As Coach Jimmy Barnett begins his fourth season at the helm of the Briarwood Academy football program, major changes to the team's offense will be visible as the season starts.
The Buccaneers will kickoff their 2006 gridiron season this Thursday night, Aug. 31, in the "Backyard Battle" against the Edmund Burke Spartans in Waynesboro. Game time is 7:30 pm.
"Both schools are fired up about this game," he said. "T-shirts have been sold at both locations so the fans can get into the festivities also. This match-up between Briarwood and EBA can be related to the rivalries like Washington-Wilkes vs. Lincoln County and Thomson vs. Warrenton. It's going to be a great opening game."
Coach Barnett said he's scouted Edmund Burke, and they are "big, big and big."
"This will be one of the toughest openings I have ever been involved in," he said. "It's a classic mis-match game, where we have the quickness and they have the big size and strength. It's going to be an old-fashioned 'Smash Mouth' football game."
Briarwood Academy will have a few surprises in store for Edmund Burke and its other opponents this season. It is simply called an "air attack."
For the first time in years, the Buccaneers have a potent passing game that features a quick and agile quarterback and about nine elusive receivers. Even though the emphasis has been on the passing game this year, the Buccaneers have also worked on their ground game.
The 2006 roster of the Briarwood Buccaneers features 26 players that include eight seniors, five juniors, six sophomores and seven freshmen.
The senior class for Briarwood is David Russell, Davis Griffin, Joseph Batrous, Chris Gerlach, Jacob Gay, Kyle Ewest, Charlie Hall and Chase Wilson.
Members of the junior class are Dave Joesbury, Hughlon Mays, John Spivey, Leon Denard and Andrew Johnson.
Sophomores are Cane Gilmer, Nick Dawson, Chase Walker, Jonathan Gay, Ben Raburn and Mathew Graziano.
Freshmen include Matthew McElveen, Coty Clark, Eric Johnson, Adam Hardy, Jackson Lyons, Luke Cochran and Troy Stadler.
"Our overall strong point this season is our devoted senior class," Coach Barnett said. "These players are exceptional, outstanding and tremendous."
The starting offense for Briarwood that will see action against Edmund Burke is Russell at the quarterback slot, Jacob Gay at fullback, Batrous and Gerlach at halfbacks, Ewest at tight end, Joesbury at split end, Jonathan Gay and Andrew Johnson at tackles, Wilson and Spivey at guards and Graziano at center.
The starting defense will be Wilson at nose guard, Jonathan Gay and A. Johnson at tackles, Jacob Gay and Ewest at ends, Russell and Spivey at linebackers, Batrous at rover, Griffin at safety, and Mays and Gerlach at the corners.
"Our quarterback, David Russell, is a natural leader on the field, and he is a very crucial component in our passing attack," Coach Barnett said. "... He's a warrior on the gridiron. He'll throw and run with the ball to get the job done."
Over the past several weeks, the Buccaneers have been getting in tune by playing several scrimmages against some very tough teams. At one point during the middle of August, Briarwood played five teams in four separate scrimmages in an 11-day period.
"These scrimmages were very valuable to our team," Coach Barnett said. "We saw many different offensive schemes, from the spread offense and Wing-T, to the multiple offense that included the option look."
On Aug. 22, the Buccaneers traveled to John Hancock Academy in Sparta and took on Valwood Academy from Valdosta in the GISA Kickoff Classic. The Buccaneers' passing game was very effective, as they defeated Valwood 36-16.
"Offensively, we had four passing touchdowns and one score on the run," Coach Barnett said. "We moved the ball very well on them. The duo of Russell to Joesbury was very potent all afternoon."
Joesbury caught two touchdown passes during the afternoon, one from Russell and the other from Chase Walker. Ewest and Batrous also were on the receiving end of a Russell TD throw.
"Overall on defense, we hit them and stuck them all day," Coach Barnett said. "Our big licks came from Jonathan and Jacob Gay, Russell and Spivey. They set the tone for us."
Mays and Dawson recorded interceptions for Briarwood, and Jacob Gay batted a ball down.
"We thought their offense might give us a problem, but we kept them out of sync in passing," Coach Barnett said.
Helping Coach Barnett on the sidelines this year with the coaching duties are Josh Morey and Kenny Haney.
Coach Morey will serve as defensive coordinator for the Buccaneers. He is a 2001 graduate of Thomson High School and a 2005 graduate of the University of Georgia, where he received a bachelor of science degree in biology.
Coach Haney hails from the mountains of western North Carolina, where in high school, he was involved in football, basketball, baseball and track. He will also be serving as Briarwood's head junior varsity football coach.