Top seniors, veteran coach lead Pack into 2014 season

Leading Colquitt County into its season-opener against Mill Creek on Saturday at McEachern High School in Powder Springs are, from left, Cade Blackburn, Alfred Brown, Sihiem King, coach Rush Propst, Bull Barge, Quintin Hampton and Tomarcio Reese. The six players are seniors.

MOULTRIE – After a 6-4 season in which he saw his  team give up 27 or more points five times – including 50 to North Gwinnett (a game his team led by 19 in the fourth quarter) and 45 in a season-ending loss to Collins Hill, Mill Creek coach Shannon Jarvis hired Bill Stewart as his new defensive coordinator.

Stewart was an assistant at Parkview from 2003-2005 and served as the head coach at Etowah from 2006-2011 and has installed a more aggressive mindset for his players.

The defensive change caught the attention of Colquitt County coach Rush Propst, who will take his team to McEachern High for an 11:45 a.m. Saturday season-opening game against the Hawks in the Corky Kell Classic.

“Bill’s a crafty old guy,” Propst said. “He’ll have some wrinkle up his sleeve. They’ll be well-prepared. That’s why he’s there.

“We’ve got to be ready.”

Tickets for the Corky Kell Classic are $12 and will be on sale at Colquitt County High School through 3 p.m. today.

There will be parking around McEachern High School. The cost will be $5 per car.

All seven of the Corky Kell Classic games will be televised on SportSouth.

The event begins today with a 6 p.m. game between Creekview and North Paulding. At 8:45 p.m., Sandy Creek will face Archer.

On Saturday, Kell will meet Carrollton at 9 a.m. in the first of five games. Colquitt County-Mill Creek will follow at 11:45 a.m.; Valdosta-Brookwood, 2:45 p.m.; Tucker-Norcross, 5:45 p.m.; and North Gwinnett-McEachern, 8:45 p.m.

The Packers go into the season-opener with three new offensive linemen and a new quarterback.

But Propst likes the way former Collins Hill assistant and new passing game coordinator Sean Calhoun and the rest of the offensive staff are helping get the Packers ready.

Center Micah Edwards and guards Will Matney and Noah Moore are getting their first starts for the Packers. They will be flanked by veteran seniors Alfred Brown, who has committed to Samford, and Cade Blackburn.

Propst said because of the heat, he will substitute liberally on the offensive line, with Travyus Johnson, Jacob Garza, Daniel Brinson and Quan Stokes expected to be rotated in.

“That way the starters won’t be so gassed in the fourth quarter,” Propst said.

They will be in charge of protecting junior quarterback Chase Parrish, who is making his first varsity start, and opening some seams for All-State feature back Sihiem King.

King rushed for 1,439 yards, the third-most in a season in Packers history, last year. He also is expected to be heavily involved in the passing game, both as a receiver – he had 37 catches last year – and as a blocker.

Ty Lee, who is expected to start at the H-back, also could get some carries. Rafael Merritt and promising sophomore Ty Jones also could see get some snaps in the backfield on what is expected to be a hot and humid day in Powder Springs.

Kiel Pollard and Marquan Greene are expected to be the wide outs. Pollard is a junior, but the 6-foot-2 215-pounder already has 57 career catches to his credit.

Brandon Robinson, Isaiah Thomas, Sheronsky Sloan and Ty Powell also are expected to play.

Tight end Shaun Bonner injured his knee in the 7-on-7 tournament in Dalton and it is unclear whether he will be able to play on Saturday.

Chris Bouie would play in Bonner’s stead.

“All our backups will see some playing time because of the heat,” Propst said. “We’ll play close to 50 kids.

“But I think we are in good shape. I’ve been pleased with our conditioning habits.”

Nate Powell will probably not work into the running back rotation, but will do the punting, Propst said.

Parrish is his backup.

Dependable Luis Martinez will be back to do the place-kicking after his sophomore season was cut short by a knee injury.

Pollard will do the long snapping.

Lee, who did much of the punt-returning last year as a sophomore, is back in that role again.

He and senior Javonta Woods are expected to form the kick return tandem.

PACKERS NOTES: Jarvis has been the only head coach at Mill Creek, which started playing football in 2004. The Hawks are 53-54 over that span.

Mill Creek has made the playoffs in 2007, 2010 and 2012. Their 2010 season ended in the third round with a 27-14 loss to Colquitt County in Moultrie.

Colquitt County 4-2 in season-openers under Propst. The Packers have split their Corky Kell games the last two years, losing 16-14 to North Gwinnett in 2012 and beating Grayson 21-6 last year.

According to MapQuest, to get to McEachern High, take I-75 North and take I-285 West. Take I-285 and merge on to I-20W via Exit 10B on the left. Merge on to GA-6 on Exit 44 toward Austell. Turn right on GA-6 Spur/Dr. Luke Glenn Garrett Jr. Memorial Highway and turn left on Austell-Powder Springs Road/GA-6 Business and go 2.9 miles. Stay on GA-6 Business and take a left on Marietta Street and take the first right on New MacLand Road and go 2.6 miles to school.

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