The Raiders got hot at the right time in 2018, making the second round of the state playoffs after not getting into the postseason in the previous six years. The 7 wins last year was the most since an 11-win 2007 season under now-Jefferson coach Gene Cathcart. Expectations are now heightened for coach Benji Harrison and Habersham Central, but many questions have to be answered. Gone are playmakers Tre Luttrell, Donovan Curry, Dontarius Bailey, Tracy Lowery, Luke Wilson, Tarin Westbrook, and Daniel Matkovic to name a handful. For the fourth consecutive season, we will see a new starting QB. It was Cole Wilbanks in ’16, AJ Curry in ’17, and Luttrell in ’18.
7 Things To Know About the Raiders
1. Shadows to Spotlight for Clouatre & Curry
Obviously, some guys will have to step up in 2019 for the Raiders to have a shot to repeat last year’s success. A couple of those guys are Jackson Clouatre, who emerged as a viable threat in the backfield before suffering a season-ending injury. Arian Curry also played a lot last year, but was often overshadowed by Luttrell, Donovan Curry, Bailey, Lowery, and others. Clouatre will be a two-way star in 2019 at both RB and LB, while Curry will be featured in much the same way.
2. Strength is Up Front
The Raiders will be led by the O-Line this season. Every single starter on that front line is back, and that’s a HUGE plus! These guys are a year stronger, a year better, and a year more experienced.
3. Stop the Run
The primary focus for Habersham this offseason has been on the defensive side of the ball, specifically looking to stop the run. This has been largely problematic for years now, and Harrison and the staff are zoning in on this. “Defensively, we have to do a better job of consistently stopping the run,” says Harrison. “We have done some things defensively to hopefully help us be more consistent against the run.”
4. Keeping the Defense Off Balance
The Raiders will continue to run the no-huddle spread, which proves hard for defenses to adjust and keep up with. Like last season, Habersham will continue to throw and run the ball. The old run n’ gun offense means lots of excitement. However, with a significant group of talent lost from last season, the Raiders will be forced to use more personnel this time around. Ryte Woodruff will take over at QB, making the fourth straight season with a new QB. Clouatre, Curry, and Garrett Heaton will get the primary carries at RB, and Joshua Pickett will be the go-to receiver.
5. Aggressive On Defense
See above on the big focus for the Raiders. The alignment will be a 3-5, loading the box to stop the run. Pickett, Curry, Tanner Wade, and Patrick Tedder will all be heavily relied upon. The secondary will need to also have fewer missed tackles than last season.
6. Unsung Heros
Get to know these guys: Pierce Vickery, Lincoln Wright, Joshua Wade, Greg Wiley, and Ethan Tomlin. They are the starting O-Line, and are all returning from last season as starters. “These guys don’t get nearly enough credit,” states Harrison. “They are all the unsung heroes.” Harrison says the depth is decent in the trenches, but one injury could change all that.
7. Higher Expectations
With winning comes expectations for more wins. This season, the expectations are clearly laid out by Harrison: “They are high. We want to compete for the Region Championship and get back to the playoffs.”