For the next 50 weekdays, AJC.com will report on 50 of the most intriguing football programs in Georgia as teams prepare for spring practice.
Here is the schedule of teams for this week:
Monday – Parkview
Tuesday – Lovett
Wednesday – Buford
Thursday – Burke County
Friday – Mays
2012 record: 9-4, 6-2 in Region 8-AAAAAA, lost in quarterfinals to Colquitt County 31-15.
Starters returning: 5 offense, 5 defense.
Key players lost: QB Rob Youngblood, RB Chris Carson, LB Kyle Williams (Air Force)
Key players returning: LB John Patterson, OL Trey Derouen, RB Justis Rosser, CB Turshard Kimble-Brinson, CB Bryce Lewis (Vanderbilt)
Spring practice dates: May 7-18
Outlook: A significant core returns from a team that put Parkview in the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2005. Finding a new quarterback for the pistol offense will be a priority this spring. There is no single running back at the level of graduated 1,000-yard rusher Chris Carson. If the defense remains one of the better ones in Gwinnett County, Parkview will be a region title contender.
8/30 at Peachtree Ridge
9/6 vs. Norcross
9/13 at Grayson
9/20 vs. Archer
9/27 at Brookwood
10/11 vs. Dacula
10/18 at Shiloh
10/25 vs. Central Gwinnett
11/1 at Berkmar
11/8 vs. South Gwinnett
The 2012 season was a historic up-and-down ride for Parkview. The Panthers stunned No. 1-ranked Grayson in September, blew what should’ve been their first region title since 2004 in October and then won two overtime playoff games in November to make the Class AAAAAA quarterfinals.
That came on the heels of a 4-6 season (worst for Parkview in 20 years) and returned the program to genuine statewide relevance for the first time since 2005.
‘’It was a fun year, and I think we can build on it,’’ said Parkview coach Cecil Flowe, who will be in his 21st season. “We lose some really good seniors, but our chemistry is good. I have high expectations, and I think the kids do to.’’
Spring practice, which begins May 7, will be see 10 of 22 starters back. The main competition will come at quarterback. The 2012 starter, Rob Youngblood, was injured late in the season and returned only to play defense in the playoffs.
When Youngblood went down, Parkview shifted to an Oregon-style pistol offense that Flowe plans to retain this fall. The quarterback needs to be mobile as Parkview passed fewer than 10 times per game last season. The contenders are juniors Kalu Onumah (6-foot-3, throws a nice ball) and Estifanos Lulsegard (5-11, scrappy, will play elsewhere if not QB) and sophomore Tyler Fleetwood (perfectly suited for the position athletically, inexperienced).
‘’Fleetwood shows great promise and could win the job,’’ Flowe said, ‘’but he’s going to have to fight for it.’’
Chris Carson, the 1,100-yard running back who was lost twice to injuries in 2012, has graduated, and there will be no feature back this season, but expect A-back Justis Rosser (91 yards rushing in Walton playoff win) to be a key piece on offense. There is more talent up from the JV team.
Perhaps what Parkview has missed most since the glory days (state titles in 1997, 2000, 2001, 2002) is a dominant offensive line. It was a strength in 2012 and can be again. Parkview loses three-year starting tackle Ronnie Bailey, but Flowe is optimistic. “We have lineman again that we haven’t in a while,’’ he said. ”We’ll have some people that can do the job.’’
Linebacker John Patterson (second on team with 99 tackles in ’12) and cornerback Bryce Lewis (committed to Vanderbilt) are standouts on a defense will be a little bigger up front but still built for speed with three on the line and six in the box. Long gone is the old 4-3 defense that Flowe employed to win state titles a decade ago.
Flowe hopes the confidence from last year’s success will carry over.
‘’Winning the [Grayson] game when nobody gave us a chance was a huge shot in the arm for us,’’ he said. “Then we were rolling along, and we lose Rob [Youngblood] and then Chris [Carson to injury], and the whole team goes ‘uh, oh.’ Then it’s the job of the coaches to say, ‘We’ll find a way, trust us.’ And they did. We beat Walton, we beat West Forsyth [in the playoffs, both in overtime].
”But we won’t win a game off last year. We can’t wait to get the pads on them in spring and get into summer to mold the team.”