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Football player of the week: Beasley sparks playoff hopes for Banks County

POSTED: November 8, 2008 5:00 a.m.

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Banks County High running back Justin Beasley may not attract scouts from big Division I schools or have five stars next to his profile on recruiting web sites, but what he has done for the Leopards this year has made him a big name among Region 8-AA football teams.

Beasley put together a 257-yard, four-touchdown game against Oglethorpe County last week — a jaw-dropping number for some teams, but the norm for the Leopards this season. Through nine games this year, Beasley leads all area rushers with 1,710 yards and 21 rushing touchdowns on 216 carries.

More importantly, Beasley’s performance this season has given Banks County (5-4, 5-3 Region 8-AA) a chance for its first playoff appearance since 1997. With one game left to go, the Leopards need a win and a Riverside Military or Fannin County loss to earn a playoff berth.

That means that Beasley will have to be at the top of his game when Banks County visits Union County on Friday. The Panthers are also aiming for a playoff spot and are only a game behind the Leopards in the region standings, meaning that either team could still earn a playoff spot with a win.

“It’s definitely a must-win for us,” Banks County coach Blair Armstrong said. “Any time you go over the mountain over there it’s tough, so hopefully it won’t be problem this year.”

But regardless of how the season ends for Beasley, he won’t graduate without leaving a legacy at Banks County, having rushed for 3,367 yards and 42 touchdowns his last two years.

Though the official statistics are unknown, he is considered one of the highest-rushing players in school history since former Leopard Terry Allen, who went on to enjoy a lengthy career in the National Football League from 1990-2001.

Beasley’s presence has been so gratifying for his school’s football program that Banks County has won more games this season than it did in his freshman and sophomore years combined. The Leopards offense has improved drastically, averaging 30 points per game this year and 26 per game last year, as compared to the 7 and 12 averaged in 2005 and 2006.

Beasley can expect to be rewarded for his efforts, but while still not a nationally-heralded college prospect, the 5--foot-9, 175-pound senior does have a chance to keep football in his future. He is currently being recruited by East Carolina, Furman, Western Kentucky and Tennessee-Chattanooga.

“He hasn’t had any official offers yet,” Armstrong said. “We don’t know exactly where we stand on that right now, but he has several different schools looking at him.”

Beasley can attribute his success to excellent breakaway speed and overall strength. Although his last 40-yard was clocked at 4.56 seconds, he has outran opponents with faster 40 times, according to Armstrong. He can also bench press 290 pounds and squat 450 pounds, numbers that have left Armstrong comparing him to West Virginia running back Noel Divine, who is similar in size and stature to Beasley.

“Watching Devine, I can really see Beasley in him,” Armstrong said. “Even though he’s not really big, he’s powerful.”

But Beasley isn’t the only engine in Banks County’s offensive machine. Playing in Armstrong’s wing-T offense, he is joined in the backfield by fellow senior Demetric Dempson, who is bigger than Beasley and handles the bulk of blocking duties on running plays. He has also assisted Beasley by carrying the ball as well, with 576 yards and six touchdowns this year. The two have combined to create a dangerous two-back tandem for the Leopards.

“Either one of the backs has the same number of plays to either side,” Armstrong said. “When they stop one, we give it to the other back.”

If Beasley is that back that can’t be stopped Friday, a win could punch the ticket for Banks County’s long-awaited playoff trip.



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