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5 things to watch in 2021 East Hall High School football season
East Hall football 2021
East Hall's Marcus Holmberg (8) goes in for a touchdown against Riverside Military Academy during the preseason game Aug. 13, 2021 at Maginnis Field. Photo by Bill Murphy

A new season brings a new head football coach to East Hall. 

Matt Turner, a former Viking himself, both as a player and coach, returns to the program looking to provide some stability as East Hall aims to rebound from three consecutive losing seasons. 

The Vikings will put a mix of veterans and newcomers on the field, with Clete Cooper bringing a veteran presence to the quarterback room despite several question marks at other key positions. 

“Our kids have been outstanding,” Turner said. “They’re working really, really hard. We’re pushing them, and we’re promoting a message of togetherness, because that’s what we believe will be successful for us, is everybody pulling in the same direction, playing together as a team. It’s a lot bigger than one individual, and that’s the message we’ve been preaching to our kids. We’re trying to get our kids to believe that they can be successful.”

2021 Schedule

Aug. 27 WEST HALL

Sept. 3 at Franklin County

Sept. 10 at Johnson

Sept. 17 EAST JACKSON

Sept. 24 at Cedar Shoals*

Oct. 1 JEFFERSON*

Oct. 8 at Chestatee*

Oct. 15 NORTH OCONEEE*

Oct. 29 MADISON COUNTY*

Nov. 5 at Flowery Branch*

*Region games

Building consistency

East Hall is now onto its third head coach in the last four years, but Turner said one of his main focuses this season is ensuring that turnover cycle stops with his tenure. 

“There’s just been a serious lack of stability in the program,” he said. “Nothing’s ever really been consistent for them very long. So, I think, just trying to teach them and get them to believe in what we’re doing, and just be consistent with it moving forward.”

Turner added that it can be difficult to get the players to buy in to a new coach’s philosophy.

“They’ve heard a lot of different narratives from a lot of different people,” he said. “So it’s trying to get them to buy in to our view and see the way we see it, and just trying to be as consistent with them as we can.”

Super Cooper

Turner’s job will be made a bit easier by the presence of veteran quarterback Cooper, who has started for the Vikings for the last two seasons and will reprise the role as a senior. 

Turner said Cooper has all the physical tools he typically looks for in a quarterback and already has some familiarity with the new Vikings offense, as it’s similar to the spread offense East Hall has run the past two years. 

This season, Turner said he’s been challenging Cooper to be the vocal leader of the team.

“That’s what we’ve been talking to him about is whether he sees himself in that role or not — he’s the leader,” Turner said. “He’s going to be the catalyst out there on the field. He’s our general. And we go as he goes.”

Slot machine

East Hall loses a large portion of its receiving production with the graduation of Montavious Tabor, who led the team with 50 receptions and nearly 1,000 yards a year ago, and the Vikings are lacking in veteran players to take over that outside receiving role.

In the slot, however, seniors Darius Holcomb and Levi Howard provide stability in an otherwise inexperienced receiving corps. Turner said he believes those two players will support Cooper in stressful situations.

“Our slot guys are both seniors, and both have played a lot of football as well,” Turner said. “So we feel pretty good there.”

Stopping the run

Defensively, Turner said the team was going to put an emphasis on slowing down opposing teams’ rushing attacks, referring to run stopping as “the backbone to any good defense.” 

He added that the majority of the team’s defensive experience comes from front seven players such as Howard, who will be playing linebacker in addition to wide receiver, and fellow senior Marcus Holmberg who will anchor the defensive line.

“Our identity, defensively, is you’ve got to stop the run,” Turner said. “You’ve got to stop the run.”

Secondary learning on the job

For all the returning experience the Vikings will have in the front seven, the secondary will be manned by younger players, forming a unit that Turner referred to as “a work in progress.”

With most defensive back spots still up for competition, Turner said the group is going to experience some “growing pains” as he looks to find the right combination of players and works to develop them as the season goes on.

“We’ve got a lot of young kids we’re breaking in there that are going to cut their teeth a little bit,” he said. “And there will be some growing pains, but they’ll be better for it. That’s probably where we’re the thinnest right now is the secondary, and where we’re trying to develop the most guys.”

2021 Roster

1. Khalil Jackson RB/LB Jr.

2. Darius Holcomb WR/DB Sr.

3. Quaran Jackson WR/LB So.

5. Clete Cooper QB/DB Sr.

6. Peyton Llewallyn QB/DB Fr.

7. Justin Gilbert WR/DB Sr.

8. Marcus Holmberg RB/DL Sr.

9. Cody Lee WR/DB Sr.

10. Alex Stoudenmire WR/LB Jr.

11. Temaeris Morrison WR/DB Jr.

12. Caden Daniels WR/DB Fr.

13. Jayden Hernandez WR/LB/K So.

14. Tyler Parker WR/DB Fr.

15. Gibson Thompson WR/DB Sr.

16. Parker Worley WR/DB Fr.

17. Kaleb Reeves WR/LB So.

18. Tyrone Buffington RB/DB Fr.

20. Josh Martinez WR/LB So.

21. TJ Blackwell WR/DB So.

22. Levi Howard WR/LB Sr.

23. Isaiah McClary OL/LB Jr.

24. Brinson Burkhalter WR/LB So.

25. Treshun Moss WR/DB So.

26. Alex Torres RB/LB Fr.

27. Marco Ramirez RB/LB So.

28. Jacob Christian WR/DB Fr.

29. Cason Cash WR/LB So.

30. Andy Navarrete WR/DB So.

32. Amir Barnett RB/LB Fr.

33. Daniel Murillo WR/LB So.

34. Caden Crocker WR/LB Fr.

41. Demarium Tatum RB/LB So.

50. Jake Jones OL/DL So.

51. Caleb Pruitt OL/DL Jr.

52. Brady Barton OL/DL Fr.

53. Caden Ortiz OL/DL Fr.

54. Jayden Mahaffey OL/DL So.

55. Houston Swartz OL/DL Fr.

58. Isaiah McClary OL/LB Jr.

59. Jake Evans OL/LB Jr.

60. Yael Solis OL/DL So.

62. Connor Tompkins OL/DL Sr.

64. Jacob Hernandez OL/DL So.

66. Javian McDuffie OL/DL Fr.

68. Bryson Free OL/DL Fr.

69. Nathan Hogan OL/DL Fr.

70. Cooper Williamson OL/DL Sr.

71. Colton Pruitt OL/DL Fr.

72. Kyle Mason OL/DL So.

75. Azyon Morrison OL/DL Fr.

76. Joshua Jaramillo OL/DL Fr.

77. Dovanny Jaramillo OL/DL So.

78. Delsin Grindle OL/DL So.

79. Jason Dailing OL/DL Jr.


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