Things are going to be different this year for Habersham Central.
With 13 starters gone from last year’s 10-2 state quarterfinalist, the Raiders will be using new game strategies come Friday night.
But that doesn’t mean they have to lose. Although 2008’s new starters are younger and lack varsity experience, Habersham Central coach Gene Cathcart believes they have been trained well enough to compete.
"I think we’d be selling ourselves short if we accepted ourselves as a rebuilding team," Cathcart said.
The offense will see the bulk of change with the loss of now-Georgia Bulldog Tavarres King, who set state records last year for receptions (100) and receiving yards (1,641), and quarterback Bo Hatchett, who threw 26 touchdown passes.
With both players gone, a new group of players will attempt to re-kindle the firepower the 2007 offense had, led by first-year starter Austin Brown, who debuted with 250 yards in last year’s game against Stephens County.
Dee Ellison, who finished second on the team with 243 receiving yards last year, becomes the primary receiver for Brown, with hopes the new quarterback-receiver tandem will be as effective as the last. Senior Zach Mayfield is slated as the second starting receiver. Ellison’s brother, Kevin, and D.J. Griffin, both freshmen, will share time in the backfield as part of a two-back running game.
The offensive line has two returning starters in 2007 Times All-Area second teamer Charlie Dwozan and tackle Kalan Jones.
Defensively, Cathcart has changed to a 3-4 scheme in order to better utilize his linebackers. They are led by juniors Keylan Myers, who plays outside, and Randy Hatcher, who plays in the middle. Cathcart has a young defensive backfield this year, starting two sophomores and a freshman, none of whom started for the Raiders last year.
With a slew of new starters and new strategies on both sides of the ball, it’s unknown how good the "new" Raiders will be. But with back-to-back region titles, this is a team that expects to win, and could find success in 8-AAAA again.