is and what he feels like doing sometimes.” Junior Trippe Moore is expected to start opposite Alford on the outside while Desmond Williams, who caught five passes in 2017, is expected to line up in the slot alongside Davis in multi-receiver sets. Other receivers who will be in the mix for playing time include: senior Alex Kite, who hasn’t played football since middle school, and junior Wyatt Currie. r Junior Andre Jackson, who primarily played line— ' backer a year ago, will get the first crack to replace the departed Rashad Hughley ' as the starting tight end. Senior linebacker Lada- mian Sands will also be a factor as a reserve at tight end after catching three touchdown passes from Hartage a year ago while senior Kanidric Jones, an— other starting linebacker, is also expected to see playing time. Offensive Line Perhaps MP’s most unfortunate moment of the pre-season came on Aug. 3 when dependable starting left tackle Nate Howard went down in a light contact drill with a broken leg. 'Ihe junior Howard, the team’s biggest player at 6’6’”, 305 pounds, Not pictured: Sophomores: Kaden Holliday #66 Conner Etheridge #76 Jamal Singleton #82 Freshmen: Jarvis Germany #73 Jake Causey #94 .Talented receiving corps could lead to record-breaking year was already receiving atten- tion from major Division 1 programs after a standout sophomore season. Perhaps ‘ the best—case scenario is for Howard to miss a couple of months, so senior Noah Davis will be called upon to fill Howard’s immense shoes. Davis started at cen— ter as a sophomore in 2016, being named an all—region selection, before missing all of 2017 due to a major knee injury. Davis was cleared to play in early summer and will be asked to assume the critical spot as quarterback J.T. Hartage’s blindside protector. , Alongside Davis in the starting lineup are four « more seniors, all of whom started a number of games ’ a year ago.'Desmond Jones will be counted upon at left guard while Charles Dean, returns at center after an season. August 15, AugUS 'V-avuv w-J (um-m.wu«naw:mn.w r!.c.w.r.p.mr Isr if» u- : rev our. p.11 wrwwuuuwoucugamm‘ nmr’ar‘s rs(».»—,..,n «We fife? we.» “its r .«a £372}; a. i“ s‘iflfifiifféfiééé8§a¥ $£a ...‘ a— has; excellent campaign in 2017. Luke Byrne will be back in the starting lineup at right guard while right tackle will be filled by Colton Dingmore, who transferred frOm Tattnall prior to the 2017 season. Byrne, Dean and Dingmore all received all—region recognition along with H0ward in 2017. Serving as the primary backup along the offensive line will be yet another senior, Reggie Chambliss, who MP head coach Brian Nelson said had a solid olf- Nelson said of his of— fensive line: “All those guys up there started justabout every game last year, and you’re talking about an All- Region kid as a sophomore coming back If he’s (Davis) likehe was, then he can be pretty good too.”