After a winless 2019, Armuchee expects improvement in 2020 with some old foes back in the mix. After GHSA region realignment, the Indians move from Region 7-AA to Region 6-A Public.
Head coach Jeremy Green, entering his third season with Armuchee, said the move down will provide a more even playing surface for the football team. Armuchee goes from the ninth-smallest school in Class AA (based on 2017 enrollment figures) to the largest Class A school (based on 2019 enrollment numbers).
“The two teams that we have played the most in the history of Armuchee football: No. 1 Trion, No. 2 Gordon Lee,” Green said. “To me, being an Armuchee graduate from the 90s, we’re going back home.”
Armuchee will be in a region with Bowdon, Trion, Gordon Lee, Mt. Zion (Carroll) and Business Engineering Science Tech (B.E.S.T.) Academy. But Green warned the competition will be fierce.
“This is not an easy region,” Green said. “In some ways, the football is better overall from top to bottom.”
Last season, Armuchee lost two key senior starters in running back and outside linebacker Gauge Burkett and running back/cornerback Brayden Presley. Burkett was named to the 2019 first-team offense and Presley was tabbed as a second-team defensive player.
This season, Green said he’s expecting guys like rising seniors Sylvester Bassey, Grant Taylor, Hayden Murray and Connor Buffington to step up into major leadership roles. Green said Bassey will be transitioning to the running back position for 2020.
For the quarterback position, Green said he has two athletes returning who have varsity experience: rising sophomore Chandler DeSanto and rising junior Kameron Parker.
“They’re both ... program kids (and) high character kids,” Green said. “We’re no where near deciding who our quarterback will be, but both of them are going to be on the field on offense or defense, regardless. Both of them are too good athletes ... to not play somewhere.”
During Armuchee’s Blue/White scrimmage at H.A. Lindsey Stadium, DeSanto got the start at quarterback. He took in a score from one yard out and found Bassey on a screen pass that went for a score. The duo showed flashes of the huge impact they can have on the offensive side of the ball.
The Indians are in search of their first win since a 35-14 senior-night victory over Dade County in 2018. Green said the program has been focusing on rebuilding the culture.
“When I got here, the focus was on a total rebuild,” Green said. “Total rebuild of the way we thought about football. We’re still pushing forward with our core values. We have our ‘I am an Indian’ values. I am tough. I work hard. I am dependable. I am reliable. We continue to focus on those things.”
The Indians dealt with plenty of injuries during 2019, including Green’s first and second-string quarterbacks. Green said he had to play a lot of younger kids on the field.
“I told those guys, ... regardless of how last year went, I wanted it to serve them later on in life,” Green said. “They went through something that’s very, very difficult and I want it to pay dividends down the road. You can already through the workouts we’re doing, our culture’s taking hold. We have more leadership than we had.”
As the 2020 campaign approaches, the Indians turn their attention to new beginnings as old rivalries are revived in a new region.
“We just have to focus on doing the things we’re supposed to do and we will build a successful football program,” Green said. “It’s just a matter of time.”
Armuchee will open its 2020 season at Towns County in Hiawassee on Friday, Sept. 4.