He was an assistant with the Spartans for 14 years, but he also had experience coaching at Richmond Academy and at several area middle schools.
It was one of those experiences while coaching at Murphey Middle School in 1992, that provided Tolbert with an offensive strategy that might cure the offensive inconsistency Glenn Hills experienced last season.
"Coaching back in the day, with the likes of Deon Grant and the Tolbert boys, I coached over half of that '96 state championship team at Josey while they were in middle school," Tolbert said. "I set the team up then on the same philosophy I'll use this season. We threw the ball until we got enough scores, and then we ran the ball down their throats."
That philosophy is counter to conventional wisdom, as many high school teams use the run to set up the pass.
This Spartans squad will have trouble finding success the traditional ways, as the roster is young and particularly thin at running back.
That's no problem for Tolbert, though, because he's got a leader at quarterback in Mike Evans. He'll guide a group of 15 Glenn Hills seniors, along with several talented receivers.
"We've got two or three JV guys we'll have to use at running back. We might even have to put some receivers back there," Tolbert said. "We have go-to receivers: Christian Walker, who's a senior, Kevin Davenport, a junior, Darquan Spratley, a senior tight end, and some young guys coming up."
Evans hasn't shied away from his expanded role this season.
"I've been a quarterback since I was 7-years-old, so I've always felt like a leader," Evans said. "I've been waiting to have a passing offense since I got here. We've got outside speed, but we also have some possession receivers. It's a good mix.
"This is probably the most talented team I've ever been around."
Another prospective thin spot for the Spartans is on offensive line. But a large addition should help up front. Victor Moli is a 6-foot-2, 265-pound newcomer who has already shown blocking ability the coaching staff didn't expect from a first-year varsity player.
The defense will use the same hard-hitting style that led to three shutouts last season.
Keying the defense is junior Jerico Brown, who was all-state in Class AAA last season after notching 10 sacks for the second season in a row.
"It's pretty rare to see a guy that young rack up those stats. But when you see his maturity, his fervor and just the way he plays, you can see why," Tolbert said.
If Brown is the flash off the outside, linebackers Lonnie Moore and Maurice Goodwin are the guys who control the interior.
"Those guys don't rah-rah, but they lead by example. They'll bust you in the mouth," said Tolbert, who will be disappointed if the team doesn't go at least 8-2.
Reach Justin Williams at email@example.com.
GLENN HILLS SPARTANS
HEAD COACH: Ernest Tolbert (second year, 5-5)
CLASSIFICATION: Georgia High School Association Region 3B-AAA
2006 RECORD: 5-5
FOUR-YEAR RECORD: 23-18
LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2004
LAST REGION TITLE: 1986
LAST STATE TITLE: N/A
RETURNING STARTERS: 6 offense, 6 defense
KEY CHRONICLERS: Senior QB Mike Evans (6-2, 175), Junior LB Lonnie Moore (6-1, 235), Junior DE Jerico Brown (6-2, 245), Sophomore FS Terrell Fitts (6-3, 215), Junior WR Kevin Davenport (6-1, 178)
OFFENSIVE ATTACK: The Spartans run a spread offense to spread the defense a little farther apart. They will be focusing their offensive attack around the passing game, with senior quarterback Mike Evans taking a strong leadership position on the field this season. The passing game will set up the running game, mostly because the Spartans are thin at the running back position. Evans will look to get the ball to wideouts Kevin Davenport and Christian Walker, along with several underclassmen moving up from the junior varsity side.
DEFENSIVE ATTACK: Two words: Jerico Brown. The junior was all-state last season in Class AAA at the defensive end position. The Spartans have counted on him for about a sack per game, as Brown finished with 10 sacks each of the past two seasons. Brown keys a 4-3 defense that prides itself on getting after the skill players, making big plays and getting turnovers.
THIN AT: Offensive line, running back and special teams.
BIG GAME: After a 63-0 thrashing at the hands of Thomson in 2005, the Spartans played the Bulldogs tough last season but still came away with a 10-0 defeat. This year, they get the Bulldogs at home Oct. 19. Other games to watch will be Sept. 28, when the Spartans travel to Burke County to take on the Bears and their new coach, Eric Parker, and Nov. 2, when the Spartans travel to face the defending region champions, Washington County. And, oh yeah, there's always the big-time rivalry game, when Glenn Hills welcomes Josey for its home opener Sept. 14.
DIFFERENT THIS YEAR: Coach Ernest Tolbert detailed several differences from last year to this year, and they were all positives. Evans as the signal caller leaders a group of 15 seniors, who should provide plenty of leadership this season. Another difference is attitude, a characteristic that's hard to measure but is one that Tolbert insisted was a definite bright spot. He said the Spartans averaged 50 players during summer workouts, and that that upgrade in work ethic has given the team a whole new swagger.
COULD GO BAD IF: The thin offensive line and running back positions implode an otherwise solid offense. There's no doubt that the passing game has the potential to carry this team, but only if Evans has the opportunity and the time to get the ball to the receivers.
GREAT YEAR IF: Brown steps up to another level and gets inside the head of every quarterback the Spartans face. The junior year is often a time when players mature and start to come into their own. And if that's the case here, who knows what kind of numbers Brown could put up; it would be hard to improve on 20 sacks in two years. If the defense plays well and creates turnovers, it should help the offense get its rhythm early in the season and carry it through the schedule
2007 Prediction: 6-4: No playoff berth
|Date||Opponent (2006 record)||2006 result|
|Aug. 31.||at Greene County (9-3)||Lost, 30-0|
|Sept. 7||at Hephzibah (1-9)||Won, 27-0|
|Sept. 14||Josey (3-7)||Won, 21-13|
|Sept. 28||at Burke County (6-4)||Lost, 14-6|
|Oct. 5||at Liberty County (7-3)||Won, 35-27|
|Oct. 12||Harlem (4-6)||Lost, 22-14|
|Oct. 19||Thomson (9-2)||Lost, 10-0|
|Oct. 26||at Cross Creek (4-6)||Won, 6-0|
|Nov. 2||at Washington County (11-3)||Lost, 43-6|
|Nov. 9||Butler (0-10)||Won, 41-0|
All games begin at 7:30 p.m.
The Augusta Chronicle will preview the following Georgia football teams heading into the start of the season:
Monday: Evans, Greenbrier
Tuesday: Richmond Academy, Westside
Today: Glenn Hills, Thomson
Thursday: Lincoln County, Warren County
Friday: Burke County, Laney