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Top-notch football talent across the board: Here's a look at Hall County's top 5 on offense and defense, best newcomers in 2021
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Flowery Branch quarterback David Renard drops back to throw a pass Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, during the first half of their game with Gainesville High at The Branch. - photo by Scott Rogers

There’s no shortage of starpower on the football field in Hall County in 2021. 

Every year, our county and its 11 high school programs, turn out plentiful talent that goes on to play in college. 

This season will be very much the same. 

Programs across Hall will have players who have already started and been productive for two — and in some cases — three years now. 

This week, every program in Hall County will be suiting up for preseason games. In the case of North Hall, it will be playing a second exhibition contest. 

Here’s a look at the top returning offensive and defensive players for 2021. 

Also, here’s a look at the Top 5 newcomers. 

Next week, The Times will print its Football Preview Edition. 


TOP FIVE OFFENSIVE PLAYERS

1. QB DAVID RENARD, FLOWERY BRANCH (Sr.): A reliable weapon of the Falcons’ offense now for three seasons, Renard threw for 2,700 yards and guided Flowery Branch to the second round of the 4A state playoffs last season. 

2. RB JAYQUAN SMITH, CHEROKEE BLUFF (Sr.): Powerful running back who rushed for almost 1,100 yards for the Region 7-3A champions last season. He has scholarship offers from Air Force, Southern Illinois, Richmond and Furman. 

3. RB NAIM CHEEKS, GAINESVILLE (Jr.): Seasoned running back who rushed for 1,270 yards in 2020 and is entering his third year starting for the Red Elephants.

4. QB CLETE COOPER, EAST HALL (Sr.): Third-year starter who has thrown for almost 5,000 total yards over the past two seasons. 

5. OL MATEO GUEVARA, CHEROKEE BLUFF (Sr.): Dominating edge protector who is a three-year starter for the Bears who holds close to double digit official offers from Division-I programs. 

TOP FIVE DEFENSIVE PLAYERS

1. LB JEREMIAH TELANDER, NORTH HALL (Jr.): A matchup problem and fearless tackler, Telander is a tremendous athlete. As a sophomore in 2020, Telander started every game and was a fourth-place finisher in the high jump at the Class 3A track and field state meet. Since June, he’s picked up scholarship offers from Tennessee, Georgia Tech and Memphis. His recruitment is likely to explode this season with interest coming from countless other Power 5 programs. 

2. LB TILIL BLACKWELL, WEST HALL (Sr.): Powerful athlete who recorded 65 tackles in 2020 and has been named first-team All-Region 7-3A in back-to-back seasons. 

3. DB JADEN WHITE, WEST HALL (Sr.): Lockdown defensive back who gave up less than 100 yards when in primary coverage in 2020, his coach Krofton Montgomery said. Two-time first-team all region selection also had three sacks last season. 

4.DL KHALIQ MADDOX, GAINESVILLE (Sr.): Powerful lineman who anchors an experienced group up front for the Red Elephants. 

5.LB NICK STURM, WEST HALL (Sr.): Active athlete on the both sides of the ball, he recorded 86 total tackles (14 tackles for a loss) in 2020.

TOP FIVE NEWCOMERS 

1. QB BAXTER WRIGHT, GAINESVILLE (So.): Even though he has starting experience under his belt, Wright has developed tremendously and is a highly-anticipated college prospect in the Class of 2024. 

2. DL TAMI ODATULA, RIVERSIDE MILITARY (Sr.): First-year cadet who his coach Nick Garrett calls the ‘most dynamic defensive player’ in Hall County. Prior to enrolling at the private military school, Odatula played at Wheeler High in Marietta. 

3. WR DRE RAVEN, GAINESVILLE (Jr.): Already a familiar name for his basketball background as a two-year starter at Cherokee Bluff, he’s expected to be an explosive playmaker on the outside and catching passes for the Red Elephants in 2021. 

4. LB SAZO DOLLYHIGH, CHESTATEE (So.): Athletic young player who is capable of playing a number of positions on both sides of the ball. 

5.WR SETH LARSON, FLOWERY BRANCH (So.): Talented athlete who won a wrestling national championship last spring. 

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