JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – In just their second full season of varsity football, the Johns Creek Gladiators went 9-1, tied for first place in Region 7-AAAA and lost their playoff opener on a long touchdown pass on the final play of the game.
With all but a handful of starters returning, the Gladiators move up to the newly created AAAAAA classification, and will be among the favorites in an eight-team region with five playoff qualifiers from 2011.
“I’m excited about this year,” veteran Johns Creek coach Mike Cloy said. “We should be good.”
The Gladiators’ senior class consists of the players who began the Johns Creek program as freshmen in 2009. Of the remaining 25 seniors, most are starters with extensive experience.
Johns Creek returns almost its entire offense that put up consistently big numbers on the scoreboard, including 430 yards in a heartbreaking 41-38 playoff loss to Flowery Branch.
The Gladiators’ offense is led by quarterback Skye Overton, a run-pass threat who accounted for almost 1,600 yards and 27 touchdowns.
“Skye Overton truly is a team player. He is a great athlete and makes things happen,” Cloy said.
Speedy junior Chase Solomon rushed for more than 1,000 yards, averaging more than eight yards per carry. Along with Overton, he gives the Gladiators a big play threat in the backfield.
Jack Pomerantz and Matt Azemar head up the receiving corps, with both also starting in the defensive secondary. The Gladiators will have a number of two-way players, but Cloy is hopeful that the team is deep enough to keep his front line players sufficiently rested.
“The kids who have to play both ways want to,” Cloy said. “I think we have some good kids who can step in and help out.”
One area where depth is not a concern is quarterback, where two players capable of starting are stuck behind Overton.
“I’ve been coaching 42 years and I’ve never had three senior quarterbacks who could all play at the next level,” Cloy said.
Sam Arrington, one of a number of four-year starters, is back to anchor both the offensive and defensive lines. He is joined by Austin DuBois, Forrest Montet, Denny Victor and Corey Vaughn back as starters in the offensive line.
Until facing the high-powered Flowery Branch offense, the Gladiators held all their opponents under 20 points, but four of last year’s best defenders have graduated. Arrington is the only starter back in the D-line, which Cloy admitted “is a big question mark.”
Victor is moving from linebacker to the line, with other offensive linemen also expected to play on defense. The Gladiators will be a little undersized up front.
After a strong junior season, Tommy Welch keys the linebackers, with Turner Fortin joining him inside after playing extensively as a freshman.
Matt Gorst and Zack Disher are back at outside linebacker, with Disher and Braden Fortin sharing time at fullback.
Will Somers joins Pomerantz and Azemar in the secondary, but the Gladiators will miss Parker Asbell. Somers will also handle the punting, and will be part of an outstanding kicking game that includes Kyle Fowler, who may wind up being the team’s most heavily recruited senior.
“I think we’ll be OK,” Cloy said of the Gladiators’ move up in class. “We’re the third smallest school in 6A and we have some concerns numbers-wise. But we have good leadership and these kids compete. They like playing together.”
Johns Creek helps open the state season, playing Aug. 23 at Woodstock in a Thursday night game that will be televised by WSB-TV.