Expect a lot of changes when the Briarwood Academy Buccaneers open the 2005 football season by playing host to Memorial Day School of Savannah at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 19.
"We're changing the offense. We're changing the defense. We're going to throw the ball more than anyone has ever seen," Coach Jimmy Barnett said.
Briarwood Head Coach Jimmy Barnett sets an example for his players.
The Bucs have a larger number of skilled players in positions than in the past, according to Coach Barnett, who said he is extremely pleased with his team.
"The turn-out was tremendous" for the first week of practice, he said of the 28 players out for the varsity and 28 more for the junior varsity. "All that heat and working from 8 (a.m.) until 4 (p.m.) daily, and I never heard one complaint."
The addition of Kenny Haney and Josh Morey to the coaching staff has been a big help, too, according to Coach Barnett, who said the additional help has given him time to work on the Bucs' new "system."
"Not only have I changed the system, I've moved the kids around to match the system," he said.
His decision to throw more has already paid off, according to Coach Barnett.
In a practice scrimmage earlier this month against John Milledge Academy in Milledgeville, junior David Russell threw a 40-yard TD pass to sophomore Dave Joesbury for the first score of the scrimmage, and then freshman Chase Walker "turned around" and threw a 25-yard TD pass to senior Blake Stitcher for another score.
In addition to Joesbury and Stitcher, the Bucs are counting on junior Kyle Ewest, who caught some passes for the Bucs last season, to catch even more this year. Ewest is also expected to see some playing time in the backfield, according to Coach Barnett.
Of course, the Bucs will still be running.
"I grew up running the football," Coach Barnett said. "Running the football is still our basic, but we're going to play a different game than our fans are used to seeing."
The Bucs are facing a tough season, mainly on the road.
"We don't have any breaks," Coach Barnett said. "It's going to be a hard road, but one that I look forward to playing. I think it's going to be an exciting season."
The Bucs will open their season with one of their only four home games - Memorial Day School of Savannah - a complete unknown, according to Coach Barnett.
"They've got a new coach, and I don't know what he's going to do," Coach Barnett said. "I'm going to call around and see if I can find out something about him."
Another home game is with nearby Thomas Jefferson Academy of Louisville.
"T.J. has probably one of the best ball clubs we'll face all year," Coach Barnett said. "They've got tremendous speed."
Another long standing nemesis as well as Region 1AA rival, Gatewood School of Eatonton, should have an outstanding team.
"Gatewood has hired Charles Winslette," Coach Barnett said. "He's one of the most successful coaches in the state with over 300 wins. He's going to make Gatewood competitive in a very short time."
Gatewood, Curtis Baptist School of Augusta, Edmund Burke Academy of Waynesboro, and Brentwood School of Sandersville, make up the Bucs' Region 1AA. Of the four region games, the only home region game is with EBA on October 14, which is also Homecoming for the Bucs.
The Bucs are ready to rise to the challenge, according to Coach Barnett, who said team members came to school the first day of practice ready to play.
The Bucs have nine freshmen out for the team - Cane Gilmer, Price Chalker, Nick Dawson, Jonathan Gay, Ben Raburn, Matthew Graziano, Reed Wheeler, Chase Walker, and Corey Davison.
"They'll be seeing some playing time," Coach Barnett said.
The Bucs have a solid line "up front protecting us." Junior Chase Wilson, senior Will Quinn, senior Jason Dunham, and sophomore Andrew Johnson not only have "gelled" as a line, but they add some rare size to the Briarwood line, which has, at least in recent years, been small.
"They've got a lot of responsibility, and they're working together really, really well," Coach Barnett said. "I've been real pleased with them."
Sophomores John Spivey and Carl Chapman will also be playing on the line, Barnett said, adding that he expects the two to see a good deal of playing time.
Senior Micah Black is "very, very quick. He's going to play some at nose guard and some at offensive guard."
The Buc backfield should be extremely strong and experienced this season with returners Tyler Wester, David Russell, and Jacob Gay.
The Bucs have an unusual number of good backs on the team, according to Coach Barnett. Senior Dustin Pilgrim, juniors Chris Gerlach and Davis Griffin, and sophomores Hughlon Mays and Ethan DeMore will be carrying the football for the Bucs.
The Bucs' backfield has one big question mark - junior Joseph Batrous, who played a major role on last year's team in both the offensive and defensive backfields, is injured.
"Joseph pulled a tendon in his hand in a freak accident while we were working out," Coach Barnett said. "It's a nagging injury, and it's not a quick healing injury. We don't know when he'll be back."
The Buc backfield has one unusual requirement this season.
"I've told my backs that in order to have a successful football team, they're going to have to play in the line," Coach Barnett said. "That's what I'm doing to create depth."
Meanwhile, the Bucs will spend the final days of practice before the season opener working to nail down a position.
"Their position at the present time is member of the Briarwood football team," Coach Barnett said. "It's an open competition."