CLEVELAND — This season could be one to remember for White County High.
The Warriors have never captured a region title in football, and last made the playoffs in 2007.
However, with one of Northeast Georgia’s best high school football players in senior Ashely Lowery, an emerging threat at quarterback in sophomore Cole Segraves, and a deep group of linemen, the expectations are running high in Cleveland.
Couple that with the fact Gainesville is having to reload off its trip to the state title game in 2009, and North Hall is saddled with its own question marks, it is a wide open race to see who can win it all in Region 8-AAA.
That’s the kind of formula that gets White County coach Gregg Segraves excited.
“Our goal is plan and simple: Win the region title,” Segraves said. “But we play in a very tough subregion and I believe that any of the six teams could make it to the playoffs on our side.”
In all, White County returns 15 starters; all players that experienced the bitter feeling of finishing 7-3 last season and not being able to make the playoffs last season as a result of losses to eventual playoff qualifiers North Hall and Creekview.
The offense for White County is in good hands with the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Cole Segraves, who passed for 960 yards and completed 60 percent of his passes last season as a freshman. White County’s coach and the QB’s father said his son has very good accuracy on the ball and runs hard too.
His main weapon on offense is Lowery, a Times Elite 11 member, with skills at running back (905 yards last season) and receiver (270 yards). White County’s coach makes no bones about the fact they’ll do whatever it takes to get the ball in the hands of Lowery, who is committed to Kentucky. He’s the school’s first Division I-A commit since 1981, a three-year starter and four-year player.
“Ashely is a great kid and I think he’s going to be a force to reckon with in the backfield,” coach Segraves said.
Brandon Ward, a senior, will also get his share of carries.
Out of the spread, White County also has a long list of capable receivers with Cam Segraves, Ethan McCallister, Lowery and Patrick Jones. The Warriors also have a 200-pound freshman it will use at tight end in Dalton Whitfield.
On the offensive line, White County has good size, with Aaron Kiser (270), Zack Scarbrough (255), Brett Westmoreland (225), Joe Cannon (215) and Dannan Sanderson (265). White County’s coach said with the protection ability up front, it will allow the team to get a good mix of run and pass.
The heart and soul of White County’s defense the last few years has been a big, aggressive group of linemen. As good as they’ve been in recent seasons, coach Segraves says this group is just as good with the potential to be even better.
This season, senior Nick Black has swapped sides to join the defensive line at tackle and will play beside junior Ben McGuire. At defensive end, the Warriors will start Rick Anglin, who White County’s coach said could “be a beast”, and converted linebacker Adam Hooper, a three-year starter and the team’s leading tackler last season.
“We are very strong on the defensive line,” Segraves said.
At linebacker, the Warriors don’t have nearly as much depth that their coach would like.
At inside linebacker, McCallister, Cam Segraves and Whitfield will all see playing time. Outside linebacker will be handled by senior Levi London and freshman Will Flowers.
In the secondary, Lowery will hold down the free safety spot. Cornerbacks are Ryan Kennedy and Jones.
Kicking the football this season at White County will be junior Tucker Rey, and Kennedy will be punting.
Lowery will be handling kickoff and punt return duties.
The football program has a good vibe running through it at White County with so much experience at key positions.
Now, they just have to translate that to wins on Friday nights. If so, most of the Warriors’ players will be participating in the playoffs for the first time in their high school career.