The G.W. Long Rebels will have a new look this season.
“We’re going to more of a spread offense this year,” coach Scott Horne said. “I think it’s the best thing we ever did. Our kids love it. It gives you the ability to play as fast as you want to.”
It’s also attracted more athletes to the football field.
“I think that was one of the reasons we were able to get some of the basketball players and baseball players out,” Horne said. “The number of skill guys that we have will give us more opportunities to spread and move the ball around to them than try to line up with linemen (and run). We just had to do what our numbers dictated.”
One of those new players expected to make an immediate impact is Braxton Whitehead, a 6-foot-2, 182-pound wide receiver who hasn’t played football in recent years.
“Braxton Whitehead gives you a big target outside and that’s something we haven’t had,” Horne said. “You pick up a 6-2, 180-pound player and that’s huge in the back end. Things like that are what we were missing. Changing to a more athletic offense does encourage some of your skill guys in other sports to play.”
Another talented receiver who has been a starter since the eighth grade is Kobi Stringer, now a sophomore. Hunter Whitehead, a junior, and Dillon Caraway, a senior, are also projected starters at receiver.
Who will be throwing them the football is still somewhat of a mystery. Juniors Dalton Caraway and Carson Dunlap are vying for the starting quarterback role.
“Dalton may be a little bit ahead of them right now because he was here a little more in the summer because Carson was playing a lot of baseball,” Horne said. “Carson is a little bit bigger kid. One of the advantages he has is he’s a little bit taller.
“And the advantage that Dalton has is he really understands what we’re trying to do, so you’ve kind of got two dynamics going on. But we would be comfortable with any of those two playing back there right now.”
The offensive line returns three senior starters in center Konner Casey, guard Tyrin Brown and tackle Tra Hogan.
“Konner is real steady up front for us at center,” Horne said. “He’s played everywhere for us from H-back to tackle, guard – everywhere.”
Joining the trio as projected starters are Trent Patton, a senior guard, and Mekihan Jackson, a junior tackle. Freshman Garrett Traylor will also be in the rotation after starting a year ago.
Patton is a newcomer to the team after moving in from Oklahoma midway through the last school year. Horne said Patton made an immediate impact.
“When he came in, he was immediately like one of the leaders on the team,” Patton said. “They call him Papa Patton because he is one of the ones who keeps everyone in line out there. That was a big addition to us up front.”
When the Rebels do run the football, Trevor Morris, a sophomore, is a returner at running back.
Seven starters return on defense – safeties Morris and Stringer, defensive ends Hunter Whitehead and Jackson, cornerback Dillon Caraway, tackle Jordan Lawrence and Casey at a linebacker.
“Hunter Whitehead is going in the 11 th grade, but the kid has started for us since the eighth grade,” Horne said. “A lot of these guys are ones that might be 10 th or 11 th graders, but they’ve started for two or three years.”
Horne likes the depth of the roster.
“This is the second day of contact, so these are projected starters, but there is 1As and there is actually a 1B that is right behind them,” Horne said. “I think defensively we’ve probably got 16 or 17 kids that we could play on a Friday night. We’re dressing 35 this year.
“Last year we dressed 40 grades seven through 12. That’s 35 just 10 th grade and up and maybe a couple of ninth graders. So we’re back up to about 60 in the program, so we’ve picked up about 20 kids.”
“With the numbers declining all over the state, we’re really happy that we’re getting more kids out.”
Another newcomer expected to contribute is senior Rush Fuller, a member of the basketball team.
“This is the first time he’s played football since elementary school,” Horne said. “He’s really going to help us at linebacker.”
Trey Patton, a freshman and the brother of newcomer Trent Patton, is expected to start at cornerback.
“He’s got really good speed and good feet,” Horne said. “He’s got a chance to be a really good player for us.”
Jacob Thompson, a junior, is a transfer from Northside Methodist Academy that is expected to get playing time at linebacker.
Horne is confident the Rebels can find success again after struggling to a 2-7 record a year ago. After having to utilize many young players for several years due to low numbers, Horne believes they are ready to turn the corner physically.
“When you go to make a tackle and you’re not strong enough and physical enough to make that tackle, they’re going to run through you,” Horne said. “That’s what we dealt with for the last two years was injuries from concussions and things like that just from being weak. We weren’t old enough yet. Those guys are a year older.”
REBELS AT A GLANCE
>> Head coach: Scott Horne (12th year as a head coach at G.W. Long and as a head coach, 77-39, includes last four games of 2007 season)
>> 2018 record: 2-7 overall, 2-5 in Class 2A, Region 2
>> 2018 results: at Dale County (L, 0-56); Barbour County # (W, 50-0); Daleville # (L, 8-32); Cottonwood # (L, 13-28); at Elba (Cancelled because of wet fields); at Geneva County # (L, 0-31); Houston County # (W, 24-15); at Ariton # (L, 6-42); at Abbeville # (L, 10-44); Houston Academy(L, 14-27)
>> Points scored/per game: 125/13.9
>> Points allowed/per game: 275/30.6
>> Returning offensive starters (8): QB Dalton Caraway (Jr., 5-8, 155); RB Trevor Morriss (So., 5-9, 150); WR Hunter Whitehead (Jr., 5-11, 155); WR Kobi Stringer (So., 5-11, 166), WR Dillon Caraway (Sr., 5-9, 160); OG Tyrin Brown (Sr., 5-8, 235); C Konner Casey (Sr., 5-9, 195); OT Tra Hogan (Sr., 5-10, 210).
>> Returning defensive starters (7): LB Trevor Morris (5-9, 150); DE Hunter Whitehead (Jr., 5-11, 155); S Kobi Stringer (So., 5-11, 166); CB Dillon Caraway (Ser., 5-9., 160); LB Konner Casey (Sr., 5-9, 195); DE Mekihan Jackson (Jr., 6-1, 225); DT Jordan Lawrence (Sr., 6-5, 330).
Aug. 30 Dale County
Sept. 6 at Barbour County #
Sept. 13 at Daleville #
Sept. 20 at Cottonwood #
Sept. 27 at Elba
Oct. 4 Geneva County #
Oct. 11 at Houston County #
Oct. 18 Ariton #
Oct. 25 Abbeville #
Nov. 1 at Houston Academy
# Denotes region games