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2022 High School Football Preview: Veteran group for North Murray will battle top-heavy region
The Daily Citizen - 8/18/2022
Aug. 18—CHATSWORTH — The newly-shuffled Georgia High School Association classifications result in a challenging quirk for North Murray High School's football team this season.
The Mountaineers share Region 7-2A with three separate defending region champions.
"You've got a top-heavy region," head coach Preston Poag said. "It's a tough region, but I want to have to fight to get into the playoffs. We've got a tough region schedule, but we'll see how we are."
If Poag wants a fight, the Mountaineers certainly have one.
North Murray spent the past two seasons in Region 6-3A, and the region champion for those two seasons was Rockmart. The Yellow Jackets joined Poag's Mountaineers in Region 7-2A when the regions were unveiled earlier this year.
Fannin County is the defending Region 7-2A champion, having gone 10-2 and undefeated in the region last season. Then, there is Haralson County, which was in Class 2A last season, but spent its schedule going 10-2 and became the champ in Region 5-2A.
With three teams in the region that finished with nine wins or more last season, and just four playoff spots available, Poag is confident the Mountaineers can navigate that gauntlet to the postseason.
"It's a mentality of not just making the playoffs, but getting in there and making some noise and seeing what happens," Poag said. "I want to go win a state championship, and these kids do too."
Lucky for North Murray, much of the talent that made the Mountaineers a playoff team last season is coming back.
That starts with Seth Griffin, the 6-foot-3-inch senior quarterback who is entering his third year starting for the 'Neers.
"We'll go how he goes. He's a good leader for us, too," Poag said.
Griffin piled up 2,883 passing yards and 32 touchdowns last season. He also had 319 rushing yards and three touchdowns, though Poag said those rushing numbers could go up this year.
"I expect a little bit more of running the ball with him. He's a fast kid, too," Poag said. "When he's in the pocket escaping the rush, last year we tried to throw it a little bit too much downfield, but he can run it, too. He has some good weapons around him, which is good too."
Those weapons include Jadyn Rice, a speedy senior receiver who caught 65 passes for 1,203 yards and 12 touchdowns from Griffin last season.
Judson Petty and Skyler Williams provide experienced targets.
"We've got most of our line back," Poag said. "It's been a really good summer. If we play like I think we're going to play, we'll play a lot better defense this year, too."
Most of North Murray's starters will play both on offense and defense, including Rice, Petty and Williams in the defensive backfield.
Poag expects defensive linemen Heath Adams and John Craig and linebacker Aiden Ellis to make a difference for the Mountaineer defense.
"We've got a lot of veteran guys that have played, so that helps," Poag said. "We've got to establish some depth so we can get some of those guys off of the field some."
DE Devin Hunte
K/P Owen Hannah
RB/LB Ethan Dempsey
QB Seth Griffin, senior
WR/DB Judson Petty, junior
WR Jadyn Rice, senior
Circled on the schedule
@ Dalton, Sept. 19
—North Murray clashes with Dalton for the first time in school history to kick off the season. There are plenty of storylines to go with this season-opening tilt. North Murray's Preston Poag, a Dalton graduate, coaches against the Catamounts for the first time as a head coach.
@ Fannin County, Oct. 14
—Fannin County is the defending Region 7-2A champion, having gone 10-2 a season ago. Contenders like Haralson County and Rockmart have also joined the region this year, but the Rebels are still a team to beat.
Rockmart, Nov. 4
—Rockmart defeated North Murray and won the Region 6-3A championship in both 2020 and 2021, and Rockmart slides down to Region 7-2A along with the Mountaineers. North Murray will likely need a victory in this season finale to have hopes at a region title.
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