With five consecutive trips to the playoffs behind them, Jefferson County will enter the 2007 season with the size, strength and experience in their backfields and lines to be a serious Class AA threat.
The primary question for them this year is can their young, less-experienced quarterback lead the team deeper into the playoffs than the first round?
"We've been to the playoffs eight times in 12 years," Warriors coach J.B. Arnold said. "I've looked and looked for the secret to advancing in the playoffs and when it comes down to it, we've just got to make plays. We've been winning with what we've been doing. We just have to make it count."
Last year The Sporting News ranked Warrior lineman A.J. Harmon, then a junior, as the No. 4 college prospect in the nation. At 6'5" and 340 pounds he is certainly the biggest weapon in an arsenal that includes 12 returning starters and multiple Division 1-A prospects.
Other four-year starting weapons in the school's 2007 arsenal include running back Lamar Brown, one of the strongest students in his weight class in the state; hard-hitting safety Terrance Davis; defensive back and wide receiver Marcus Mayo who runs a 4.45 in the 40 yard dash; and last year's leading tackler, linebacker Johndrick Beasley.
Other returning starters include senior wide receiver Damien Wilburn, senior offensive lineman Will Clark, junior defensive lineman Chris Crenshaw, senior center Darius Hinkins, senior outside linebacker Carlos Lowery, senior lineman Jarvis Middleton and junior runningback Antwan McGruder.
Senior offensive lineman Will Clark, 6-0 and 230 pounds, should help provide some leadership on the offensive line. He scored a 1420 on his SATs while in eighth grade and has started in the past at center. Marcus Mayo led the team in interceptions last year and Coach Arnold considers him one of the Warriors' overall best players.
The Warriors have 16 players over 200 pounds. and three over 270 pounds. Eleven can run a 4.7 40-yard dash and four run a 4.5. An intense weight program is paying off and 41 of the team's 95 players can power clean 225 pounds and four players bench over 300.
Jefferson County graduated its four-year starting quarterback Dennis Thomas this spring and senior Terry Hatcher was set to take over the reins until he blew out his knee in the spring exhibition game. With him working to recover, the Warriors have turned to sophomore Barry Bostic.
Coach Arnold said he was pleased with what he saw from Bostic and his offensive machine this summer when the Warriors took part, for the second year in a row, in a national seven-on-seven invitational tournament in Hoover, Ala.
"These are big tournaments involving some of the best kids in the south eastern United States," Coach Arnold said. "We go so that our kids can see great competition, and that's exactly what we saw. Just to give you an idea of what sort of talent we saw, every year ESPN picks the top 100 high school football players in the nation and 36 of them were there."
In these passing league tournaments the teams play without offensive or defensive lines and stick entirely to pass plays.
In Hoover, Jefferson County went 6-3 and finished in the top 12 out of 36 schools.
"Barry Bostic got some valuable experience. He's is doing a good job for us. He just needs to get his confidence up."
Bostic broke an arm during a JV game last year. In testament to his dedication, while waiting for the doctors to set his arm Bostic called Arnold from the emergency room to discuss how to get around a certain type of pass coverage.
"He puts a lot of pressure on himself," Arnold said. "He wants to be good."
The Warriors will open their regular season Aug. 31 when they play host to Burke County in the Jefferson County Badlands stadium.
Game time is 7:30 p.m.