Thomasville, Jackson figure to head rest of Region 1
Published 5:47 am Wednesday, August 8, 2007
By BY BRUCE HIXON – SPORTS EDITOR
While T.R. Miller and W.S. Neal have their share of questions to answer for the upcoming football season, so do the rest of the Class 4A Region 1 teams.
Teams to beat: Thomasville and Jackson. Thomasville may have graduated the heart of last year's offense, quarterback Jake Overstreet, but the Tigers return most of their other offensive pieces including senior running backs Delvonte Harris and Roya Campbell and senior wide receivers Tysean Thompson, Daril Jackson and Shed Simmons. Even if Thomasville slips a bit on offense, last year's Class 4A state runner-up returns nine starters on defense.
Jackson returns two of the biggest cogs from last year's offense that averaged 27 points a game, senior quarterback Kent Meyer and senior running back Andrew Ezell. If the Aggies can find a way to improve on the defensive side of the ball where they gave up an average of 28.2 points a game, they will be right there.
Can go either way: Southside-Selma and Escambia County. These two teams closed out last season in different directions. South-Selma won four of its last six games after a disastrous 0-4 start. Panthers return 28 players from last season. Southside-Selma spent most of last season using a two-quarterback rotation of seniors Xavier Mack and Evell Rubin. Panthers also return senior wide receivers Willie Cooper and Kevin Rown and fullback Toranso Smith.
Escambia County limped into the offseason with four losses in its last five games. The Blue Devils later forfeited all five of its wins from a year ago for using ineligible players.
Escambia County returns perhaps the region's most diverse offensive player in junior quarterback Michael Thomas, who often led the Blue Devils in rushing to go along with his passing exploits. Blue Devils have to replace most of the skill players that lined up with Thomas last year although they do return senior wide receiver Elliott Faircloth.
Going up: Hillcrest-Evergreen. There is only one direction for the Jaguars to go after an 0-10 mark on the field last season although Hillcrest officially picked up a win over Escambia County through forfeit after the season.
Jaguars return 34 players from last year's team although the problems that go with a youthful team are still there. Of those 34 players that are back, only five are seniors. Hillcrest employed freshman Justin Nared at quarterback much of last season as an eighth grader. Junior running back Derek Smith is another returning skill people. Hillcrest should be able to build behind an offensive line that returns tackles Dexter Chatman (6-1, 293 lb. jr.) and Shannon Salter (6-1, 284 lb. jr.) and guard Freddie Jackson (5-11 260 lb. sr.).
Wait and see: Monroe
County is in a similar situation to that of Hillcrest. The Tigers endured some growing pains last year with a team that had just eight seniors. Despite that youth, Monroe County still finished the season 5-5 (after a forfeit win over Escambia County).
Monroe County returns 13 seniors and 16 juniors from that squad.
However, three of the players Monroe County lost were its top offensive players, quarterback Byron Rivers, running back Stephen Andrews and wide receiver Dedrick Hawthorne. The Tigers also lost their top defensive player from a year ago, linebacker Jarvis Ballard.
Who emerges as this year's team leaders remains to be seen.
Circle your calendar for Sept. 14: Thomasville at Jackson. Outside of Thomasville's lone region loss to T.R. Miller, Jackson gave Thomasville its toughest region tussle last year, a 27-18 decision.