Head coach Steve Davenport and the Comets have a chance to do something no South Gwinnett football team has done this decade. Should the Comets clinch a third consecutive playoff berth this season, it would be the first three-peat for the program since 2003, when the Comets won their region and reached the quarterfinals in Class AAAAA.
But South Gwinnett has spent the spring and summer replacing several losses from a senior-heavy 2017 team.
Davenport said Heritage transfer Willie Truitt III stepped in during the offseason and won the quarterback position. He replaces former starter Trevon Woodson, who moved out of the state.
Truitt, a junior, is surrounded by a couple of players with several years of experience in South Gwinnett’s program. His primary target is returning starter and senior Adrian Compton, and senior Joshua Anderson will snap the ball to Truitt.
In his second season as head coach of the Comets, Davenport and his staff have had the opportunity to groom the upcoming junior class for breakout seasons in 2018.
“We had a lot of seniors last year that we’re losing, but I think the case in most AAAAAAA programs is you always have a good junior class that has been in the program for quite some time and is now looking for the opportunity to be seniors and lead themselves,” Davenport said.
Jalen Samuels (pictured) was South Gwinnett’s leading rusher last season as a junior. The 2018 season will be Samuels’ third year as a starter for the Comets. Davenport expected Samuels to be reliable toting the rock, but he was also impressed by his pass-catching ability last season.
“He’s had a really good summer for us, and we expect some leadership from him,” Davenport said. “He led the team in rushing and caught the football better than I imagined he could.”
South Gwinnett may feature its running backs more than it did in 2017.
South Gwinnett’s unit allowed an average of 24 points per game last season, skewed by quality opponents such as Grayson, Newton, South Forsyth and Brookwood. That unit was made up of a majority of seniors, some of which went on to play in college.
While South Gwinnett had several crucial positions to fill this season, the potential fill-ins are likely to be upperclassmen.
“We lost some quality kids,” Davenport said. “Five or six Division I kids on the defensive side of the ball. We’ll be relatively new, but we won’t necessarily be young because we have a lot of juniors that are turning seniors in those positions.”
Kevin Lindsey and Nicolas Grier will be featured on the defensive line. Grier was South Gwinnett’s fifth defensive lineman last season and started four games in place of current Florida State defensive tackle Robert Cooper, who missed time due to an injury.
South Gwinnett returns two starting defensive backs from 2017, making the secondary one of the most experienced spots on the field. Joshua Sery and Jaden Woods are seniors who have played safety and cornerback in their South Gwinnett careers. Both swarmed the ball with 43 and 31 tackles, respectively, in 2017.
“We think we’re tremendously good in the secondary,” Davenport said. “(Sery and Woods) had tremendous junior years. Those are certainly two of the kids that we expect big leadership out of on defense.”
To add to the heap of losses from 2017, both of South Gwinnett’s kicking specialists graduated. Davenport said kicking was one of the biggest holes to fill in the offseason. While South Gwinnett split kicking and punting duties between two players last year, Davenport had a notion that one player could play both positions for the Comets in 2018. … Terell Smith, last year’s kick returner, will continue his football career at Minnesota. Samuels projects to factor into some of the kick and punt return duties, but Davenport is not concerned with finding a fit for the position with the Comets’ wealth of speedy athletes.
— Taylor Denman