Fayette County preview

Tue, 08/26/2008 - 11:39am
By: Kevin Wandra

Last year was one for the ages for the Fayette County Tigers.

They went undefeated during the regular season and won a region championship, both firsts in school history. Plus, the Tigers advanced to the second round of the state playoffs (the first time Fayette made the playoffs since 1997) and finished with an impressive 11-1 record.

Not bad for a team that hadn’t won more than two games in a single season since 2001, when it finished 5-4.

A repeat of such a memorable season is unlikely, given that Fayette lost 28 seniors (15 starters) from that team, including two of the top players in the state, cornerback/quarterback Brandon Boykin, who is playing at Georgia, and safety/fullback Matt Daniels, who is is playing at Duke.

According to Fayette coach Tommy Webb, last season is what it is — history.

“If we sit back on last season’s laurels, we’ll be in trouble.” Webb said. “We are not looking back on what we lost; we are focused on what we have. Every season brings a new year. We’re building off a successful season.

“There is a lot of ifs and unknowns on this team. We have a good core group of players. We feel confident that we will play at a high level and compete at a high level.”

Graduation took its biggest toll on Fayette’s offense, where only one starter returns, standout running back Tim Pettaway (5-9, 170).

Fayette’s offensive system also changes this season; it has installed a multiple spread offense to replace the Wing-T/spread offense it deployed last season.

“Due to the change in personnel, the type of players we have are more geared toward our system,” Webb said.

Fayette has yet to decide which quarterback will run its newly installed offense, Mundy’s Mill transfer Jensen Floyd (5-9, 170) or freshman Justin Murray (6-2, 195).

Murray is the prototypical quarterback with good size and a strong arm; Jensen also has a strong arm, and he’s more mobile.

“These guys are in a brand-new system,” Webb said. “They have to grow. We don’t want to put pressure on them to win games.”

The focal point of Fayette’s offense, and the player who should take pressure off Fayette’s inexperienced quarterbacks, is Pettaway, a natural runner with superb vision and instincts.

“Tim is a solid kid we’re counting on a lot,” Webb said. “We’re counting on him to step up and be a playmaker for us.”

Armani Cato (5-7, 165) and Corey Smith (5-9, 150) are two other running backs expected to receive a significant amount of carries. Cato runs low to the ground and has a good first step; Smith is more of a burner.

Paving the way for Fayette’s running backs is fullback Patrick Blakenbeker (6-1, 230), a strong lead blocker.
Andre Columbus (6-0, 205) also will see time at fullback.

Fayette’s No. 1 receiving option is Tashawn Pettaway (5-10, 170), a wide receiver who runs crisp routes and can consistently elude defenders after the catch.

“He’s our go-to guy out there,” Webb said of Tashawn. “He’s a guy we want to throw to. He can do something after he catches the ball.”

Darnell Brown (5-10, 165) starts at the other wide receiver spot. Maurice Williams (6-4, 178) and Stephen Smith (5-11, 175) provide depth at wide receiver.

Malcolm Reid (6-2, 240), whom Webb calls “a complete tight end,” is another option in the passing game for the Tigers.

Fayette’s offensive weapons will be unable to produce unless its offensive line develops and becomes cohesive in a hurry; the Tigers are breaking in five new starters on their line.

“They key to our offense is the offensive line,” Webb said. “They all are good blockers, but they are inexperienced and learning a new system. A work in progress is what you need to say about our offensive line.”

The most unsettled offensive line position is center, where Seth Webb (6-0, 170) and Michael March (6-1, 210) are vying to start.

Guards Major Smith (5-9, 270) and Clarence Swayne (6-1, 230) and tackles Nick Johnson (6-3, 235) and Ben Pline (6-1, 200) are penciled in to start.

Tackles Gerrard Harps (6-3, 240) and Kristopher Curtis (6-4, 270) are key backups for Fayette.

Fayette’s 3-5-3 defense is where the vast majority of the team’s experience lies. It has six returning starters on the defensive side of the ball: nose tackle Reid, defensive end Brian Edoimioya (6-0, 207), inside linebackers Evan Reid (5-9, 215), Josh Atwater (5-9, 195) and Columbus and outside linebacker Jarmon Elder (6-0, 175).

Nose tackles Reid and Major Smith and defensive ends Edoimioya, Elder, Blakenbeker, Pline and Martiniek Adamson (5-11, 210) all will see extensive playing time in Fayette’s defensive line rotation.

Reid, Atwater and Columbus return to start at inside linebacker, one of Fayette’s strengths.

Reid is the most aggressive and active of the three.

Jay Simmons (5-11, 204) and Stephen Smith will see action at inside linebacker, as well.

“Our inside linebackers get to the ball and run this defense well,” Webb said. “That’s what we ask them to do, move and find the football.”

Chadd Jones (6-0, 190) and Elder, a converted defensive end whose speed is his best asset, start at outside linebacker. Both provide experience at the position.

Fayette’s secondary features two swift, athletic cornerbacks, the Pettaway brothers, Tim and Tashawn. Both are in their first year as starting cornerbacks.
Corey Smith and Nic Mercer will back up the Pettaways at cornerback.

Floyd will start at safety, with H.J. Simmons (5-10, 153) serving as his backup.
Pline will kick for Fayette, and either Murray or Stephen Smith will punt.

Webb believes Fayette’s schedule will present many challenges.

“Our non-region schedule is a tough one,” Webb said. “It will show us what kind of team we have. The county schools should give us a tough time, too. We are playing a tough, very demanding schedule.”
Fayette opens the season August 29 at Stockbridge.

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