Houston County coach Mike Atkins isn’t sure who will be running his offense this season, but he’s sure of what he’ll be running.
“We’re going to be spread,” Atkins said. “We’re going to be running what we have the last three or four years.”
Putting the pieces together to run it will be the challenge for the Lions, who struggled to a 2-8 mark a year ago and have few returning starters.
“We’re kind of having a quarterback battle between Chason Harvell and Kaheel Johnson,” Atkins said during the Coaches Media Day several weeks ago. “They’ve both played JV quarterback for us before, but neither one of them have taken a snap in a varsity football game.”
Atkins does like what both quarterback candidates bring to the table.
Harvell, a junior, is 6-foot-1, 210 pounds and a more physical player. Johnson, a sophomore, is 5-foot-9, 165 pounds and is blessed with plenty of quickness.
“Kaheel throws the ball a little bit better,” Atkins said. “Chason is a bigger type quarterback that we could run inside a little more with than Kaheel, but Kaheel can run outside.
“Both of them have different things they can do well, so we may rotate them in and out. If they’re not playing quarterback, they’ll be on the field somewhere because they’re both good athletes, but we just don’t know in what capacity yet.”
Seniors Kobe McIntyre and Cameron Inlow, along with sophomore LaDarius Maybin, are the key targets at wide receiver. Kenzyrus Evans is a senior tight end.
Kenzerick Barber, a sophomore, will be counted on to make plays out of the backfield.
“This year we don’t have that scat back we’ve had like the four years I’ve been here, but we’ve got a bigger back this year in Kenzerick Barber,” Atkins said. “He’s that guy we can hand it to and hit it in the A gap a lot better. The last couple of years we’ve had some scat back guys who can get on the outside, but just really weren’t effective on the inside.”
Atkins believes Barber will have a strong line to run behind in returning starters Preston Anderson, a 5-11, 220 senior, and Aaron Mims, a 5-10, 245 junior. Other projected starters across the front are Holden Feltman (6-0, 230 sophomore), Jaylin Seabrook (6-0, 240 junior) and Anthony Milner (5-10, 250 junior).
“We’re going to lean a lot on the linemen,” Atkins said. “Even though we only have two starters coming back on offense, the only two we have coming back are offensive linemen. The other three that are penciled in to start were in on the rotation last year.”
There are four returning starters on the defensive side – three of them being linemen in senior Preston Anderson along with Mims and Milner. Inlow returns at defensive back.
“I think our defensive line is going to be our main strength, because three out of four (returning starters) played the D-line,” Atkins said. “Pretty much all of our linebackers are going to be new guys.”
Barber, Evans, Christian Perkins, Kyle Clark and J.J. Johnson are all vying for time at linebacker. Maybin and Johnson are penciled in at defensive backs. Tyshawn Allen, a sophomore, will be counted on across the front.
“We put in a new scheme this spring and they picked it up fairly well,” Atkins said. “We’re going to do a 4-2-5, whereas last year we were more of a three front. We are a little heavier on the defensive line size, but we’re going to be young there also. But those guys did a good job flying around in the spring.”
Atkins does have a luxury in returning kicker Geo Rodriguez, who is just a freshman.
“He did all of our extra points last year,” Atkins said. “He doesn’t have a very strong leg, but from the 25-yard line in, he doesn’t miss.
“We had an extra point or two blocked last year, but other than that, I don’t think he missed a single extra point. That’s going to be big for us, because the last couple of years we’ve kind of had to go for two a lot of time because we didn’t have that money guy kicking extra points for us.”
Numbers are down, but Atkins likes the work ethic.
“We’ve only got 25 or 26 – and that’s seventh through 12th,” Atkins said. “So we really only have about 14 10th through 12th graders out there.
“There’s probably about nine of them that are going to be playing both ways and not coming off the field any. We went to a couple of 7-on-7s and they started realizing that they have to get themselves in shape.”
LIONS AT A GLANCE
>> Head coach: Mike Atkins (5th year at Houston County and as a head coach, 16-26)
>> 2018 record: 2-8 overall, 2-5 in Class 2A, Region 2
>> 2018 results: Providence Christian (L, 8-42); at Daleville # (W, 39-36); Ariton # (L, 0-34); at Abbeville # (L, 17-44); at Ashford (L, 18-28); Barbour County # (W, 49-0); at G.W. Long # (L, 15-24); Cottonwood # (L, 33-42); at Geneva County # (L, 42-55); Highland Home (L, 14-47)
>> Points scored/per game: 235/23.5
>> Points allowed/per game: 352/35.2
>> Returning offensive starters (2): OL Preston Anderson (Sr., 5-11, 220); OL Aaron Mims (Jr., 5-10, 245).
>> Returning defensive starters (4): DL Preston Anderson (Sr., 5-11, 220); DL Aaron Mims (Jr., 5-10, 245); DL Anthony Milner (Jr., 5-10, 250); DB Cameron Inlow (Sr., 5-9, 160)
Aug. 30 at Providence Christian
Sept. 6 Daleville #
Sept. 13 at Ariton #
Sept. 20 Abbeville #
Sept. 27 Ashford
Oct. 4 at Barbour County #
Oct. 11 G.W. Long #
Oct. 18 at Cottonwood #
Oct. 25 Geneva County #
Nov. 1 at Highland Home
# Denotes region games