Gordon Central head coach TJ Hamilton is going into his third season at the helm for the Warriors, and he said he’s seen his program make a lot of progress in the right direction over the last couple years in multiple areas.
His goal for 2021, however, is for everyone else to see that progress, and the most significant way to show it is on the scoreboard.
After back-to-back 3-7 campaigns in Hamilton’s first two seasons in 2019 and 2020, the Gordon Central alum is looking for his team to take a big step this Fall as they return some experienced players in important spots mixed with some younger guys that he believes are ready to step in and make an impact.
The first place Hamilton pointed to in order to show his team’s attitude has changed is the Warriors’ offseason program, which he said was very beneficial because of the commitment level of his players.
“We had 30-plus that made our summer workouts, and those are guys that we know we can count on this season,” said Hamilton. “Those kids gave up a lot of their summer to try to get better and stronger. We also had an OTA on June 24 with Trion, LFO and Darlington, and that got us better too. We got film from that and were able to correct some things. We moved some kids around, and I think that’s going to help us win more ballgames this season.”
After the successful offseason commitment, the Warriors opened preseason practice in the final week of July to officially kick off preparation for the 2021 season. While the sprint to the season has been accelerated by the earlier date for their preseason scrimmages and regular-season opener, Hamilton said he feels like his team has been able to get a lot accomplished in a short amount of time.
“We’ve been able to install our offense, defense and special teams,” said Hamilton. “That’s really a plus for us adding in special teams, which is something that usually takes longer to get time invested into so early in practice for the season. Leading up into the first week of practice, we felt like we were a couple players shuffling around away from being where we needed to be. We’ve been able to get that part set, our installation has been great and our acclimation has been great. We continue to add numbers as we started with 34 kids and now we’re up to 42. We’ll continue to grow in numbers when school starts back. I’m excited to play some football with this group.”
Starting on the offensive side, the strength of the group is evident as they return four of five offensive linemen with tons of experience according to Hamilton. Brock Shellhouse, Cade Hendrix, Ethan Hendrix and Paul Guerrero are expected to play a big part in the success of the Warriors’ offense with those four combining for a lot of previous starts over the past few seasons. Despite having to replace their top passer and rusher from 2020, Hamilton said his team has several players looking to make their mark at the skill positions, including Sean Gray, who will be used in multiple positions due to his playmaking ability, including quarterback, receiver, slot and running back. Deandre McIntosh is expected to play a bigger role in 2021 as an offensive weapon as well.
“Losing Tre (Williams) and Jordan (Boone) will be a huge blow, but we have guys plugging away to make up for that production on offense,” said Hamilton. “Sean Gray is very versatile and can play anywhere for us. We’ve got a strong, smart offensive line. A few of them have been playing together for four years so those guys can carry the load for us. We’ve got some younger guys that are going to get playing time as well and some tight ends and wide receivers that give us a chance to stretch the field and take some shots, which we haven’t been able to do as much the last couple years.”
The strength of the defense for Gordon Central is in the defensive backfield with several players returning at corner and safety coming off impressive 2020 seasons. Gray, Randall Carnes, Skyler Hill and Brison McGinnis are a few names to remember at defensive back.
The Warriors are a little younger on the first two levels of the defense at defensive line and linebacker, but Hamilton is excited about the potential to develop some playmakers at those positions.
“The back end of our defense is a strength with a senior-heavy group,” said Hamilton. “Randall Carnes, Skyler Hill, Brison McGinnis and Sean Gray are all good players and will be a plus for us especially against as many spread teams as we play. Up front, we’ve got some young guys that are going to get a chance to show what they have. We’ve got a young freshman that we think is going to be a stud in Matthew Hammock. He’s a long kid and really strong. We like what we see from the rest of our older front line guys too. They are going to give us everything they have every week. We’re a little younger at linebacker, but we’ve got a couple seniors that are going to get significant playing time for the first time this year and we’re looking to develop some other guys to contribute at that position too.”
The Warriors will scrimmage Gordon County rival Sonoraville on Aug. 13 at Ratner Stadium after their first preseason scrimmage against Villa Rica the week before. They open the regular season with four straight non-region road games as a trip to Woodland is first up on Aug. 20.
Gordon Central plays their first home game and their Region 7-AA opener on Sept. 24 when they host Fannin County.
Hamilton said his team has put in the work to improve and set themselves up for a solid 2021 season, but the key is for them to believe and play unselfishly and together through highs and the lows.
“Playing together as a team is going to go a long way in how well we do this year,” said Hamilton. “We still have a few guys with the ‘me’ mentality. We’ve got to break away from that mode. That will help us beat some teams and give us a fighting chance. There are some teams that have more talent than us or more kids than us, but our guys are hungry. If they can keep that attitude and play together and come back the same way from a win or a loss, we can have success this season. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do.”
Five Impact Players:
♦ Brock Shellhouse, OL, Sr.
♦ Cade Hendrix, OL, Sr.
♦ Ethan Hendrix, OL, Sr.
♦ Paul Guerrero, OL, Sr.
♦ Sean Gray, QB/RB/WR/DB, Sr.