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Football 2020: West Hall optimistic about its chances in Region 7-3A
Spartans have senior QB, eight returning starters on defense leading the way
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West Hall practice Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, at Spartan Field as they prepare for the upcoming 2020 football season. - photo by Scott Rogers

The Northeast Georgia Health System is sponsoring this year's football preview coverage, as a season unlike any other begins this fall. Sports coverage is independently reported. Please consider supporting our work by subscribing to The Times.

West Hall survived some lean times. 

Now the Spartans, under third-year coach Krofton Montgomery, feel they’re ready to make a run this season in a more competitively-realistic Region 7-3A. 

Despite an 0-10 mark in 2019, and 27 total points last year in a brutal Region 7-4A slate, West Hall has experience returning all around the field as it jumps into the seven-team region with Cherokee Bluff and North Hall. 

“(7-3A) is a tough region with a lot of parity,” Montgomery said. “It’s close across the board so I think we’ll see some upsets.”

White County might be considered the favorite to win with four-year starter J. Ben Haynes back at quarterback, while Cherokee Bluff’s depth was solidified with the addition of senior and Kansas University commit Shad Dabney from Riverside Military Academy. 

North Hall has been the most consistent in the league with 11 playoff appearances since 2006, but is quite young, according to its coach David Bishop. 

Still, Montgomery knows that any redrawn region is better than what he saw the past two years with Blessed Trinity and Marist on the schedule in 2018 and 2019, along with Flowery Branch the third best in that group of juggernauts. 

“Any region is better for us than what we dealt with the past couple of years,” Montgomery said. “I would rather be playing in a Gwinnett County league.”

When West Hall wraps up the regular season on November 20 against Lumpkin County, the Spartans should be right in the running for one of the four playoff spots. With a savvy senior Clayton Jenkins at quarterback, two massive running backs and eight returning starters on defense, Montgomery believes West Hall can get back to some of its tradition, like when it pieced together five straight playoff appearances from 2013-2017. 

The biggest strength of the Spartans, according to Montgomery, will be a steep defensive backfield with Sam Holcomb, a first-team All-Region pick last season, and Noah Legault at safety, while junior Jaden White and senior Jonathan Hall will line up at cornerback. 

“We have very aggressive, very hard workers in the secondary,” Montgomery said. “They play with a chip on their shoulders.

“We are not senior heavy by any means, but we have guys who have started for two seasons and have a lot of experience.”

Revamped offense

Jenkins has all the pieces in place to have a dynamite senior season. 

In 2019, the Spartans quarterback threw for about 800 yards but was hampered with 62 dropped passes, their coach said. 

That shouldn’t be an issue in 2020. Back for the 6-foot, 4-inch Jenkins is his top target at wide receiver, Rodrigo Lopez, who missed last season with a hip injury. 

Tight end will also be solid with junior Nick Sturm and Andrew Malin rotating in and out. 

Running back is a position where West Hall will be able to, it hopes, wear people down with pure strength. Senior Shakye Shaw is a 240-pounder who came from Grayson High, while 220-pounder Tilil Blackwell will also get ample carries after his 2019 season was derailed with a knee injury. Also in the mix in senior Josiah Henriques, who has ‘explosive speed’, Montgomery said.

The Spartans offensive line will be anchored by a guard Reagan Byrd and sophomore center Tito Hernandez.

Defensive experience

The secondary is the heart of soul of West Hall’s defense. However, the linebackers are pretty good, too. Big-bodies Blackwell and Shaw will be in the mix, while junior Caleb Baker is expected to see plenty of playing time for the Spartans. 

Binh Hoang and Malin on the inside, and Sturm and Alijah Porchia are expected to make up the outside of a flexible defensive front. 

Every game counts

West Hall is approaching every game like it could be the last, due to all the uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic. Even without a preseason contest (or two) to work out the kinks, Montgomery isn’t approaching any early games with the mentality of it being a dress rehearsal. 

The Spartans open with a game against East Jackson on Friday in Oakwood. 

They’ve now had a month in pads to get ready for a season some never thought would take place.

“We’re not circling anybody on the schedule,” Montgomery said. “Who’s to say that we won’t get shut down just two or three weeks into the season?

“We’re going out there trying to win them all.”


2. Tilil Blackwell RB/LB Jr.

3. Jayden Badger RB/DB Jr.

4. Sam Holcomb DB/WR Sr.

5. Shakye Shaw RB/LB Sr.

6. Jaden White DB/WR Jr.

8. Mikyle Hemphill WR/DB Jr.

9. Tad Davidson DB/WR Sr.

10. Melkin Avelar WR/DB Sr.

11. Noah Legault WR/DB So.

13. Rodrigo Lopez DB/WR Sr.

14. Nick Sturm LB/TE Jr.

15. Clayton Jenkins QB Sr.

16. Nick Davidson QB Fr.

17. Zach Stephens QB/DE So.

18. Brennan Hoskeer WR/DB So.

19. Diego Lorenzo K Sr.

20. Preston Smith WR/DB Jr.

21. Caleb Baker LB/WR Jr.

22. Andy Mayo WR/DB Jr.

23. Lukas Fernandez RB/DB Jr.

24. Andrew Malin RB/DE So.

25. Johnathan Mast QB/DB So.

26. Alijah Porchia OL/RB Sr.

27. Jacob Parker RB/LB Fr.

28. Josiah Henriques RB/DB Sr.

29. Maverick Roberts WR/DB Jr.

30. Brady Clark RB/LB So.

32. Jonathan Hall DB/WR Sr.

33. Maliek Richardson RB/LB Fr.

34. Blake McCray LB/RB Jr.

36. Jaiden Pressley LB/RB Fr.

44. Riley Packard LB/TE Jr.

49. Nicholas McMillian WR/DB So.

50. Matthew Harkins OL/DL So.

51. Anthony Garcia OL/DL Sr.

52. Jon Jones OL/DL Sr.

53. Adrian Gonzalez OL/DL So.

55. Alex Doster OL/DL Jr.

57. Reagan Byrd OL/DL Jr.

58. Garrett McCray OL/DL Sr.

59. Will Wagner OL/DL So.

60. AJ O’Bryant OL/DL So.

62. Connor Bailey OL/DL Fr.

63. Binh Hoang OL/DL Sr.

64. Ryan McMillian OL/DL So.

65. Ethan Couch OL/DL Fr.

67. Bryce Reed OL/DL Fr.

71. Victor Rodriguez OL/DL Sr.

74. Sam Pettit OL Sr.

77. Tucker Williams OL/DL Fr.

78. Tito Hernandez OL/DL Sr.


September 4 EAST JACKSON

September 11 EAST HALL

September 18 at Johnson

September 25 CHESTATEE

October 9 at North Hall


October 23 at White County


November 6 GILMER

November 20 at Lumpkin County

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