Photo by Derrick Mahone
Henry County junior T.J. Freeman has earned the starting quarterback role, where he will replace all-state starter Chris Moody, who accounted for 2,419 yards of offense last season.
Henry County at a glance
Last season: 7-5
Summer progress: Junior T.J. Freeman beat out two other players for the starting quarterback spot on the team. The challenge for Freeman is to keep alive the Warhawks’ run of five-year state playoff appearances. Much of the team’s offense is similar to the past with a few new wrinkles from new coach Joe Dupree, a former quarterback at Georgia and Georgia Southern.
Work to do: On the defensive side of the ball, not only do the Warhawks have to replace all-state defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson, now a freshman at powerhouse Alabama, but were dealt a big blow with the transfer of D’von Isaac. Dupree is anticipating a big season from senior defensive end Terrance Waugh, who has several scholarship offers.
Emerging players: With the graduation of 28 seniors from last season’s squad, the Warhawks are in need of some playmakers. Dupree has praised the effort of sophomore lineman Ian Shoemaker, who he said is becoming a leader on the line. Junior Jaytha Josiah will be used in several positions.
Now that T.J. Freeman has earned the starting quarterback spot at Henry County this season, the junior realizes that he faces a big challenge.
Although the team must replace 15 starters, which included several college signees, Freeman says he doesn’t want to be remembered as the quarterback that broke the Warhawks’ five-year playoff streak.
He says he is ready for the challenge. With the graduation of 28 seniors from a team that went 7-5 and lost in the second round of the Class AAA playoffs, Freeman will have to become a leader.
“I have to step it up big,” Freeman said. “Someone on the team has to step up into that leadership role. It is big pressure in not being that quarterback that doesn’t lead the team to the playoffs.”
Freeman definitely has big shoes to fill in stepping into Chris Moody’s spot at quarterback. Last season, the all-state performer passed for 1,375 yards and rushed for 1,044 yards for the Warhawks.
Freeman had limited time at quarterback where he managed to carry the ball once for six yards. On defense had had 15 tackles.
New coach Joe Dupree, a former quarterback at Georgia and Georgia Southern, said the team will run a similar spread offense like the Warhawks have done in the past.
“Basically, the terminology has changed some,” Dupree said. “As a team, I feel like we are headed in the right direction.”
Dupree, who was offensive coordinator at Westside-Macon before replacing Mike Rozier last spring, says the team is consistently reminded of its playoff history each day. He said several former players stop by practice, which serves as motivation.
“They understand that it is going to be a challenge to remain like the past teams,” Dupree said. “It helps out a lot having the former player come back. We are going to be a young team with few players with experience of playing under the lights.”
Running back Sedrick Palmer returns after rushing for 291 yards on 72 carries. The senior saw his numbers increase after starter Jonathan Jean-Bart sustained a season-ending knee injury against Stockbridge. Jean-Bart earned a scholarship to Georgia State.
“I’m one of the few players that has experience of playing on Friday nights,” Palmer said. “I know my role has increased this season. I have to be one of the ones that step up and help bring the guys together with my leadership.”
He said picking up Dupree’s offensive system wasn’t too difficult.
“We have been able to catch on quickly, which will help,” Palmer said. “We have added some things that are different.”
Defensively, the Warhawks must replace all-state lineman Dalvin Tomlinson, who is an incoming freshman at defending national champion Alabama. To compound the problem, two weeks ago D’von Isaac, a defensive lineman that has drawn college interest, transferred to Alpharetta High.
With Isaac gone, Dupree expects an even bigger role for defensive end Terrance Waugh, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound senior. Waugh has several scholarship offers, including one from new SEC member Missouri.
“He is going to play everywhere,” Dupree said. “We are planning on moving him around. Terrance might help out some on the offensive line. He might not come out the game.”
Although Dupree wants to win immediately and lead the Warhawks to a sixth straight playoff appearance, he still believes the future is bright with several underclassmen playing big roles this season.
“This year we are young, and we will take our bumps and bruises,” Dupree said. “I expect us to compete in every game. We have some young guys that are ready to play the game.”