Hornets trying to overcome offseason setbacks

Hyosub Shin hshin@ajc.com

When Ken Cofer took over as head coach for Cook in 2010, he took the Hornets to new heights as he led them to a 12-win season for the first time since 2001 (according to GHSFHA.org).


The No. 7 Hornets have not been able to get back to the quarterfinals or further in the last two seasons as they lost to Elbert County in the second round in 2011 and lost to Lamar County in the first round of the playoffs last season.


Things were looking up for the Hornets this upcoming season because running back Grant Wilson was returning. Wilson was one of the highlights for the Hornets against Lamar County, rushing for 51 yards in the loss.


However, Wilson suffered an ACL tear during spring practice and will not play a down this season.


And if that’s not enough, two of team’s starting linebackers have moved away. So Cofer and the Hornets will have some work to do in order to fill those voids. Not only that, the Hornets will have a number of other positions to fill because they only have five starters returning on offense and four returning on defense.


“We’re going to be a young football team,” Cofer said. “Losing the starters hurts us, but we are going to be young anyway.”


On offense, the Hornets may have to use two running backs to replace Wilson. Jay Smith and Jalen Bennett are the two guys that will get the majority of the snaps.


“They played a little bit last season,” Cofer said. “But whenever they were out there, they showed out.”


Another position they will have to replaces is the quarterback spot as sophomore Connor Hilliard and Junior Kyle Ashley have been competing since spring. Hilliard is also a standout baseball played while Ashley is a transfer from Colquitt County.


Whoever wins the battle will already have an established receiver to throw to. Tavian Allen started as a freshman last year and is considered the “real deal” according to Cofer. The offense also has a leader on the offensive line in Michael Moore has been an anchor for the line the last couple of years.


The talent is there for the Hornets to do some big things on offense, but because of the youth at key positions, they may have to scale some things back compared to last season.


“We are going to take a little bit off the playbook,” Cofer said. “We want to run the football, but we will run out of multiple fronts.”


Cook will also run multiple formations on defense. With its two top linebackers gone, Spencer Joiner will look to lead the unit as well as the rest of the defense. Cofer said that the depth on defense is not there but he does like the team speed and the way they get after people.


The special teams could be the strongest unit for the Hornets because kicker Rocky Andres was a stable for them last season. Cofer said he was huge for them in 2012 and can do many things for them on special teams.


Cook was able to reach the playoffs last year as a No. 4 seed. In order to be a No. 1 seed, the Hornets will have to win some key home matchups including Brooks County (Oct. 25), Fitzgerald (Oct. 4) and Early County (Nov. 8). But that’s not the only thing Cook has to do in order to improve from last season.


“We have to be more aggressive on the offensive and defensive line,” Cofer said. “We also have to give the quarterback some confidence and we do that by good line play.”


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