Last football season was like the beginning of Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities for the Marion County High School Eagles. It was best of times and the worst of times.
The regular season record of 7-3 doesn’t reflect the turmoil the team experienced. According to head coach Chris Kirksey, the Eagles lost two quarterbacks and the starting running back by week four of the season. The next week their starting OT was lost for the season due to an ACL injury.
Out of that string of devastating injuries, however, came some performances by players who might not have been able to shine otherwise. Trice McCannon, a freshman quarterback, was pressed into service. He had 52 passing attempts for 417 total yards but more importantly, McCannon gained valuable experience in the position.
Travon Matthews was a sophomore last season when he was called upon to step up in the starting running back position. Matthews more than answered the call; he exceeded expectations. In the last seven games he started, Matthews had 156 carries for 1051 yards and scored 16 touchdowns to become the team’s leading rusher and TD scorer, respectively.
Austin Connor anchored the offensive line at left tackle. The 6’2” and 260 lb. athlete was selected as a 1st Team All-Region Offensive Lineman for his efforts. Connor has the highest GPA on the team and will be returning this fall as a three year starter.
Also playing a role in the 2016 winning season and returning for 2017 are Jalen Tullis (WR), 5’7” and 160 lbs., who was the Eagles’ leading receiver, Quentez Battle (FS/WR), 5’11” and 165 lbs., the team’s leader in interceptions and Lorenzo Ramsey (NG), 5’10” and 200 lbs., who was the team leader in tackles with 93.
Things definitely look good for Kirksey and the Eagles for this fall. Marion County will be returning eight offensive starters and six defensive starters. Joining McCannon, Matthews, Connor, Tullis, Battle and Ramsey, will be Thomas Nguyen (C), 5’11” and 240 lbs., Bradley Sontay (OG), 5’10” and 250 lbs., Jamon Tymes (P), 5’11” and 165 lbs., Kevin Umanzor (K), 5’10” and 190 lbs., Terrance Williams (DE), 5’11” and 190 lbs., Willie Davis (MLB), 5’10” and 220 lbs., Josh Rogers (CB/WR), 6’0” and 180 lbs., Jakobe Mathis (DE), 6’2” and 205 lbs., and Bryce Houston-Dye (OT), 6’2” and 270 lbs.
College prospects for the Eagles are Austin Connor, Travon Matthews and Josh Rogers.
Getting younger players some playing experience might have been on the To Do checklist last year, but no one expected the events to take place, which pushed that schedule up. Even with the benefit of playing time, Kirksey thinks there are still concerns ahead for the 2017 team.
“Biggest challenge will be developing depth on the offensive line,” he said.
Last year was Kirksey’s first season as head coach for Marion County. The Eagles football program has a reputation for producing good teams and quality athletes. Kirksey inherited a legacy of success and he knows that influences his team.
“Tradition motivates said Kirksey. “Tradition never graduates. Each class demands from the next one stepping forward.”
The Eagles have no coaching changes, but will continue to have a spread offense and the defense will run a 4-3. Even Kirksey must feel pretty good about the fall season, because he states “overall we will be stronger than we were last year.”
Eagle pride rides high in Marion County. If injuries don’t take a toll this season and players follow Kirksey’s playbook, fans have the potential to cheer their team to a region championship and playoff run.
Columbus Valley/Fall Football Preview/August 2017
Marion County High School
Buena Vista, Georgia
By Beth Welch