SWAINSBORO, Ga. -- Last season, Swainsboro was cruising toward a state playoff appearance. Then the school learned it had to forfeit its first five games for using an ineligible player.
Instead of ending the season at 7-3 and competing in the playoffs, the Tigers finished 2-8 and missed the postseason. However, Swainsboro ended the season by beating two playoff-bound teams.
The 1999 Tiger defense may be one of the area's best with seven starters back. On offense, only three starters are back.
"We're going to have to shut some folks out early in the year (so we can give our offense time to mature)," Swainsboro coach Rayvan Teague said.
The defensive front is led by senior Darnell Hodges and junior Charles Silas at ends and juniors Thomas Carlyle and Titus Peebles and senior Julius Frost in the interior.
The secondary won't be too shabby either with junior Maurice Mincey and senior Andre Nix returning at the corners.
Offensively, longtime starter Lyndon Johnson is gone at quarterback. Johnson passed for 790 yards and rushed for 260 last season.
A pair of juniors, Rhett Womack and Jason Samples, are battling to replace Johnson. Womack was Johnson's backup last season while Samples started at split end.
Whoever wins the starting quarterback job should have plenty of speedy targets to throw to between Nix, Derrick Williams and Tekoya Shuemake.
One of the area's most exciting players, Brandon Andrews, returns at running back after rushing for more than 1,400 yards in 8 1/2 games last season. Andrews won't be able to suit up in the Tigers' first two games, against Screven County and Hawkinsville, because of a two-game suspension for getting ejected in Swainsboro's final regular-season game last year against Calvary Baptist.
The Tigers' offensive line will be very young, returning just one starter in Matt Rountree. But Teague says he plans for several defensive linemen to step over and help out on the offensive side.
"My biggest apprehension is playing those first two games without Brandon and us not being successful," Teague said. "I think though, if we can stay healthy and not have to gain momentum, we could be a playoff contender."