JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – At first glance, the primary task this season for Northview football coach Chad Davenport is to find a replacement for 2011 standout quarterback Evan Jacks.
Even with the loss of last year’s North Fulton Player of the Year, Davenport believes the Titans will remain a productive team offensively.
The big question, as it was last year, is whether Northview’s defense can do enough to allow the offense to have a chance to put enough points on the scoreboard to win.
The Titans went 3-7 last season, scoring more than 28 points per game but allowing an average of 40 points in their seven losses.
“We’ve got to be able to get off the field,” Davenport said of the Northview defense.
The Titans begin the 2012 season with at least one thing in their favor. They are dropping down from the largest classification to the second-largest this season, and will be competing in what is arguably the weakest football sub-region in the state.
Northview is playing in 7-AAAAA, with the top teams in the region all in the opposite sub-region.
“We were one of the least athletic teams in our old region,” Davenport said. “Now, we’ll be one of the most athletic regions in this region.”
If the Titans can show significant improvement on defense, they have a chance to contend for the top spot in their sub-region, which would allow them to avoid a match-up with any of the top three teams from the opposite side in a play-in game that will determine the region’s playoff qualifiers.
Northview will work out of a new defensive alignment this year (4-2-5), but will still rely on linebacker Austin Antwine, who has led the team in tackles as both a freshman and sophomore.
Devan Johnson, who started at defensive end as a freshman, is back, but Davenport notes the team needs more defensive linemen, and may not be as big up front.
Some of the starters on the offensive line will help on defense, with Davenport looking for some help up front to go against teams that will be more run-oriented than most of Northview’s 2011 opponents.
Anterrious Green returns at one corner, with Duluth transfer Ryan Graddy expected to make a big impact for the Titans.
The Titans remain a young team, as a large part of what would have been the senior class is now at Johns Creek after re-districting.
Jacks passed for 2,300 yards and 14 touchdowns last season and rushed for 950 yards and 11 scores.
“You don’t replace a kid like Evan,” said Davenport. “But we’re going to be so much better around the quarterback that we won’t need to.”
Sophomore D.J. Pearson moves from wide receiver to quarterback and is competing with sophomore Justin Westbrook, last year’s backup QB. Pearson is the early leader in the battle for the starting position.
The main job for either QB will be to get the ball to versatile and talented senior running back Terrence Upshaw, who had 1,300 yards rushing and receiving and scored 20 touchdowns. Upshaw averaged five yards per carry and 15 yards per reception and should put up some big numbers this season.
The Titans graduated their top returning receiver, but Davenport says the four he will put on the field this season “will be better than the four last year,” with newcomer Zack Sullivan expected to be a major contributor.
Tackles Matt Clover and Rohil Prathap, guard Hank Clayman and center Blake Bergquist give the Titans a veteran group of front, and even without Jacks, Northview should be a potent offensive force.