CUMMING, Ga. — A new energy this season has been instilled for Forsyth Central. Head coach Frank Hepler said the team is athletic, relatively experienced and, for the first time in his tenure at the school, his players have been battling throughout the preseason in all positions for starting jobs.
“We have kids competing on both sides of the ball for spots, and when I got here four years ago, we didn’t have that,” Hepler said. “Back then, everyone was kind of set in their positions, but now they are battling, and that drives these guys.”
Battling also builds depth, and Hepler said that is a factor that reared its head last season with the Bulldogs hindered by injuries. Staying healthy will be critical this year with several players slated to play both ways.
“Last year, health was a problem time to time, but it showed what the kids were made of to get the job done,” he said. “But right now, we can build some depth with good battles and competitions. It’s good to have one good kid, but we are trying to get three or four guys who can get the job done.”
Hepler described his 2019 squad as athletic, and that starts with the offensive line.
The offensive front has been switched around a bit from last season and some new players will suit up on Friday nights.
Right tackle Brandon Gayton saw limited varsity playing time last season but will step up with another new starter, junior center/guard Robbie Watson. Starter Luke Morton returns to the line for his senior season along with senior Darius Green and Canaan Clark, who will also start on the defensive line.
That line will protect familiar faces in the backfield with quarterbacks Bronson Landreth and Ryan Van Uum returning.
“They are still battling for that starting position,” Hepler said. “But the great thing about those guys is they can play safety when they are not at QB. So we will likely have one starting on defense depending on who wins each job.”
Senior Jake Bretz should be a go-to receiver in addition to his play in the defensive secondary, Hepler said. He expects returners Noah Chol and Caydin Mowen to lead the rushing attack while making receptions out of the backfield.
The offense will continue to run a spread option, but Hepler said a few tweaks have been made, bolstered by Central’s experienced coaching staff and returning starters.
“At any level of football, having any experience and knowledge of what the coaches want is tremendous,” Hepler said. “And our staff has now been together for two years in a row, and that makes a big difference.”
Excitement around the Bulldogs program grew exponentially in 2018 with the Bulldogs rebounding from a winless season to go 7-4 overall and earn Central its first playoff berth since 2001. If the Bulldogs are to match or better that success, they will again have to win in a grueling Region 5-AAAAAAA schedule.
“This is such a tough region, showed by our region champ (Milton) winning the state championship last year,” Hepler said. “Maybe we don’t have the program recognition around the state, but it will be a very tough region race.”
And Hepler is confident that Bulldogs can put together another successful region run and overall season.
“Our outlook is, this season can be good,” he said. “Things like injuries and depth, those will have to fall into place, but we will keep working to get them ready, play week to week, and aim to get better each week.”