Entering the third year under head coach Joel Harvin, a senior-led and experienced Early County Bobcat team is ready to roar in 2019.
With 26 seniors and eight starters back on both offense and defense from last year’s 6-5 first-round Class AA state playoff team, a strong foundation is set for this year.
“We have the most seniors that Early County probably has ever had,” said Harvin, who played for the Bobcats in 2000-03. “Of those seniors, some have never played. I would say probably six came out in the spring and they will play special teams for us, but of the 26, we have a lot of experience.”
The experience level is also spread throughout the field, another important element for Early County.
“Right now we have experience at almost every position,” Harvin said. “Just because they might not be starters, we still have guys that can back them up who have experience from a year prior. That helps a small school like us in having players playing both ways. It also helps that several players can play multiple positions.”
A handful of the returners are back in a starting role for a third year, too, adding more experience to the fold.
Harvin rattled off offensive/defensive lineman Jalen Reed, defensive linemen Keandre Lucas and James Gilbert, plus wide receiver/cornerback Montravious George, tight end/wide receiver/outside linebacker Jay Pittman, linebacker Darrian Sheffield, wide receiver Braveon George, linebacker Yanetel Smith and kicker Alex Warr as three-year senior starters.
Running back/free safety Ladarious Ceasar, a junior, is another three-year starter.
“They have been through the good and bad,” Harvin said. “There is not much we can throw at them scheme wise because they have seen it and they understand it.”
Also returning is senior Asher White, who starts his second year at quarterback. A year ago, the 5-foot-11, 175-pounder threw for 984 yards and nine touchdowns and also rushed for 235 yards.
“He does what we need him to do in our offense,” Harvin said. “We don’t ask him to go out and win the game. We ask him to control the game. He knows everything that goes in our offense. He might be one of the best athletes we have.”
The running game lost workhorse Aaron Yarbrough, who became the first Bobcat to rush for 1,000 yards in 15 seasons last year (1,168). He signed to play college ball at Jacksonville.
Harvin said the carries will likely be split up this year among juniors Ceasar and Jay Ealey, along with seniors Jakirrin Davis, Montravious George and Sheffield.
The offensive line is expected to be a strength because of experience. Reed, a mammoth 6-foot-3, 330-pound senior who is getting looks from South Florida and smaller D-I schools, anchors the line. Noah Elledge also returns as a starter. Colton Whitehead, Jackson Allred, Ryan Bright and Jennings Allred are other projected OL starters.
Tight end Dajuan George also returns as a starter on offense along with wide receivers Pittman and Braveon George. Montravious George, who caught four TD passes last year, is also a returning starter at wide receiver, though he will split time between running back and wideout.
Harvin is especially upbeat about his team’s defense. Most return from last year’s unit that allowed a respectable 18.2 points a game, highlighted by three shutouts.
“I would say our defense is our strength,” Harvin said. “There was a time last year before the hurricane (Hurricane Michael) hit that we were the No. 4 defense in the state in all of AA, but when the hurricane hit, we kind of backtracked and hit region play and I don’t know if we were as focused.
“I look for our defense to do big things. We have everybody back except two.”
The front three of seniors Lucas, Gilbert and Dajuan George anchor the front. Lucas is getting looks from several colleges, including UNLV.
Senior linebackers Sheffield, Smith and Tyree McCoy return as starting linebackers along with junior Ealey. Another senior, Rodriguez Davis, is another player expected to play a role at linebacker as will Pittman.
The Bobcats will have to fill some voids in the secondary as Montravious George is the lone returning starter. Seniors Trenten Cintron and Tyrell Rainey are projected starters at cornerback and Ceasar is also expected to step up and fill the free safety spot.
The special teams return Warr as a kicker and punter with Elledge returning as the long snapper. Warr hit 3-of-6 field goals last year, including a 44-yarder.
“Alex Warr was actually all-region (Region 1-AA) as a punter and he is a better kicker than punter, but Thomasville and Fitzgerald just had really good kickers last year,” Harvin said. “He has gotten to where he can kick into the end zone on kickoffs, so that is a weapon. He can probably hit a 50-yard field goal if we needed him to do so.”
BOBCATS AT A GLANCE
>> Head coach: Joel Harvin (3rd year at Early County and overall as a head coach, 8-13)
>> 2018 record: 6-5 overall, 1-3 in Georgia Region 1-AA, 1st round of Class AA state playoffs
>> 2018 results: at Thomas County Central (L, 7-33); at Eufaula (Ala.) (W, 28-3); Cook (W, 17-0); Worth County (W, 27-7); at Tallassee (Ala.) (W, 20-13); at Dothan (Ala.) (W, 13-0); at Brooks County # (L, 20-39); at Fitzgerald # (L, 3-21); Berrien # (W, 17-0); at Thomasville # (L, 3-56). STATE PLAYOFFS: at Jefferson County (L, 21-28)
>> Points scored/per game: 176/16.0
>> Points allowed/per game: 200/18.2
>> Returning offensive starters (8): QB Asher White (Sr., 5-11, 175); RB Ladarious Ceasar (Jr., 5-9, 165); OL Jalen Reed (Sr., 6-3, 330); OL Noah Elledge (Jr., 6-1, 220); WR Montravious George (Sr., 5-10, 16); TE Dajuan George (Sr., 6-5, 205); WR Braveon George (Jr., 5-9, 155); WR Jay Pittman (Sr., 6-3, 190)
>> Returning defensive starters (8): DL Keandre Lucas (Sr., 6-3, 278); DL James Gilbert (Sr., 6-0, 290); DL Dajuan George (Sr., 6-5, 205): LB Jay Ealey (Jr., 6-0, 190); LB Darrian Sheffield (Sr., 5-10, 170); LB Yanetel Smith (Sr., 5-10, 160); LB Tyree McCoy (Sr., 5-10, 165); CB Montravious George (Sr., 5-10, 165)
Aug. 23 Thomas County Central
Aug. 30 at Miller County
Sept. 6 at Cook
Sept. 13 at Worth County
Sept. 20 Eufaula (Ala.)
Sept. 27 Randolph-Clay
Oct. 4 off
Oct. 11 off
Oct. 18 Brooks County #
Oct. 25 Fitzgerald #
Nov. 1 at Berrien #
Nov. 8 Thomasville #
# Denotes region game