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Warriors commit to improvment in second season

As a first-year coach of a first-year program, Rodney Holder knew last year that building a program wouldn't happen overnight.

So instead of trying to force too much on his young team by telling them what to do, Holder decided he would show them instead.

The Warriors played a 10-game schedule, complete with nonregion games. Three of the opponents -- Buford and Northside-Warner Robins on the Georgia side and Fairfield Central in South Carolina -- were programs that have grown to be among the best in their respective state.

If his players could see what successful programs look like, Holder hoped they could understand what Grovetown is trying to build toward.

"By playing guys like that," Holder explained, "it gave not only our kids a chance to see it up close on the field, but it also gave our fans a chance to see it when we traveled to Buford and Northside and had Fairfield travel to us."

The next step in the right direction, he said, is committing to getting better. Xavier Crain has taken that role.

The starting quarterback and free safety has served as one of the team's leaders heading into the season.

"When you take ownership and pride in conditioning, it's the sense that you don't want to be the guy who gets tired," Holder said. "The nonselfish approach is what's important."

Along with the dual-threat quarterback, the Warriors will rely on a group of running backs that features a veteran and several young standouts.

D.J. Tyson transferred from Greenbrier High School to Grovetown this summer. He should get plenty of opportunities to show off his speed.

Jamal Cummings leads a contingent of sophomore backs, which includes Terrell Hughes and Devin Bryant. Against Northside-Warner Robins last season, the then-freshman nearly reached 100 yards rushing. With departing senior workhorse Seth Hill out of the picture, the backs should all get plenty of touches this season.

Defensively, Crain will anchor the secondary along with senior cornerback Tae Miller. Meanwhile, senior Chris McElhaney will roam the middle of the field at linebacker.

Holder said the goal of the defense in preseason practice was to make the next step in understanding game situations.

"Just understanding how to transition into different downs. ... We're just pushing these guys to understand the game of football," Holder said.

Web posted on Thursday, August 26, 2010

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