Swainsboro among unexpected winless teams

In his first season as a head coach, David Johnson led Swainsboro to its first 10-0 regular season since 1999.

And it was no piece of cake, he said.

“Just because you’re 10-0 doesn’t mean it was easy,” Johnson told GHSF Daily on Thursday. “When I finished last season, I probably was as exhausted as ever I’ve been as a coach. It took me a month before I felt like I was really rested up. It’s a crazy livelihood. Talk about roller coasters. It’s something else, now.”

Now, Johnson is rolling down the other side of the hill. The Tigers are 0-3 for the first time since 2002.

But Swainsboro is not alone. There are 64 winless teams in Georgia. Swainsboro is just more conspicuous than the rest.

Swainsboro returned an all-state candidate at fullback in Quan Gardner, a 230-pounder, but he has been injured and missed last week’s game against Dodge County, which drove 90 yards in the fourth quarter for a winning touchdown in a 13-9 victory. Swainsboro also has struggled at quarterback in the Wing-T but now settled on a freshman to run it in Da’Korey Somerville.

“We’re not going to use that rebuilding excuse, though,” Johnson said. “We expect better. We think we’re capable of winning every Friday night. We’ve just got to get that first one and get some confidence back. If we do that, this team can make a run.”

The Tigers play tonight against Jefferson County, another team that has struggled unexpectedly. A year ago, Swainsboro and Jefferson County were Region 3-AA’s best two teams. Both were undefeated when they played each other, and Swainsboro won 38-37 on a two-point conversion in overtime.

Here are the five winless teams that stand out the most:

*Apalachee: The Wildcats were 12-1 in 2009 and started 5-1 in 2010 before finishing 6-4. This season, they feature Stanley Williams, a sophomore running back who has committed to Georgia. But they are 0-3 for the first time since 2002 after close losses to Habersham Central (38-35) and Salem (14-7) and a shootout loss to state-ranked Flowery Branch (52-35). Tonight, they play at 4-0 Heritage of Conyers.

*Roswell: The Hornets are 0-4 for the first time since 1952. If there’s a winless team that can win a region, though, it’s Roswell. The Region 5-AAAAA opener is tonight at North Forsyth (0-4). Roswell won the region last year after an 0-3 start. All four losses have come against playoff contenders, including state-ranked Walton and Norcross.

*Miller County: The Pirates have won at least one round in the playoffs each of the past three seasons (only seven other Class A schools can say that.) But they’re 0-3 this season for the first time since 2006. Star running back T.T. Barber was moved to quarterback this season, but the team has managed only eight points in three games.

*Savannah Country Day: SCD is 0-4 after a 3-1 start last year toward a 6-4 finish. This season was expected to be a rough one, though. Graduated are QB Tate O’Connor (2,401 yards passing), RB Morris Watson (1,074 yards rushing) and WR Kevin Blackburne (53 catches, 1,002 yards).

*Swainsboro: The Tigers hope to get Gardner back for the Jefferson County game. He rushed for 1,255 yards last season and scored the winning touchdown against Jefferson County.

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