Wildcats to face stern test in 13-0 Johnson County in state semifinals
Published 9:06 pm Monday, November 28, 2022
By Ken Gustafson
ELLAVILLE – The 2022 Schley County High School football team (SCHS) has accomplished something no other previous SCHS football team has ever done in the 22 years the school has been playing football. As a result of their 55-23 victory over Wilcox County in the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) Class A Division 2 state quarterfinals, the Wildcats (11-2) are now in uncharted territory. They have reached the state semifinals and are two wins away from claiming a state title.
Offensively, the Wildcats have relied on a strong running game from senior Malachi Banks and sophomore Zayden Walker. In 13 games played, Banks has rushed for 1,214 yards on 198 carries with 19 touchdowns on the year. Not to be outdone, Walker has amassed 345 rushing yards on 43 carries and has five touchdowns in just eight games played.
Junior quarterback Jay Kanazawa has been a steady anchor in the SCHS offense. So far this year, the junior signal caller has made himself one of the top passers in the state at the Class A Division 2 level, having completed 175 of 280 passes for 2,686 yards and 30 touchdowns.
Obviously Kanazawa has gotten a lot of help from his wide receivers. Junior four-star recruit JaLewis Solomon has 67 receptions for 876 yards and eight touchdowns, while sophomore Kendall Sims has a total of 292 receiving yards on 15 receptions, including four touchdowns. Another wide out that has stepped up in 2022 is senior Clinton Jackson, who so far has 451 receiving yards on 20 catches and eight touchdowns. One other wide receiver that has stepped up this year is junior Carson Westbrook, who has 443 receiving yards on 26 receptions, including four touchdowns. In addition to those afore mentioned receivers, junior Sam Forehand has also made a tremendous contribution in the Wildcats’ attack with 486 receiving yards on 34 receptions and three touchdowns.
While the SCHS offense has been stellar all year, the Wildcats could not have made it this far without their stout and opportunistic defense. Senior outside linebacker Luke Forehand leads the Wildcats in sacks with seven and has eight hurries, while Zayden Walker has a total of three sacks and 17 hurries on the season. Both senior OLB Demarkis Clark and junior Nose Guard Wyatt Halstead each have 2.5 sacks on the year and juniors Trenton Stubbs (NG) and Jack Clark (MLB), along with senior DT Reggie Hinton, each have two sacks on the year.
The Wildcats’ secondary has also gotten it done in 2022. Clinton Jackson leads SCHS in interceptions with six and Carson Westbrook has five interceptions on the year for SCHS. As a unit, the Wildcat defense has a total of 24 interceptions on the season and has recovered a total of 16 fumbles.
All of the afore mentioned statistics are a big reason for the success of the SCHS football team this year, but come Friday, December 2, the Wildcats will face the biggest test they’ve faced all year in the 13-0 and #2 ranked Johnson County Trojans in Wrightsville. JCHS is the Alma Mata of legendary UGA Heisman Trophy running back and current Georgia U.S. Senatorial candidate Herschel Walker.
The Trojans boast arguably one of the best running backs in the state in senior Germivy Tucker, who has been chasing Walker’s all-time rushing yards record (if he hasn’t broken it already). So far, Tucker has rushed for 2,698 yards on 264 carries and has 37 touchdowns on the season.
In addition to Tucker, the Wildcats must also content with JCHS senior running back Jakelvis Whitley, who has rushed for 814 yards on 94 carries and scored seven touchdowns. The Trojans have two other senior backs in the backfield that could pose a stern test for the SCHS defense. Dalton Brantley and Fred Butler each have rushed for over 300 yards on the season, with Brantley scoring 10 touchdowns.
Brantley is also the starting quarterback for the Trojans and can be dangerous with his arm as well as his legs. So far in 2022, Brantley has completed 22 of 39 passes for 407 yards and 14 touchdowns to one interception.
As far as the JCHS wide receiving corps is concerned, it is led by Whitley, who has 10 receptions for 230 yards and seven touchdowns on the season. Whitley’s teammate, junior WR Benvonte Murray, has seven catches for 142 yards and five touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Trojans have tallied 11 interceptions on the year, with three of them coming from Whitley, who plays free safety on defense.
“We have to stop the run game. We also need to be able to take what they give us on offense and not try to force things,” SCHS Head Coach Darren Alford said regarding how the Wildcats can pull off the upset. “We have to win the turnover battle and play discipline football.”
The Wildcats will try to continue making history when they travel out to Wrightsville to take on the JCHS Trojans on Friday, December 2. Kickoff from JCHS is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Information in this article was obtained from www.maxpreps.com.