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West Hall still strong in backfield
West Hall football coach Mike Newton talks with a player during a practice last Thursday at West Hall Stadium.

OAKWOOD It is not easy to replace all but one of your skill positions, and the Spartans of West Hall High are finding that out first hand.

The team’s top receivers and No. 1 running back have all graduated, so Spartans coach Mike Newton used the summer workouts to try and find some replacements.

And so far, he likes what he sees.

"We know we lost a couple wide receivers and a tailback," Newton said. "I feel good about replacing our tailback with Marquise Young, who transferred from Brookwood, and I also feel good about with our two wide receivers."

Young will be asked to replace Marquise Stephens, who rushed for 667 yards and six touchdowns last year, and the two new wide receivers will replace the dynamic duo of Rodney Gibson and Terrell Penland, who combined for 1,576 yards and 15 scores a year ago.

The team will also need to replace tight end Kyle Weatherly, who came up with several big catches for the Spartans last season.

In order to get to a level Newton is satisfied with, he signed up to compete in five 7-on-7 passing camps this summer, which coincided with four-day-a-week practices.

"This year we had well over 40 kids participating, which is good for a school of this size," Newton said.

One of those 40 kids is quarterback Shunquez Stephens, who threw for more than 2,500 yards and had 24 touchdowns as a sophomore and is the lone returning skill position starter. Having Stephens back, with another year of running the offense under his belt, will help the team transition from a veteran team to a young one.

"It’s the second year we’re running this offense and defense," Newton said. "The coaching staff has also been together for three years, so that makes a difference too."

So does the growth of the youth program, which has seen participation numbers increase over the summer from 18 when Newton first got to the school four years ago to the 40 he had this summer.

"We’re doing a lot of things and trying to change attitudes" Newton said. "It’s all going in the right direction."

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