By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
Three things will be certain in Monroe this fall: death, taxes, and Stanley Williams carrying the football a bunch of times.
With just seven of 22 starters returning from the George Walton Academy team that advanced to the Class A semi-finals last season, Bulldog head coach Don Williams (no relation to Stanley) said GWA will rely on Williams a great deal in 2013. As such, even at the Class A level where many players take significant snaps on offense and defense, Williams will not see much time as a defender.
“He comes up [from the secondary] and supports the run pretty good, but we’ve got to rest him some,” Don Williams said. “He’s a special, special football player but we’ve got to rest him some.”
Actually, Williams said he may have rested the junior — who famously picked up his first scholarship offer from UGA head coach Mark Richt between his freshman and sophomore seasons after blazing a sub-4.4 40-yard dash at Dawg Night — too much in the Bulldogs’ semi-final loss.
“He’s such a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball. We probably didn’t get him the ball enough in the second half,” Williams said of the 27-14 loss to eventual-champion Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy. “Something like one out of every four or five times he carries the ball is a big play or a touchdown. He has great vision, great quickness and he’s super fast.”
His combination of speed (he is currently ranked first in Class A in the 100 meters) and strength have earned Williams, who goes by the appropriate nickname “Boom,” nearly 20 scholarship offers. The impressive list of suitors includes LSU, Tennessee, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia Tech and UGA, where Williams initially committed before recently re-opening his recruitment. Still, Don Williams said none of the attention has gone to his head.
“It’s amazing. Getting an offer in the tenth grade would be enough to give most kids the big head. That’s a lot to handle,” Williams said. “But not Stanley. He’s a great kid and his teammates love him. His teachers in the school love him and the folks in our community love him.
“What he’s got is a blessing from God,” Williams said. “It’s a special gift that’s been given to him and he owes a lot for that, and he knows that. He stays humble and keeps working hard.”
Williams will need that work ethic and then some this spring and summer, as one of the top objectives for the team is for him to be in the best shape of his life, according to his coach.
“We’ve got to get him in great shape because he’s going to go from carrying it 15-20 times a game to carrying it 25-30 times a game,” Williams said. “He knows what we’re going to need from him if we’re going to be successful. We lost a lot of good players, but he’ll have some help.”
A pair of juniors, fullback/safety Nick Waters and linebacker/offensive tackle Patrick Stewart, will lead the way, along with Williams. After an outstanding freshman season, receiver/defensive back Dimetrios Mason has emerged as the heir apparent to Williams at tailback, but will remain at receiver for another year. Sophomore tight end Josh Holton is already receiving attention from recruiters, while the race to replace stand-out quarterback Hunter Rice, a senior who is being recruited heavily as a baseball player, is between junior Cale Brown and sophomore Tucker Shull.
The Bulldogs will get tested early and often, competing in Region 8, one of the deepest regions in the state. Five of the seven teams in the league earned high enough power rankings to advance to the state playoffs.
“I’ve been on both sides of it, getting beat 50-0 and winning 50-0,” Don Williams said. “I don’t like games where we win by that much. I don’t like games where you don’t have to play your best to win. In our region, you have to play your best to win and that’s how it should be.”
GEORGE WALTON ACADEMY BULLDOGS
2012 record: 9-4; lost to eventual Class A Private School champion Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy, 27-14, in the state semi-finals.
Starters returning: 3 offense; 4 defense
Key players lost: QB/DB Hunter Rice; FB/DE/LB Tyler Jarvis (Western Carolina); OL/DL Chad Howell (Georgia Tech – Preferred walk-on); LB Evan South; OL/DL Andrew Bullard; TE/DT Geno Bailey (Point University); NT Mason Johnson (LaGrange); WR/DB Casey Shubert (Brevard).
Key players returning: RB Stanley Williams (5-10, 195); FB/DB Nick Waters (6-0, 185); LB/DE/OT Patrick Stewart (6-4, 270); WR/DB Dimetrios Mason (5-10, 160).
Spring practice dates: May 6-17
Schedule: TBA (Scrimmage) at Walnut Grove; Aug. 30 at First Presbyterian Day; Sept. 6 at Aquinas; Sept. 13 vs. Holy Innocents; Sept. 20 vs. Warren County; Sept. 27 at Commerce; Oct. 4 vs. Hebron Christian Academy; Oct. 18 vs. Pinecrest Academy; Oct. 26 vs. Athens Academy; Nov. 1 at Athens Christian; Nov. 8 at Prince Avenue Christian
Outlook: George Walton Academy is 27-9 with three consecutive playoff appearances since joining the Georgia High School Association three years ago, establishing it as one of the top Class A programs. But while tradition never graduates, good players do, and so the Bulldogs will have to find a way to grow up quick, competing in Region 8. However, having players like Stanley Williams, Nick Waters and Patrick Stewart should be plenty good enough for another trip to the post season.