published Friday, August 19th, 2011

Football Preview: Gordon Central Warriors now experienced

Tyshawn Clemmons (2) and D.J. Prather (7) can help ease the transition of first-year starting quarterback M.J. Reynolds for Gordon Central.
Tyshawn Clemmons (2) and D.J. Prather (7) can help ease the transition of first-year starting quarterback M.J. Reynolds for Gordon Central.

GORDON CENTRAL WARRIORS

Coach: Chad Fisher 13-27 (here and overall)

Returning starters (O/D/K): 9/9/1

Remember these names: Tight end D.J. Prather (Jr., 6-2, 250) is a potential BCS conference player. He wanted to play basketball in the ACC as a power forward but figured tight end is his best route to a scholarship. Receiver Tyshawn Clemmons (Jr., 6-1, 190) has BCS schools following his progress. Linebacker C.J. Bell (Sr., 6-0, 230) could be a good player for an FCS team such as UTC or Georgia Southern. Center Blake Hilley (Sr., 6-0, 260) also may play college football.

Will be a memorable year if: The Warriors make the region play-in game meaningful. They do have almost every skill-position player returning except quarterback Dre Prather, who helped them average about 36 points per game last year. That job now belongs to junior M.J. Reynolds.

Schedule

Aug. 26 at Model

Sept. 2 Coosa

Sept. 9 at Rockmart

Sept. 16 Lakeview-FO*

Sept. 23 at Dade County*

Oct. 6 Sonoraville*

Oct. 14 at Calhoun*

Oct. 21 Chattooga*

Oct. 28 at North Murray*

Nov. 4 Region play-in game

* Region 7B-AA game

Gordon Central coach Chad Fisher had no questions about his quarterback last year. All the other positions were short on experience.

It’s 180 degrees different this season.

Dre Prather and his 2,700 all-purpose yards are gone. But nine starters return on offense and nine on defense, leaving just a few unknowns.

But one of those is junior quarterback M.J. Reynolds.

“We’re more experienced with almost everybody back, and that’s the thing we have going for us this year,” said tight end D.J. Prather, a senior tight end who has drawn interest from Georgia Tech, Tennessee and Clemson. “We’ve got to do everything we can to help him out. Whether it’s catching a ball that’s high or showing leadership, we’re going to help him.”

Even though he’s the quarterback, Reynolds may have one of the easiest jobs on the team — get the ball where it needs to be.

“They key is how well he can continue to learn, and he’s playing a lot better compared to where he was in the spring,” Fisher said. “Our goal for him is for him not to get us beat and put the ball in the right spot.

“If he doesn’t get us beat, we’ll be all right.”

Reynolds worked several days a week this summer with D.J. Prather, Tyshawn Clemmons and other receivers.

“M.J. still has a lot to learn, but he can be just as good if not better and he can do some big things,” said Clemmons, who had 800 yards on 47 catches last year plus nine touchdowns. “We need repetitions in practice, and I need to catch everything that’s thrown to me and perfect my routes.”

Reynolds said he’s up to the task despite being one of the smallest and least experienced starters on the squad.

“I have to spread the ball around and let players make plays,” Reynolds said. “I’ve been working all summer. I have to try and not do too much.”

A little assistance from the defense could go a long way as well in determining the Warriors’ season. They allowed more than 25 points per game last year. Fisher expects to see that number drop substantially with all of the experience returning.

“We have a good bunch of skill players,” Fisher said. “Overall, we’re shooting to make week 10 a meaningful game.”

MEMORY LANE

Gordon Central has had just six winning seasons in the 27-year history of its football program, and the last came in 2005.

Fisher took over as head coach in 2007 and started his era with 10 losses and zero wins while in Class AAAA. The Warriors dropped to Class AA the next year.

“That first game in 2008 against Model was my first win as a head coach,” Fisher said. “We forced eight turnovers and won 22-0 and started a sophomore quarterback at the time. We felt like we could have a good team even though we had only 43 kids in the team picture.”

That win helped build a future.

“We had 80-something kids the next year,” Fisher said. “It’s gotten better and better. With going from 1,600 students to 860 students, we’ve been able to run the course.”

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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