FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Denmark head coach Terry Crowder has decades of experience leading football teams, but he has encountered something completely novel heading into the 2019 campaign.
“This is all new because I’ve never been in a situation where I get every starter back, and I’ve been doing this a long time,” he said. “We are so far ahead of where we were last year, and when you have that experience, you can take the next step.”
Year 2 of Denmark football will feature the program’s first senior class, and it is an experienced group ripe with D1 prospects.
A staple on last year’s offense is gone, however, with quarterback Ben Whitlock transferring to Johns Creek. But in his place will be another highly touted thrower in Auburn-commit Aaron McLaughlin. The 6-foot-5 Buford transfer led the Wolves to a 10-3 record with over 1,400 yards passing last year in his sophomore season.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever coached a player like this, he brings so much to the table” Crowder said. “He has an unbelievable arm and he is a leader. He can run, and he can make any throw on the field. Defenses better take care of him first, because he can hurt you either way.”
McLaughlin will have a fellow Auburn commit as a go-to target in Ze’Vian Capers. The senior compiled over 1,100 yards receiving last season with 11 touchdowns.
Joining McLaughlin in the backfield will be a strong trio of rushers, including Devin Ducille, South Forsyth transfer Jordan Brunson and Lambert transfer Zach Ogbogu.
Crowder also expects improvement from his offensive line which will be anchored by 6-foot-4, 295-pound senior Noah Mallard.
The defensive front will feature Arthur Mardsen and Justin Hunter on the outside of the line. The pair combined for over 100 tackles last year.
The Danes linebacker core could be a strong point of the defense with three D1 prospects suiting up. Senior Zach Burchfield returns after leading the Danes in tackles (91) last season while adding three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and 14-tackles-for loss. Seniors Nick Carozza, who was second on the team in tackles, and South Forsyth transfer CJ Ford will join Burchfield at linebacker.
Crowder expects safety Jaylon Beasley and corners Kenon Dicks and Justin Bradford to make an impact in the secondary.
The Danes defense will have a new look this year with the team switching to a 3-3-5 scheme.
Crowder said not many outside the program had much expectation for the Danes last season, but now others are looking at them as a top team to beat. With seasoned, standout players lining up for Denmark this year, the team’s goals are unsurprisingly lofty.
“We want to win our region, we want to make the playoffs and make a run,” Crowder said. “Our expectations have gone way up.”
The head coach also said the Danes compiling a 5-5 record and narrowly missing out on the playoffs will serve to fuel this year’s squad. And the team certainly learned last year that being in the top four of Region 7-AAAA is no easy task when facing the likes of Blessed Trinity, Marist and Flowery Branch.
“There’s no doubt we play in the toughest region in the state,” Crowder said. “The good thing about that is if you get out of this region in a playoff spot, you know you are pretty good. The challenging part is, you know you will probably have to face one of those teams again.”
With ambitious aspirations and a team capable of achieving them, Crowder is anticipating a strong year for the program.
“It’s a group of kids that are fun to coach with some really good athletes out there,” he said. “You know, we are Denmark, and they have really bought into that.”