After the first two games of the 2018 season, many had already written off the Banks County Leopards, a playoff team two years in a row. Rightfully so, as they were pounded 50-0 through 48 minutes of playing time under first year head coach Jay Reid.
“We started off sluggish,” says Reid on the amazing turnaround. “We couldn’t get out of our way. Our kids just kept plugging…and each quarter we got better. The turnaround was big for us and built our confidence, and we’re looking forward to keeping that going.”
For the Leopards, a 2-0 start in region play and three-game win streak heading into a Friday night matchup with the four-time defending region champs and reigning state runner-up Rabun County means more than just momentum.
“You always want to start region play hot,” says Reid. “You don’t have time to get behind in [our region]…you lose one game you fall two behind your opponent. We feel pretty good about where we sit right now. We focus on us every week…our execution and how we play.”
The Leopards have used a lethal running game from senior running back Terrence Walker, who is among the state leaders with 10 rushing scores and 660 yards. He is complemented by solid play from quarterback Sawyer Pace and a talented runner in Jacob Lehotsky.
“Those two guys [Walker and Lehotsky] are cornerstone guys,” says Reid on his weapons at the running back position. “Heck our whole backfield and [Pace] does a good job operating the offense. They’ve bought into what we’re trying to do, and they understand when it’s there time to shine, they need to grab the spotlight and go with it.”
While 2-0 in region sounds great – and it certainly is – in 8-AA it simply represents a four-way tie for first heading into Week 6. #3-ranked Rabun, #10-ranked Elbert and almost-ranked Union are all 2-0 along with Banks County.
“The region [8-AA] is very tough,” says Reid. “You have four top teams sitting up there right now. You can never tell what’s going to happen with those four. Who knows what happens by the end of this thing…just take it one game at a time.”
The Leopards certainly are in a good spot to make a third straight playoff run, but in facing Rabun and Union in back-to-back contests means going up against the seventh and second highest scoring offenses in Class 2A in the state.
Reid marks the sixth head coach since 2010 at Banks County, and the fourth since 2015. After Biff Parson departed, Josh Shoemaker led the Leopards to back-to-back playoff runs in 2016 and 2017. In December, Chad Cheatham was named head coach, but departed a month or so later for Fannin County (his home school) before ever coaching a game for the Leopards. While it’s never easy for a team to rebound from that, it was exponentially more difficult going through the process and leaving Reid just a couple of months to meet his players and get ready for the season.