LOUISVILLE, Ga. — Midway through last season Jefferson County High School’s coaching staff made some adjustments to its offense and averaged more than 50 points in the final five games.
This year Coach JB Arnold is hoping to continue that streak and is making adjustments to his defensive strategy that he hopes will better complement his aggressive offense.
“We have to end the season as strong as we are at the beginning of the season. That’s going to be key for our defense,” Arnold said. “Last year we started off strong and as the season went on we got progressively weaker.
“This year we’re going to turn up the heat. We’re going to send our kids in motion. We’re not going to be a read-and-react defense. We’re going to be aggressive from the get-go. That’s what we’re going to have to do and we think it gives us an edge.”
After their adjustments, the offense really picked up its pace with explosive plays that scored in just a handful of downs. Scoring that quickly left the defense on the field longer with fewer breaks to rest.
“That’s tough on a read-and-react kind of defense,” Arnold said. “We’ve changed our philosophies there and hope that has helped. A more aggressive defense is going to create issues for the other team, put on more pressure and create opportunities. We’re either going to win ugly doing what we’re doing or we’re going to lose ugly doing what we’re doing. That’s the way it goes.”
Arnold has a pile of experience coming back this season to help make that happen.
“We have 30 seniors and they’re a great group of athletes,” Arnold said. “If they will play together and stay focused on the task at hand the sky is the limit for them.”
With 110 players dressed out, most of those seniors may not have been starters, but the coach isn’t worried about that.
“We rotate so many kids on and off the field on a Friday night that it’s hard to remember who all actually started,” Arnold said. “All 30 of those seniors are experienced and have been a part of the program for four years. The experience is there.”
Some of the most experience this year comes in the form of a heavy and powerful offensive line and a deep squad of running backs.
“We’re averaging around 300 pounds on the line,” Arnold said. “They are a very good group and I’m very pleased with them. Coach Keaton Wilson, who is new, is coaching that position and he has done a very good job.”
Veteran running backs include seniors Tyler Williams, Rodrick Nelson, Willie Lacy, junior Jayron McKennie and sophomores Nikel Stone and Jimmy Thomas.
“It’s a good group. We’re deep at the running back position,” Arnold said. “We have a great combination of size and speed across the board. That allows us to do many different things.”
Expect to see the Warriors continue with the spread and multiple offense formations that have been so successful for them the last few seasons.
The offense will be led by senior quarterback TJ Bell.
“He’s a very gifted athlete, about 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds,” Arnold said. “We will go as he goes. If he is consistent, I believe that we will be consistent. He’s done a good job of filling in and rotating with older quarterbacks since he was a sophomore.”
The Warrior receivers are led by senior Marquis Carter.
“Marquis plays extremely hard,” Arnold said. “I don’t know about stats but he made big plays at big times and that stood out so much. He’s a baller. He does everything you ask — blocks, catches, runs. He was big for us last year. He became a real weapon and we look forward to using him this year.”
The Warriors are also returning three starters in their secondary and the defensive line is anchored by junior defensive end Melton Brown.
“Melton is 6-foot-3, 250 pounds and he has Division I potential,” Arnold said. “He just has to have a solid year to solidify that. He’s been great over the summer and has had great leadership to start off the year.
“Our linebacker crew has gotten a lot better during the summer and we expect big things out of them. That’s inside and outside. I think Roitavious Boatwright, Kurt Bell, Ja’Quan Stone and Sam Harris have all had a very good summer.”
He is also excited about sophomore kicker Evans Hodges, who started as a freshman last year.
“He did a great job last year and I can already tell he’s gotten a lot stronger,” Arnold said. “So we’re excited about our kicking game.”
The Warriors will open their season Friday at home against Thomson.
“They’re all going to be good,” Arnold said. “We have seven potential playoff teams on our schedule. We’ve taken steps to remain competitive. We’re building the program we want and now it’s time to get passed that second round again and into the heart of the playoffs.”
REGION: GHSA 3-AA 2014: 8-4, Class AA second round
COACH: J.B. Arnold
OFFENSIVE/DEFENSIVE COORDINATORS: Craig Brock/David Land
KEY PLAYERS: Sr. WR Marquis Carter, Sr. QB T.J. Bell, Sr. LB Kurt Bell, Sr. OL Rantrayvis Flonnory, Sr. LB P.J. Stone
BASE OFFENSE/DEFENSE: Multiple/Multiple
OUTLOOK: Quarterback Will Jordan is gone from an offense that averaged 52.6 points its last five games, but Jefferson County has emerged as an annual playoff team. In J.B. Arnold’s 14 seasons as coach, the team has reached the playoffs in every year since 2002.
COACH QUOTE: “If we stay focused and committed, the sky is the limit for us. Screven County is going to be good, Swainsboro will be good and Dublin is always good. We got new coaches throughout the region at other schools. I think all the schools are committed to playing the best football they can.”
PLAYOFF HISTORY: (Includes Louisville, Wadley and Wrens): 18-34 in 34 playoff appearances; Wrens reached championship game in 1982 and 1983A