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Chee defines positions in time for football season start

POSTED: August 13, 2014 12:00 p.m.
Adam Wynn/Barrow County News

Alantae Billings (pictured) and Bryan Wilson will compete for Apalachee's starting QB job.

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Shane Davis was proud of what his team did Friday night against Morgan County. The Bulldogs of Madison were an honest challenge for the Apalachee Wildcats, and the Wildcats stood up to that challenge well.

After three quarters of varsity play, Apalachee trailed just 7-0. The JV squad would come in and tie the game at 7-7 for the final score.

"We’ve got a lot of things we’ve got to fix. It was a scrimmage game, and it was a scrimmage game we lost 7-0, so it’s not like I’m running the streets of Winder proclaiming us to be a wonderful football team right now," head varsity football coach at Apalachee High School Shane Davis acknowledged.

"But the thing I was proud of, I was proud of our intensity level and I was proud of how physical our kids played," Davis went on to say.

After facing a competent Class-AAA school in Morgan County, the Wildcats will host an excellent Class-AAAA team when Monroe Area comes to town this Friday night for the second and final scrimmage before both schools open the regular season.

Monroe breezed through Region 8-AAAA last season, only once coming within three scores of their opponent in a 28-21 win over Chestatee en route to an undefeated regular season.

As celebrated as the 2013 season was, it came as a letdown to the state semifinalists from 2012.

Compared to Morgan County’s balanced offense in 2013, Monroe Area’s score-heavy team was a spectacle. The Purple Hurricanes scored 40 or more points in 10 games last season. They scored more than 50 points five times in 2013.

As prolific as the Hurricanes were last season, they could be a different story in 2014 as most of the playmakers have gone on to bigger and better things.

Then again, that sort of vacuum and mystery has little effect on how Davis plans on preparing for Monroe Area.

"It’s just like we’re going into Morgan County and into any other scrimmage. We’re not preparing for any particular people so much as we are preparing for a scheme. We’re trying to get an idea of what they do and show our guys what a normal work week will be like," Davis explained.

"We don’t have any film to break down, so we don’t know any tendencies or who their best lineman is and if we’re going to go away from him or towards him," Davis added. "As far as trying to do personnel like that, there really is nothing. We’re just trying to get a base idea of the formations they’ll be in offensively and defensively."

Star quarterback Stanton Truitt rushed for 1,551 yards and 24 touchdowns for Monroe last year, but he graduated early in December so he could early enroll with Auburn University where he is slotted as a wide receiver.

Monroe historically has been a program of fluctuation, so a wild drop would not seem uncharacteristic. The 2010 Purple Hurricanes came off of the school’s longest losing streak in history with two straight 0-10 seasons to build an 11-2 record with a trip to the state quarterfinals.

Monroe was at the top of their game for the next several years with four straight winning seasons and playoff berths. The 2012 team, of course, made it to the state semifinals with a 12-2 record.

A new coach will lead the Hurricanes in 2014 with Matt Fligg’s retirement at the end of last season, with his replacement being a former college coach, Joey Sulkowski.

Then again, while a steep drop may not be uncharacteristic, Sulkowski inherits a team that is used to winning and putting up insane numbers on most opponents, providing what could be an excellent test for Apalachee’s much-improved defense.

"Hopefully it’ll prepare us for what we’re going to see. We’re going to see some teams that score a lot of points," Davis pointed out. "Gainesville the last four or five years has scored a lot of points. They’ve put up crazy numbers. Flowery Branch has put up a lot of numbers, and other teams out there in our region…who offensively have been pretty much doing this.

"It’s going to give us an idea of what teams in our region are like. We’re going to see teams with a lot of speed, we’re going to see teams that are physical and we’re going to see teams that put up a lot of points," Davis added.

Apalachee’s defense stepped up in a big way against Morgan County, producing three interceptions and numerous stops when it mattered. If the defense learned from their first scrimmage, they could be even more ready to prove themselves against such a celebrated offense as what Monroe brings to the table.

That being the case, offense remains the biggest question mark for Davis’ Wildcats.

Apalachee struggled to put points on the board last season, and that trend continued into Friday’s scrimmage as the Cats needed a full four quarters to get a score. Even still, that score came from the second-string players and the JV team, meaning varsity football for Apalachee has not scored yet.

The lack of offense in last week’s scrimmage concerns Davis, admittedly, but that experience also allowed him and his coaching staff to see a clear need that they could meet during the practices since.

"It’s tough in practice when you’re trying to simulate what the other team will do, so it’s a little tougher to concentrate on the things that you need to work on but you’re still preparing," Davis said. "You’re trying to kill two birds with one stone. There are things we’re trying to work on to make us better while we’re trying to get ready for an opponent on Friday night. At the end of the day, we’re doing the same thing that we’ve always done, we’ve just got to get a little better."

One aspect of the offense that could solidify that performance is the final answer for the quarterback question.

Davis readily admits that he is no fan of the dual quarterback system, although the Wildcats did see two players take significant starts last year at the position when Chance Rodriguez and Bryan Wilson battled for the top job.

This offseason, that battle has come down to Wilson and Alantae Billings, one of whom will likely be named the starter after Friday’s scrimmage.

"We’ve still got two guys," Davis noted. "They both do good things and they both bring different things to the table. On the one end, one does this a little bit better and the one does this a little bit better, so we’ve just got to see. We’re one scrimmage down and we’ve got another to go through, so we’ll see if somebody steps up.

"If not, we’ll do it like we did against Morgan County and they’ll in some form or fashion split the reps. That’s not what we want, that’s not what I want…but if that’s what the situation dictates, that’s what we’ll do," Davis explained.

As far as roster decisions go, however, the quarterback position is really Davis’ only question. At just about any other area, the Wildcats have their main men.

"The majority of our positions right now, it’s their position to lose. We’ve only got a couple positions where there’s a battle going on. Most of these positions, we just need people to get better where they are," Davis explained. "Mostly on the defensive side, seven or eight of those positions are wrapped up. We know who the starter’s going to be.

"On the offensive side, it’s probably the same way. We know who the starter is and we’ve just got to continue to watch them and hopefully they’ll continue to progress and get better," Davis added.

Friday’s scrimmage will be Apalachee’s last time at home for more than a month as the Wildcats play their first three regular season games on the road. Apalachee travels to Henry County to play Woodland on Aug. 29 before playing what is almost a home game distance-wise at Winder-Barrow on Sep. 5.

The Battle of Barrow will be followed by a trip to Conyers to face Salem before finally coming home on Sep. 19 to see Gainesville.

 

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