4 Questions with Blitz Sports producer Brian Carter

Credit: For the AJC

Credit: For the AJC

Today’s interviewee is Blitz Sports producer Brian Carter. His news channel covers football and other sports for Banks County, Commerce, Dawson County, Habersham Central, Jefferson, Lumpkin County, Rabun County, Stephens County, Towns County, Union County and White County. The interview was done before Thursday night’s games, which involved some of the teams discussed.

1. The two most successful football programs in your coverage area have new coaches and are playing now without blue-chip prospects who were the faces of their teams the past few years. How are things different now at Rabun County and Jefferson this season? “Despite the mass exodus of an elite senior class headlined by Gunner Stockton and nearly every coach retiring or moving on, the DNA is still very much in place at Rabun. That’s truly a testament to the guys who came before and laid this expectation for the program out and the coaches who poured their life into it. The expectation has not changed at all, and the Wildcats still believe they can win a state title. It helps having returning stars like wide receiver Jaden Gibson, who, barring injury, will finish his prep career as the state’s all-time top receiver in yardage and touchdowns, a speedy back like Lang Windham, and a Swiss Army Knife like Cory Keller, to name a few. Coach Michael Davis has a different style than we saw with both Jaybo Shaw and Lee Shaw, but he clearly has his own recipe in place to still achieve the same big goals as those two greats did before him. As for quarterback, Keegan Stover was already a standout at West Forsyth, and he is putting up some crazy numbers – 1,500-plus passing yards and 20-plus touchdowns already – but the best number is the zero interceptions. He can sling it and makes good decisions.

“It’s been different at Jefferson for sure with a new head coach and life without Malaki Starks. Coach Travis Noland is a winning coach, just as Coach Gene Cathcart was. Different style of coaching, but it’s clear that Jefferson is serious about winning at a high level with coaches like these coming in. With Starks, the Dragons rarely aired it out, as they didn’t really need to. The problem with that is when they had to have it like last year against Hapeville in the closing minutes of the round-one upset, they weren’t able to. Max Aldridge has shown he’s more than capable of running an offense that has a passing game to it, and Elijah Dewitt has been fantastic at WR. That probably takes a lot of pressure off the shoulders of Sammy Brown, who can still do as much damage as he wants on offense, but perhaps the passing attack opens it up a bit more for Brown.”

2. What’s been the most interesting development in your coverage area at the midpoint in the regular season? “The most interesting development that I actually predicted was the rise of Lumpkin County. You could see the talent on the roster the last couple of years, but bringing in a coach like Heath Webb was the perfect fit. He retooled the staff and, with the same roster, is now 5-0 with a top-five ranked offense and defense. The schedule will get a lot tougher, but the Indians not only are confident they can win each game, they also know how to finish those games off. For a program that sat in the dark with five head coaches in an eight-year span at one point, this is a breath of fresh air in North Georgia. From winning three total games in the past three seasons to already five this year, it’s a big deal in Dahlonega.”

3. Another team that’s made big strides this season is Stephens County. What can you tell us about the Indians? “Stephens County was on the verge last year of winning a region title. They lost a good deal on defense, but offensively had all the skill guys back, like quarterback Ben Stowe, three-star recruit Cam Lacy at wide receiver and the dual backs of Javin Gordon and T.J. Everett, along with wide receiver Corey Richie. Coming in, everyone thought the offense would explode from the opening game. However, it has actually been the defense that has been more dominant to date with a 10.4 points per game allowed average. That includes holding Rabun County to just 14 points (one TD and two FG) in a 14-7 loss for the Indians in Week 2. The offense took a while to heat up, scoring just 21 points in total across Weeks 1-2, but has increased each game with 27, 38, and 53 in the last three outings. That’s a great sign for Stephens at 4-1 heading into the huge matchup with Monroe Area in Week 7. This team has been clear about duplicating (and surpassing) the efforts of the 2005 Indians, who won 11 games and a region title and made it to the quarterfinals.”

4. What is an interesting player, team or coach in your area that most don’t know about, and what is their story? “There are lots of hidden gems up in this area, but one that most people don’t know about outside of the area is Andrew Shockley, a senior for Banks County, and I’ll add sophomore Zeke Whittington at Habersham Central. Shockley to date has 827 rushing yards, 107 receiving yards, 200-plus kick/punt return yards and 14 total touchdowns. He is all over the field. He’s starting to get a couple of colleges rolling out offers, and that’s sure to increase. Whittington at Habersham is only 5-8, but his numbers don’t lie. He has 507 receiving yards and already 1,138 career yards on 105 catches just five games into his sophomore year. He runs a great route, knows how to get open and has sticky hands. These two players are not household names outside of the corner of northeast Georgia, but recruiters should take note.”

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