Devonne Quattlebaum is gone, but his legacy at Ridge Spring-Monetta sits at the far end of the school's home field.
In 2006, Quattlebaum led the Trojans to the best season in school history. The sign that acknowledges their first Upper State Championship is a permanent reminder of the 56 times Quattlebaum put his team in the end zone the past two years.
Ridge Spring-Monetta won 20 games those two years. Quattlebaum made a lot of the plays that led to those wins. He's now a freshman at South Carolina State.
Replacing his leadership and production is the most important task for the Trojans this year.
"It's a learning curve as much for the players as it is for us," Ridge Spring-Monetta coach Mark Rodgers said. "You can't ask for anybody to replace a player like that because I don't know if he is replaceable."
But that task is Cody Young's this year. The senior moves under center after rushing for 1,418 yards and 14 touchdowns as the team's second-biggest offensive weapon last year at running back.
"The transition for him is he's got to run our ship," Rodgers said. "He's got the ability to run it. There are going to be some growing pains, but we're gonna go through it with him. He's learning. Last year he basically got to be a steward under Quattlebaum. Eventually, by the end of the season, he's going to be pretty good back there."
The Trojans benefitted from stellar play on both their lines last year. An especially strong wall of blockers allowed Quattlebaum to be selected as the All-Area South Carolina Player of the Year Award.
The two big cornerstones of that line are back in twin brothers Jason (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) and Justin (6-foot-5, 225 pounds) Conaway.
Both are three-year starters. Jason was the anchor of the offensive line last year. He graded out at 91 percent for the season. Justin was right behind him with 87 percent.
Justin Conaway is actually the team's top prospect. He also added 145 tackles at middle linebacker. He'll likely split time between that spot and defensive end this year.
He chafes at those who expect his team to fall off this year.
"We've got a lot of players coming back that should be pretty good," Justin Conaway said. "We're coming together a lot quicker because we've got a lot of people who have played together a long time."
Perhaps Quattlebaum's true legacy was not a sign at all. There is no one player more important than any team. Especially one that advances as far as the Trojans did last year.
But he did create a winning mentality. That is the biggest thing coming back for the Trojans this fall.
"We expect the same as last year," Rodgers said.
Staff writer Larry Taylor contributed to this report.
Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
RIDGE SPRING-MONETTA TROJANS
Coach: Mark Rodgers (sixth year, 29-28)
Classification: Region IV-A, South Carolina High School League
2005 record: 11-3 (Class A Upper State Champions)
Program status: The Trojans appear to be a team on the rise after their first state title game appearance and the finest season in team history last year.
2007 story: The team must replace SC All-Area Player of the Year Devonne Quattlebaum at quarterback and in the secondary. He was a playmaker and a leader. If they make another playoff run without him, that will be a telling sign of a strong program.
Half-full outlook: Rodgers moved Cody Young to quarterback to fill the big-play void left by Quattlebaum. The 6-foot-2 senior ran for 1,418 yards and scored 16 TDs. Senior DE/OL Justin Conaway (6-5, 225) had 145 tackles last year and is the team's top college prospect. Those two players will keep the Trojans in every game.
Half-empty outlook: One player is huge at the Class A level. If Young goes down, this roster loses a lot of its offensive oomph. One big question is how Young will perform with teams gearing up to stop him and not Quattlebaum.
2007 PREDICTED RECORD: 9-4, REGION CHAMPS
|Date||Opponent (2006 record)||2006 result|
|Aug. 17||Christ Church (9-2)||Did not play|
|Aug. 31||Saluda (5-6)||Loss, 14-13|
|Sept. 7||at McCormick (3-8)*||Win, 18-0|
|Sept. 14||at Williston-Elko (3-8)||Win, 27-0|
|Sept. 21||Pelion (10-2)||Loss, 6-0|
|Sept. 28||North (1-9)||Win, 35-0|
|Oct. 5||at Wagener-Salley (2-8)||Win, 30-8|
|Oct. 12||at H-K-T (6-4)||Win, 40-12|
|Oct. 19||Fox Creek (1-9)||Win, 41-0|
|Oct. 26||Calhoun County (7-4)||Win, 12-6|
*Game time is 8 p.m.; All other games start at 7:30 p.m.
7 FOR 2007
The Augusta Chronicle will preview seven area South Carolina football teams heading into the start of the season.
Today: Ridge Spring-Monetta
Wednesday: South Aiken
Monday: Midland Valley
Aug. 21: Silver Bluff
Aug. 22: North Augusta
Aug. 23: Strom Thurmond
For more high school football coverage, log on to: www.augusta chronicle.com.