(This is part of the AJC’s “30 in 30″ series — with quick hits on top high school football teams across the metro area and state during spring football practice. We’re doing 30 football teams in 30 days. Click here for a master list. Hey AJC, what about spring sports? You know, the non-football sports? Go here)
The eyes of the nation will be on Camden County again this year.
Can the Wildcats win the state championship for the third year in a row in Georgia’s largest classification?
Georgia’s high school football gets a lot of respect around the country, with the biggest props always going to the best teams in Class AAAAA. Will Camden County be among them again this year? Yes, they will, at least in the beginning, as most defending state champions usually start out the following season No. 1 in the rankings. I’m sure Camden will appear in some national polls, too.
The better question is this: How long will they be able to hold onto No. 1? All the way to the end? I think not. Not after losing 19 of 22 starters to graduation off last year’s reigning champs. That’s the bad news, the massive losses to graduation. What’s the good news? Camden County had plenty of young talent on the sidelines during the championships runs, waiting patiently for their turn. The time has come.
The veterans are a pair of seniors, QB Joel Ruiz (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) and kicker Matt Ehasz. Another team leader is sophomore sensation J.J. Green (5-9, 165), who started 15 games at offensive center last year as a freshman — which was a first for any Jeff Herron-coached teams.
What about the team’s projected impact players? You’ve got RB Kenny Hutchinson (blazing speed), WR Jalen Simmons (6-foot-3), DB Vishawn Williams (healthy again after missing last season with injury), QB Brice Ramsey (potential superstar in the wings), and LB Quan Brock.
Herron said spring goals are “definitely fundamentals, but primarily trying to get kids that were in backup roles last year to step forward into starting rolls.”
This Camden County team reminds a lot of people of the 2008 team that was considered “too young” and “maybe a year away.” The Wildcats got a big break that year with Lowndes’ collapse in the playoffs, but they took advantage of it to win it all.
Camden County will likely take a lump or two in at least one of the non-region showdowns against pair of Florida powerhouses — Miami Central and St. Thomas Aquinas. The Wildcats, with so many new starters, will likely be underdogs in one or both. And if the Wildcats win one or both, then it will be mission accomplished. (Herron would never admit it publicly, but he’d be satisfied if they put themselves in a position to win both games late, regardless of the final outcome).
After all, Camden County’s fortunes turned last year after they dropped two out its first three games. It was time to put up or shut up, and the Wildcats — out of the spotlight and pressure of the rankings — turned it around in dominating fashion.
Herron, like almost all coaches, only cares about the ranking at the completion of the season. Will Camden County win it all? Let’s put it this way: Until another team takes it away from the Wildcats, don’t bet against them.
YOUR TURN: Which team will win it all in the Georgia’s biggest and baddest division and why? Please state your case below.
Team: Camden County Wildcats
Spring practice dates: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Last year’s record: 13-2
Starters lost: 19
Head coach: Jeff Herron
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