Banks County had a rough time in 2018…there’s no sugar coating it. However, the bizarre coaching situation might be as great an excuse as any program can have. Let’s go back to the turn of this current decade. In 2010, Blair Armstrong was the head coach. At the end of that season (his fourth), he handed over the reins to Phillip Jones, who stayed two years (’11-’12). Biff Parson then came in for three seasons (’13-’15). Josh Shoemaker, who was a great fit for the program, took it from ’16-’17. Then came mass chaos.
First it was announced that Shoemaker was stepping down. After a short time, Chad Cheatham was named the head coach in December 2017. By March 23, that was still the case heading into the 2018 season. However, Cheatham had a change of heart and announced he was leaving for Fannin County to the surprise of everyone. He was the Leopards coach without ever coaching a down. The Leopards scrambled, but found current head coach Jay Reid in late May to take over a program, get the kids to buy in, and stamp his own mark on the Leopards before kicking off in August.
All that to say, 2018 was pretty good for Banks, all things considered. The team went a respectable 4-6, just missing the state playoffs. Reid did a great job picking up the pieces. This year he has many holes to fill, but had far more time to work with. What can we expect in year two for him?
7 Things To Know About the Leopards
1. What Will Be The Pace?
Sawyer Pace did a solid job at QB last season. It will be interesting to see how much more throwing he does after airing it out for just 197 yards last year. He touched the ball first on every play last season, which did glean the Leopards over 2,000 yards rushing.
2. Big Shoes To Walk Into
There’s no doubt – Terrence Walker was THE MAN last season, rushing for 1,192 yards and 15 TDs, and had 34 tackles (7 for loss) and 2 sacks. Who replaces him either straight up or in aggregate remains to be seen.
3. Defensive Prowess
It might be safe to say the defense is the strength of the team, at least on paper. The top three tacklers come back (Braxton Simpson, Pace, and Jace Bennett). That trio had 21 tackles for loss, 175 total tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 interceptions. That’s something to build around.
4. Who’s Got the Kicks?
Banks County loses both Walker (above) and Jacob Lehotsky, who combined to handle most of the special teams duties. Those two guys were at times explosive, so it remains to be seen who becomes the one(s) to fill that void.
5. Finding Pay Dirt
Walker and Lehotsky tallied a combined 20 TDs last season on a team that scored 26 times. Somebody needs to be the go-to option either out of the backfield or through the air to find the end zone. That’s the fun part is seeing whose name emerges.
6. Young Guns
Of the 50 players who make up the roster (according to MaxPreps), the Leopards have 23 players (or 46%) who are juniors. That’s a huge chunk of the team. These guys have some solid experience from last year, and the year prior (a playoff run), but can use this season to prepare for the future as well. Winning games this year is huge for this junior class.
7. Speaking of Wins…
The initial look at the 2019 campaign for Banks County provides lots of opportunity for Ws. The combined winning percentage of the teams on the schedule from the ’18 records is 46%. And that INCLUDES Rabun’s 11 wins, Union’s 9 wins, and Aquinas’ 9 wins. Seven of the 10 opponents (all those not listed prior) had losing records in 2018. That doesn’t mean Banks will go 7-3, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Most of the schedule is winnable.