HIAWASSEE — The not-so-good but typical news: the numbers are always low at Towns County.
The better news: the numbers are on the way up as Jason Roquemore and staff enter their second season in charge of the Indians.
With a nearly 25 percent increase to the roster in the offseason, Roquemore and staff are starting to see the labor of implementing what they hope is a winning formula.
“With all the negative stuff about the virus and everything, we’ve added some guys since last year and that is big for us,” Roquemore said. “I do think it’s a result of seeing a positive culture set forth by the coaches. Kids are wanting to be a part of it.”
The 2019 campaign did not go anywhere near as planned for the Indians as they suffered through their first winless season since 2007. Injuries and lack of depth, which is a constant, were too much in a brutal Region 8-A. But with the latest round of Georgia High School reclassification, the newest version of Region 8-A Public could make the Indians an instant playoff contender.
Commerce and Towns County are the only holdovers while Lincoln County, Greene County, and Washington-Wilkes moved over from the old Region 7-A and Social Circle dropped down from Region 8-2A. It will still be a potent region with perennial state powers Commerce and Lincoln County, who met in the second round of the 2019 playoffs, expected to battle for the region title. But the Indians should be a player as the rest of the region is in rebuilding mode.
“It’s still going to be a tough region for us,” Roquemore said. “But if we can stay healthy there could be some opportunities for some wins at the back end of the region schedule. We’re expecting ourselves to be in the playoff race.”
Offensively, the Indians scored just 89 points (8.9 points per game) in 2019. But Towns County still has first-team 8-A All-Region player in senior receiver Garrett Oakes, and Cherokee Bluff senior move-in Mason Thomas at quarterback should give the Indians some additional offensive punch. Junior Kyle Oakes, who started at quarterback in 2019, will see some action under center and his versatility could be used at several spots on the field.
“The biggest thing there is that a lot of the problems were self-inflicted. Penalties, being out of position, things like that,” Roquemore said. “We’ve been working on fixing those things. Mason and Kyle really compliment each other and there is a lot of competition on the offense and that has been good to see.”
With the injuries and depth issues, the defense allowed 53.7 ppg. But Roquemore again said most of the problems stemmed from their own mistakes.
“No excuses, we weren’t that good,” he said. “But the guys were learning a new system. Our biggest problem was just getting off the field on third down. We have to be better in situational football and that has been a big focus so far. I feel we’re going to be much better this year.”
Senior linebacker Reece Hampton and senior defensive lineman Conner King should lead a more experienced group. Junior safety Colin Crowder, who was expected to be the main cog in 2019 but missed most of the season, is back.
The schedule will once again be a tough one for the Indians, and they are sure to be underdogs in nearly every game they play. But with a reconfigured region and added numbers, they could challenge for a playoff spot. They open region play at home against Lincoln County and then travel to Commerce the following week.
Their two games with Greene County and Social Circle in learly November could hold the key for a playoff push.
“Our expectations are probably like everyone else’s, to try and make the playoffs,” Roquemore said. “I can already tell a difference coming into this season for this group. They want to do well. They seem ready to take that next step. Hopefully, we help get them there.”