On paper, the Augusta Christian Lions appear to be a run-first team in 2012.
It’s no surprise.
The team returns a 1,000-yard rusher in Thomas Banks and an imposing 238-pound fullback in Sean Sweeting to help power its triple-option attack.
That helped lead it to an 8-4 record and a berth in the second round of the South Carolina Independent School Association playoffs in 2011. The season ended when the team lost to five-time state champion Hammond.
This year’s team will have more to prepare for.
“Probably our biggest surprise is Nick Fortenberry as a wideout and Grant Newman as a wideout,” Lions head coach Keith Walton said. “Last year everybody just kind of loaded the box on us because our receivers really weren’t mature enough yet. They weren’t ready to come out on their own. We played one team last year, they literally took the safety out of the middle of the field.”
Newman, a 2011 SCISA Class AAA state champion in the 400-meter hurdles and long jump, has looked sharp so far during the preseason.
“When we did seven-on-seven with Greenbrier, you would have thought that kid had been a wideout starter, the leading receiver here,” said Walton. “He’s not. But because of what happened in track, it has carried over.”
Senior quarterback Tyler Roberson will direct the offense and is happy with where the passing game is headed.
“This year they put in some good time,” Roberson said of the receivers. ”We’re still working on it, we’re not quite there yet, but I feel like this year is going to be a huge improvement over last year. We’ll actually be able to throw the ball this year.”
Banks likes the way the whole team is shaping up as far as experience goes.
“Everybody’s a year older,” said Banks. “We didn’t lose any receivers, we didn’t lose any running backs, we didn’t lose any DBs, we didn’t lose any linebackers. Just on our line and we’ve got that covered.”