Spring showcases new offense

Offense torches defense in scrimmage

by Robbie Bills

The purple and white football scrimmage gave fans a peek into the new era of Gilmer football last Friday, and that glimpse revealed an offensive scheme that is ahead of its defensive brethren.

Rather than a purple and a white squad each comprised of an offense and defense, the white team was made up of offensive players and  purple was defenders. Each possession began at different yard lines under various game situations. White scored on 11-of-13 possessions, which included 10 touchdowns.

“Offensively we came out pretty hot,” said coach Zach Grage. “As an offensive guy, I wasn’t worried about what they (defense) were doing too much. I was pleased. I thought we threw the ball around and caught it better than we have over the two weeks (of spring practice). I thought we ran well. We came out a little sloppy in the second half. I think we were a little tired, but that’s why I’m excited to get the boys in the weight room and really get the program going.”

White dominates early, often

Quarterback Tyler Buntin, running back Russell Cochran and receiver Thaddeus Bowers torched the defense on nearly every possession. Buntin raced around the left edge for 52 yards and the first score of the game on a drive that began at white’s 25-yard line.

Following an 80-yard touchdown bomb to Bowers, Cochran had runs of four and 22 yards on the next series that started at midfield. Buntin completed a nine-yard toss to Bowers before a nine-yard strike to Kell Kiker for six points. White faced a short field for its third possession, which began at purple’s 35. A four-yard run by Cochran was sandwiched between  a 10-yard completion to tight end Greg Engler and an 18-yard screen to Kiker. From the three, Cochran ran twice to reach the end zone.

A holding call erased a 60-yard reception by Cochran, but Buntin and Bowers bailed out the offense with an in-stride connection for a 52-yard touchdown. The next drive pinned purple against the wall at its 13 and Cochran scored on first down over the left side.

In a two-minute situation from its 35, Buntin completed a 20-yard pass to to Bowers before hooking up with Drake Crump for gains of five and seven yards to keep the drive alive. On first down from the 33, Buntin delivered another perfectly thrown ball to Crump down the left sideline.
Purple finally stops offense

The purple picked up some much-needed stops to begin the second half. White stalled on drives that began at its and purple’s 20 yard lines. On its third drive, Cochran rumbled for 45 yards before white settled for a 27-yard field goal by Rodrigo Casas.

Grage noted the offense’s sluggish start to the second half is an area that needs improvement.

“My biggest thing, and again, I’m never going to be satisfied ... we just need to come out at halftime and keep pouring it on. If we’re up 40 to nothing at halftime I want to come out and win 80 to nothing. We got a little sloppy at the end with some holding calls and false starts,” he said.

White’s final three drives ended in touchdowns. Bowers got behind the secondary once again for a 78-yard score.  Cochran scored on a 55-yard run through the heart of the defense and Austin Daman reached paydirt from 15 yards away to end the scrimmage.

Younger players get
chance to shine

The first team offense and defense received breaks between each series as the purple and white reserves took the field.

Purple came up with numerous stops, which included a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown by Austin Watkins. Late in the scrimmage, Matthew Fortenberry did the same inside the 20. Quarterback David Smith connected with Daman for 70-yard touchdown passes down the middle of the field in the first and second halves. Daman also had numerous runs to help earn first downs and receiver Dillan Ledford was one of Smith’s go-to targets as well.

Final thoughts

Grage expressed satisfaction with the two weeks of spring practice and thanked former players who came out to assist the short-handed coaching staff.

“I really couldn’t have asked for more,” he said. “The kids and the coaches bought into everything. We were short-staffed to say the least, but the high school  kids Noah Wilson, Chris James and Garret Rigdon coming out and helping us saved my rear end.”

Grage acknowledged the defense needs attention and expects it to improve over the course of the summer. Newly hired defensive coordinator Sean Thom was only able to be with the team for two of its nine sessions. In addition to lineman Austin Lacy, the defense was also without fellow starter, defensive back Josh White.

Grage said the Bobcats exceeded the expectations he had coming into spring practice.

“Everyone always talks about coming from Moultrie, how you can’t run this offense with less speed or a different type of athlete, but you can,” he pointed out. “You just have to trust the system and I think they showed that tonight.”

He added, “People saw we can still run the ball. With that line up front, and we also brought in a freshman lineman that gave us a two-tight end look we just installed today ... when you give the ball to No. 12 (Cochran) you just let him work. Buntin had a great night and made some really good decisions. Once you start running, then you get the ball in your playmakers’ hands. Everyone talks about Thaddeus, but look at Drake Crump, he had a great night. J.T. Bosley comes in off the basketball team and he’s going to be huge for us. Freshman Austin Daman comes in and has a big run there at the end.”
Replacements needed

Rob Kellogg served as GHS’ offensive coordinator over the previous three seasons and accepted the same position at Mountain View High School in Gwinnett County prior to the start of spring practice. According to GHS athletic director Mike Putman, no one has been officially hired to replace him.

Defensive backs coach Chuck Patterson was not with the Bobcats during spring practice after he accepted a position on Sequoyah High School’s staff. Wide receivers coach Josh Fountain informed Grage last month he would not return to the staff because of family reasons. Quarterbacks coach Jeff Thurman spent his final day with the team last Friday and will step down after being named head coach of the GHS baseball team. 
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