If the question last year was how much damage Burke County quarterback Donquell Green could do by himself – and the answer was “considerable” – then the question going into the 2013 season has to be this: With a more experienced supporting cast around him, who’s going to slow the Bears down?
The expectations are high, with the Bears having won at least 11 games each of the past three years. They won the 2011 AAA state title when Green was a sophomore, and led eventual state champion Sandy Creek in the fourth quarter in the AAAA semifinals last year.
Green is one of the most explosive players in the state, having amassed than 3,070 yards combined passing and rushing and accounting for 49 total touchdowns as Burke County went 11-2.
“He’s a special player. For what we do he is just tailor-made,” said Burke County coach Eric Parker. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence, and he’s just made plays in the biggest ball games. He’s been the show. He also understands that there are some areas he could get better.”
Green’s numbers by themselves would be cause of optimism in Waynesboro. What Parker was looking for entering last year – productive performances from other players to draw attention away from Green – is less of a question this time around, with Antonio Harold (848 rushing yards) and leading receiver Jermaine Baxley returning.
And the running back position, which doesn’t have an individual whose stats jump off the page, proved sufficient last year.
“At the end of the day our running back position was pretty productive,” Parker said.
In one way, the Bears became a victim of their own success, as both offensive coordinator Jim Dye (nephew of long-time Auburn coach Pat Dye) and defensive coordinator Michael Youngblood left for other jobs. Dye left for Troy University, where he will coach the offensive line, and Youngblood was hired as the new head coach at South Cobb.
Parker wants to see the passing game improve, but the biggest concern is on defense, where the Bears lost six starters, including LB Chris Washington and defensive linemen Derrick Green and Jessie Bush.
“There is no doubt that is our major concern,” Parker said. “We’re not real big, we’re not real experienced. We’re not real deep. We’re going to do a good job of getting the kids coached up. There’s just some things you don’t get until you get until you get under the lights on Friday night.”
They’ll get a baptism by fire right off the bat, facing an explosive Thomson team that averaged 31 points last year in Class AAA. The first four games also feature matchups against AAAAA Coffee and perennial power Statesboro.
Burke County Bears
2012 record: 11-2, (5-0) in Region 3-AAAA Division B, lost in quarterfinals to Sandy Creek
Starters returning: 6 offense; 5 defense
Key players lost: LB Chris Washington, DL Derrick Green, DL Jessie Bush
Key players returning: QB Donquell Green, OT Juwan Gardner, WR Jermaine Baxley
Spring practice dates: May 6-17
Aug. 23 at Thomson
Sept. 6 at Hephzibah
Sept. 13 Coffee
Sept. 20 at Statesboro
Sept. 27 Cross Creek
Oct. 4 at Wayne County
Oct. 11 Richmond Academ
Oct. 18 at Glenn Hills
Nov. 1 Butler
Nov. 8 Region Play-in Game.
Outlook: As long as the Bears have Donquell Green, they have a chance. There are holes to fill, particularly in the linebacking corps, but this is a program that knows how to win, and 2013 should bring another deep playoff run.