With a solid nucleus of players returning from last year’s semifinal team, the Greater Atlanta Christian staff will concentrate on making the moves this spring that may enable the team to take the next step.
“There are some schematic changes we want to implement and see if guys are ready to take the next step and start the process of earning their playing time,” said second-year coach Tim Hardy.
That doesn’t mean the Spartans are going to junk what worked so well for them last year or make some big changes. They’ll likely take a look at some players in different positions to see if there’s a better fit or more depth that can be developed.
“We’re always looking to get better,” Hardy said. “We enjoy throwing stuff out there to see what’s good and what’s not so good.”
Although Hardy’s philosophy is that every job is up for grabs, there’s likely to be little movement among the returning players. The Spartans have six back on offense and nine incumbents returning on defense.
“We’re going to start at ground zero and start to build the foundation that we hope will allow us to have the kind of program we want,” Hardy said.
The offense is led by quarterback Raif Chapple, who was an all-state quarterback last season. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior has a good arm and is being watched by many schools in the Southeast. Last year he completed 154 of 256 passes for 2,461 yards and 26 touchdowns, with only seven interceptions.
Chapple has two solid targets coming back: Chris Williams and Darius Slayton, a rising junior who recently won the 100 and 200 meters at the state track meet.
Although all-region back Kyle Scales graduated, GAC should be OK there with the return of rising junior Micah Abernathy, who recently won the 400 meters at the state track meet.
The offensive line will be anchored by Britt Lee, a 6-3, 270-pound senior who is being actively recruited.
The defense is anchored by free safety Ross Wood, an all-state selection last season. Wood led Gwinnett County with six interceptions and was the second-leading tackler on the GAC team. He’s also the punter and averaged 43 yards per kick.
The defense also has two outstanding linebackers: Trevor Dedecker and Paul Crothers, a pair that runs wells and knows how to tackle. Hardy said both have worked hard in the weight room since the fall and have added weight and strength.
GAC also has a solid kicker in Brandon Holzgrefe, who made 10 of 11 field goals a year ago.
Greater Atlanta Christian Spartans
2012 record: 10-4, 3-1 in Region 6-AA, lost in semifinals to Jefferson
Starters returning: 6 offense, 9 defense
Key players lost: RB Kyle Scales, WR Peter Whiteneck,
Key players returning: QB Rafe Chapple, FS Ross Wood, OL Britt Lee, LBTrevor Debecker, LB Paul Carothers
Spring practice dates: May 6 through May 18
Schedule: Aug. 23 at Stone Mountain, Aug. 30 at Savannah, Sept. 6 Apalachee, Sept. 12 at Chamblee, Sept. 20 Howard (Tenn.), Oct. 4 at Thomson, Oct. 11 at Westminster, Oct. 25 Hapeville Charter, Nov. 1 at Wesleyan, Nov. 8 Lovett
Outlook: GAC will be tested before it jumps into region play by an ambitious schedule that includes an opener at Stone Mountain and trip to The Brickyard at Thomson. But the Spartans have an outstanding quarterback and the bulk of its defense returning and should be right in the thick of things. Definitely a top-10 team and possible state contender.