It’s easy to look at the White County Warriors and say, “oh, they’re 1-5…that’s not so good.” However, one look at their schedule to date and you’d sing a different tune.
But the fact is, no one in our area has a rougher schedule than White County has had. On Monday, GACA came out with the top-ten in each classification in terms of most difficult schedules, and in Class 4A, White County is there at #2. Warriors’ opponents are 26-7 overall, a 78.8% win percentage.
In the entire state in Class 4A, the only team that has had a tougher slate is another nearby program, West Hall. The Spartans’ opponents are 33-7 (82.5%).
This White County team, which made a historic turnaround from the 2016 team to a tough playoff team in 2017, is still every bit as good as last year.
The roster includes such players as Jay Lepkoske, Michael Mintz, J Ben Haynes, Cooper Turner, Cody Versluis and a number of other proven playmakers. There’s no lack of skill here. It’s simply the tough non-region schedule combined with playing in one of the the top regions in the state in any classification (#1 Blessed Trinity, #4 Marist, #5 Flowery Branch).
The season got off to a fantastic start with a 40-7 blowout win at Lumpkin County, a rivalry game. Since then, the Warriors held a 20-0 lead over Habersham Central only to surrender 34 unanswered in the non-region loss. The Raiders are a 6A, playoff contending team with an all-state quarterback, just to make it clear.
What followed was a gauntlet of a schedule that included Pickens (undefeated now at 7-0), which features a 55 points per game offense that is tops in all of Class 4A. Consider that the 42 points scored by Pickens over White County was its lowest of the season, and the 35 Warrior points against it was the most it has allowed this season. White County is the closest team to overtaking the top-10 ranked team.
The following week, White County played #9 North Hall and again almost knocked down a top-10 team, taking the Trojans down to the wire in a 27-20 loss. North Hall, also a top-10 offense with 35+ points per game, was held to eight less than its average.
The schedule only got tougher for the Warriors, who then had the daunting and unenviable task of playing #4 Marist and #5 Flowery Branch in back-to-back games. Those games saw White County get outscored 82-6.
So if you’re keeping tally, that’s a 1-5 team that has played four straight ranked opponents, all of whom have or had top-10 ranked offenses as well. The Warriors’ toughest game still lies ahead, against #1 Blessed Trinity in the regular season finale on November 2.
Until then, White County (1-2 in region play) faces West Hall, Denmark and Chestatee over the next three weeks. West Hall (who had the #1 toughest schedule in Class 4A) is the unknown, while Denmark has proven a tough first-year program that is on the verge of making state, while Chestatee is enduring a rebuilding effort, although they have a dual threat (Christian Charles) who is among the top all-purpose QB in the state.
The Warriors’ tough road to date has prepared them for these three games. If White County can take all three, state is clinched. Anything less means needing help from other teams to help get them in.
Haynes leads the passing attack with 1,039 yards and 5 TD, while Lepkoske (233 yds, 2 TD), Kurtis Havlen (164 yds, 1 TD) and Mintz (123 yds, 6 TD) have been the leaders in the run game. Haynes’ top targets have been Turner (265 yds, 2 TD), Will Sampson (237, 1), Mintz (117, 1), Versluis (105, 1) and Lepkoske (104).
Cameron Quinn (54 tackles, 1 TFL), Mintz (53 tackles) and Deejay Fleming (51 tackles, 2 TFL) are the top tacklers this season, while Havlen also has been rock-solid (41 tackles, 7 TFL).