published Friday, August 19th, 2011

Football Preview: Dade County trying to avoid ‘the big head’

Gannon Hampton will anchor an offensive lineup hoping to lead the way for a team looking to build off last year's 10-win season.
Gannon Hampton will anchor an offensive lineup hoping to lead the way for a team looking to build off last year's 10-win season.
Photo by Jake Daniels.

DADE COUNTY WOLVERINES

Coach: Bradley Warren 17-15 (76-59 overall)

Returning starters (O/D/K): 3/6/2

Remember these names: Rodney Cannon (Jr., 5-9, 165) steps into the limelight as the Wolverines’ main ball carrier in the wing-T after the graduation of John Hampton. Division II prospect Andrew Blaylock (Sr., 5-11, 220) takes over for Hampton at middle linebacker. He missed half of the 2010 season with a knee injury and is itching to get back to competition. David Page (Sr. 6-1, 195) is Dade’s best speed threat, and center Gannon Hampton (Jr., 6-0, 280) is an FCS prospect.

Will be a memorable year if: The Wolverines make the playoffs again. They reached the postseason for the first time in 11 seasons last year. This could be the first time in 40 years that the school has had three straight winning seasons.

Schedule

Aug. 26 at Gordon Lee

Sept. 2 Adairsville

Sept. 16 at Armuchee

Sept. 23 Gordon Central*

Sept. 30 at North Murray*

Oct. 7 Lakeview-FO*

Oct. 14 Sonoraville*

Oct. 21 at Calhoun*

Oct. 28 at Chattooga*

Nov. 4 at region play-in game

* Region 7B-AA game

Supporters of Dade County football used to ask coach Bradley Warren how bad things were going to be heading into a season.

The Wolverines won only 11 games from 2001 through his first season in 2008, which ended with a victory over Temple (Ga.).

Then suddenly they went 6-4 in 2009. And last year was one of the best seasons in school history as the Trenton school went 10-2, finished second in the region and won a state playoff game.

The questions to the coach have changed.

“It was a special season and I don’t know if it’s really sunk in,” said Warren, whose school last had a 10-win season in 1987. “Those same folks are asking how many wins are we going to get — seven, eight, nine?

“It’s been fun seeing a change in culture.”

But that change has come at a small price. The coaches must reinforce the habits that made them winners.

“We’ve got the big head,” Warren after team camp in early August. “Some kids from last year think things are going to fall in their lap, but we have a big old target on our back and we’re trying to get kids accustomed to that.”

Part of that responsibility has fallen to David Page, Andrew Blaylock and Gannon Hampton, the only three returning offensive starters.

“It felt good to be on the winning side finally,” Page said. “It’s going to be different because we haven’t had a target on our back. We haven’t had that problem.

“We have to show up and play.”

Hampton, whose brother John led the team in rushing and tackling last year but graduated, realizes the task in front of the Wolverines this year — especially early.

“We can’t get the big head,” he said, “because we lost so many guys. We have to come out and be hungry.”

Despite having enjoyed one of the most memorable seasons in county history, Warren doesn’t have the big head. There’s still plenty to establish and accomplish.

“We’re still not where I want to be, but we’re getting better,” Warren said. “You want to be in the playoffs every year.”

MEMORY LANE

Northwest Georgia High School, now Dade County, went 10-0 in 1987 but played a nonregion schedule and could not participate in playoffs.

Some in the community say that diminishes the accomplishment. Not to current coach Bradley Warren, who played middle linebacker on that team.

“We played state-ranked teams like Marion County — Plainview, Alabama, was ranked — and I remember Chattanooga Valley was ranked in the top 10,” Warren said. “We pulled out a 14-13-point win against them. We knew we had a good football team. We were just unfortunate that we didn’t get to play in the playoffs.”

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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