NORTH AUGUSTA — With three senior playmakers returning, it’s easy for Brian Thomas to sound excited about the upcoming season.
The North Augusta coach can rattle off the accomplishments of DeJuan Bell, Landon Washington and Derius Gibson with ease.
On Bell, the wide receiver/defensive back: “He’s a playmaker. Get the ball in his hands. He’s getting lot of interest, has several offers already. He’s just exciting when he gets the ball in his hands wherever he’s at.”
On Washington, the quarterback: “He has a great arm. Two years under his belt, and hopefully we’re going to see good things out of him.”
On Gibson, the running back: “He ran for over 1,600 yards last year, can catch the ball out of the backfield, can do a lot of things for us.”
Thomas will count on the trio as the Yellow Jackets look to improve on last year’s 7-5 campaign that ended in the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs.
North Augusta should be solid on offense, but it will need to find a replacement for defensive lineman Tre Lawson.
“We have a lot of experience in the back seven,” Thomas said. “Up front, we’ve got some tall kids, long and lanky, that are younger versions of Tre but not quite there yet.”
Parker Baxley will handle the kicking chores, and Bell will once again return kicks and punts.
“He creates problems for people,” Thomas said of Bell. “I’m glad he plays on our team.”
North Augusta hasn’t won a region championship since 2013 but the Yellow Jackets figure to battle defending Region 4-AAAA champ South Aiken for the title.
“We’ve just got to get out and get on a roll early, need some success early,” Thomas said. “We had a tough region last year. South Aiken had a heck of a football team. Aiken has some athletes. Midland Valley is getting better, and Airport as well. It’s a good region.”
Out of the region, North Augusta begins its season with Georgia foes Lakeside and Evans. The Yellow Jackets also take on area rival Strom Thurmond and former region foes Lexington and White Knoll.
“You can only get better if you play strong teams,” Thomas said.
Washington, the quarterback, said expectations are high.
“We’ve been working real hard over the summer with summer practice, and we’ve been doing really well in 7-on-7s, stuff like that,” he said. “I’m excited for this season and we’re looking to go deep into the playoffs this season.”
Reach John Boyette at (706) 823-3337 or firstname.lastname@example.org.