Photo by Gabriel Stovall
The top offensive and defensive units for the the Tigers dig in and await the snap of the ball during Tuesday’s practice scrimmage.
Stockbridge at a glance
Last year: 9-3
Summer progress: The offseason has been all about establishing chemistry for Stockbridge. With four new coaches and 10 new starters on offense and defense combined, the Tigers have worked hard to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Work to do: Getting senior kicker Andres Guillen settled into full-time kicking duties. Guillen was consistent on kickoff duties last year while former kicker Gabriel Regalado handled extra points and field goals. This year Whitley said Guillen — who also plays soccer — will handle all kicking duties exclusively. Guillen said he hopes to have a chance to thrive in tight games. “The more pressure that’s on me, I know I’ll do good,” Guillen said. He also added that he kicked a 55-yarder in practice.
Emerging player: Whitley cited the entire offensive line. He said the unit is quickly developing into a formidable unit and will make easy work for whoever wins the running back job. “Your running back is only what your offensive line will allow him to be,” Whitley said. “Collectively, we’re shaping up pretty good.”
Going into his fifth year as head football coach, Kevin Whitley said that in many ways it feels like his first.
Twelve total starters from last season are back — as well as a few leading contributors, but there are enough new faces to where he feels a little like he’s back at the drawing board.
“In a sense, it’s almost like starting over,” Whitley said. “We’re trying to make up for a few losses and a few transfers, but we’re definitely excited about who we’ve got.”
ROAD TO KICKOFF
The Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald are counting down the days until our high school football special section comes out on August 24 by taking a look at all 22 area high school football teams.
In addition to the graduation of six offensive starters from last season, receiver Evan Jones and running back Burris Burton transferred during the summer.
This leaves seniors Nigel Hughes and Trevor Harris to vie for playing time in the backfield.
After coming off a 9-3 finish in 2011, complete with its first playoff berth and win in school history, the expectations for Stockbridge football have definitely risen. And Whitley believes that to be a good sign for his program.
“We’re in a tough region, and we’re going to play some really tough teams,” Whitley said. “But we’re excited and ready for the challenge.”
Not only do the Tigers have some new players, but Whitley hired four new coaches. Joining the staff this season is Kenny Barrow (linebackers/special teams), Brian Bailey (linemen/tight ends), Corky Gordon (quarterbacks) and Charles Davis (defense) have been added to Whitley’s staff for 2012.
Barrow is the former head coach at M.L. King in DeKalb County, which he led through their first three seasons, including two playoff appearances. He has experience in the Southern Crescent as a former coach at Mundy’s Mill in Clayton County.
“We say it kind of feels like starting over from the standpoint of us developing the chemistry and what we want to do and how we want it done,” Whitley said. “But hopefully we will see that we’ve made an upgrade in our coaching this year.”
One Stockbridge player who won’t be entirely new to the Friday night lights is senior quarterback Trenton Earl.
Earl emerged in 2011’s midway point after starter Leon Prunty went down with a kidney injury. The then-junior took over and lead the Tigers to a 4-2 record including a monumental 26-17 playoff win against Washington County.
Whitley said that despite the undesirable circumstance that prompted his playing time, Earl spending half of the season under center should give him a bit of a veteran’s approach this season.
“He’s coming along great, and really doing a good job in camp,” Whitley said. “His confidence is coming along and I think a lot of that has to do with his having game experience last season. If it weren’t for Leon going down, the game against MLK might have been his first start of his career. But with the experience, we think he’ll do well and we’re excited.”
Earl and company will get tested early and often as Stockbridge will face tough schedule, opening up against five straight playoff teams from a year ago.
The Tigers open against powerhouse M.L. King and have back-to-back contests against North Clayton and Griffin to close out the month of September.
“Anytime your program gets better, you hope that you start playing and being able to measure up against some better teams,” Whitley said.