Can a proven coach bring success to a program that has been mediocre at best? That’s the question that’s being asked at White County, where Bill Ballard has the Warriors sitting at 3-0 and looking like a series playoff contender in Region 7-AAA.
Ballard took over the program of the Cleveland school last year and took the team to a 3-7 record. But this year things are starting to click for White County, which went 9-3 as recently as 2010 under Gregg Seagraves, who has four winning seasons in five years. Prior to that, White County had only two winning seasons over the previous 20 years.
Ballard has a 95-29 record in 11 seasons at Tucker (2002-2006) and Peachtree Ridge (2007-2010). He has taken two teams to the state championship game. Can the same thing happen at White County, which has never advanced past the second round of the playoffs.
White County remains a young team, with few seniors and a lot of sophomores. The Warriors had six starters back on each side of the ball and has bought into the system that Ballard uses – the triple option on offense and the 50 defense. The offense is led by junior quarterback Will Brock and rushing leader Dalton Whitfield, who operate behind a solid offensive line.
A big test will come on Friday when the Warriors host Blessed Trinity, a playoff contender in Region 6-AAA. The Titans opened the season ranked No. 9 but fell out when they lost to Lovett. A win this week would definitely open some eyes and might put White County on the radar. Perhaps this is the year that the fans from the North Georgia Mountains will have something to cheer about.
Here are four other games to watch on Friday night:
Ringgold at Gordon Central: Gordon Central has outscored its first three opponents 133-7. Part of the reason is the performance of quarterback M.J. Reynolds, who threw for 214 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 113 yards and one touchdown last week against Coosa. Reynolds spent the off-season working on his fundamentals and hitting the weight room. He’s got a strong group of receivers led by Tyshaun Clemmons. Ringgold (2-1) is led by quarterback Slade Dale (257 yards passing, four TDs; 335 yards rushing, four TDs) and sophomore tailback Kile Sholl, who has rushed for 288 yards and four touchdowns. Ringgold leads the series 7-5, but has won the last six meetings, the most recent in 2007.
Lovett at St. Pius: It’s been 29 years since these two private schools played on the football field and even though they come from different classifications, this game has the potential to be a good one. No. 5 St. Pius played a solid road game last week, but lost 21-14 to No. 2 Thomson. Lovett, the No. 4 team in Class AA, is coming off a loss to Class AAAAA Marist and has played a very tough schedule. The Lions will be challenged by a St. Pius attack led by fullback Ryan Braswell (294 yards, six TDs) and QB Jack Spear. Lovett leads the series 8-4 and won the last two games.
Woodward Academy at Westminster: Another battle between two of the city’s oldest private schools. Woodward leads the all-time series 22-19 and won the last meeting 23-21 in 2009 and has won 11 of the last 13 games. Both teams have plenty to boast about on defense, which is where this game is likely going to be decided.
Cartersville at North Murray: North Murray, 3-0 for the first time, faces undefeated Cartersville in what coach David Gann called the biggest game in school history. The Mountaineers have shown a strong option game and average 39.6 points. Whether they can sustain that momentum against No. 8 Cartersville remains to be seen. The Purple Hurricanes, 3-0, are averaging 30 points, but lost standout freshman running back Tiamon Pennymon for the season with a leg injury. This is the first meeting between the two schools. It could come down to a battle between two strong quarterbacks: Brooks Barden of Cartersville and Brady Swilling of North Murray.