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HS football: New West Hall coach's big plans take root in 2012
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With only five wins in the past three seasons combined, West Hall is opening a new chapter with first-year head coach Tony Lotti.

Lotti, who comes over after stops at Union Grove and Woodland High, has his sights set on long-term success at the school.

"We’re building a program here," he said, "not a team."

But that doesn’t mean he isn’t focused on winning in the short term, too. Lotti said he expects a win every time his team takes the field.

It’s a tall order for a team that has seen so little success in recent years, and yet a possibility considering the changes that are already taking place.

Numbers have improved and Lotti is seeing excitement within the program. It may not happen overnight, but Lotti is encouraged by the work his players are putting in so far.


The unit will be led by Zach English, a receiver-turned-quarterback in his first season under center.

Last season, the athletic junior caught 30 passes for 241 yards and a score. This season, he will be distributing the ball to players like tight end Hunter Atkinson, a solid blocker with good hands.

Lotti said that he wants to take advantage of Atkinson’s size in the passing game.

But it’s no secret that West Hall will run the football.

Fullback Eric Camacho will also be in a new role. Splitting time as a linebacker, Lotti said that he expects him to be a dependable runner on offense.

Senior Blake Manning, a 6-foot-6, 300-pound lineman, will anchor the offensive front to make the holes for the runners.

"This is a process," Lotti said. "We’re growing and we’re learning. The good thing is that everything is fixable. We’ve got kids who are giving a strong effort and ready to learn. That’s important."

Like some other teams in the region, the Spartans are young, which leads to inconsistency and a lack of depth.

"Sometimes they’ll be really good," Lotti said of the offense. "Other times in practice, it won’t be so great. But that comes with a higher maturity level as far as experience goes."


As on offense, the Spartans will deal with some youth on defense.

But Lotti is pleased with how will his players have begun grasping the system in such a short time.

"They’re asking questions," he said. "We’re making sure that they’re not too intimidated to ask when they don’t understand."

Despite the youth, Lotti wants his defensive unit to be aggressive from the very start.

That begins up front with defensive tackle Damien Millsap, a tough-to-block senior who could cause problems against both the run and the pass.

Ty Statham will be a key at linebacker who Lotti considers to be a good physical presence for the defense. Lotti also mentioned T.J. Bowles as a potential sleeper on defense and Quan Williams as a talented freshman who has handled the system well so far.

The Spartans will run a 3-4 scheme, not because it’s what Lotti has run the most in the past, but because it’s what he felt like put his players in the best position to succeed given the personnel.

That could change in the future, but he also stressed continuity.

"We want our players to learn something early and be able to grow in that program for a few years," he said. "This team has lacked some continuity in the past, so that’s what we’re trying to provide now."

Special teams

Connor Kirkland will kick and punt for the Spartans.

Lotti said who will be the returner on kicks and punts is still up in the air and likely won’t be decided until the end of camp.


The outlook is positive for the Spartans.

Are the playoffs likely right away? Probably not, but the team is making strides in the right direction.

An improvement over last season’s win total (2) should be expected and, even in losses, the Spartans should be more competitive.

They will open at Johnson in the Battle of Oakwood before hosting Chestatee and Lumpkin County. The immediate goal is to sport a winning record entering region play in Week 4.

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