Houston County moves on from Fromm in Thursday nightcap against Jones County

Jones County

In the Corky Kell Classic Thursday night game at 8:15 p.m., the Houston County Bears and Jones County Greyhounds meet for the seventh time in the programs’ histories. The two schools are recent region mates, meeting four years in a row from 2012-15, with each winning two. Now, Houston County is in its second year of Class AAAAAA play and Jones is a classification under it.

The Bears are coming off a 7-3 season in which they were ranked No. 1 in the state for a significant period of time but missed the playoffs in an exceedingly tough Region 1 that sent four different teams to the top of the polls. With record-setting quarterback Jake Fromm now at UGA and former assistant Ryan Crawford in his first season as head coach, Houston County is looking for a new identity.

“Jake did so much for our program,” Crawford said. “He did a great job of leading our program, he made a lot plays that made a lot of people look good. So without having that presence, we have to find who’s going to be that next guy to step up and make plays.”

“You don’t replace a guy like Jake Fromm,” Crawford continued. “Those guys are once-in-a-lifetime players.”

Justin Rogers enters his fourth season at Jones County after leading the Greyhounds to a second-round playoff exit to Buford in 2016. He has led the program to its most successful three-year stretch in its history, but Jones County will also be replacing a prolific quarterback in Bradley Hunnicutt. Senior Teldrick Ross, who has starred for the Greyhounds at cornerback and saw spot duty at quarterback when Hunnicutt was injured, will step in. Ross (6-1, 205) can run and throw, and he has senior receiver DeQueze Fryer in the team’s spread offense. Senior Quay Betha returns on the offensive line, and senior running back Drake Bolus rushed for over 1,000 yards last year. The Greyhounds return four players on offense.

On defense, Jones County brings back five starters including outside linebacker Corlen Williams, one of the state’s leading tacklers. At inside linebacker, Demontae Trawick and Antonio Evans also return, giving the Greyhounds three senior standouts at linebacker. Ja’Darien Boykin is a junior starter on the defensive line. Jones County will run a 4-2-5 on defense.

With just nine overall returning starters, Rogers is interested to see how his younger players perform on a big stage.

“I like our chemistry and our character,” Rogers said. “We’ve just got a lot of guys that are a little inexperienced, maybe they played in different positions or it’s their first time getting to be a starter.”

The Bears will be inexperienced on offense, returning only two starters. Sophomore Max Rigby (6-2, 175) is athletic and will execute some run-pass option. Senior Trey Hill (6-3, 335) is one of the top offensive linemen in the country with offers from all the top college programs.

The Bears are all-new at the skill positions, which lost numerous players to graduation. Sophomore Wesley Steiner, junior Gerald Daniels and senior Xavier Martinez will all have a chance to step up at running back. Sophomore Kyah Plummer and junior Xavier Duncan will step in after the graduation of dynamic receivers Amari Colbert and Eli Watson, and senior tight end Jordan Martin will contribute in the passing game.

Defensively, the Bears, who run a 4-3 defense, are more experienced with six starters returning. In the backfield, seniors Khalil Polk and Kiefer Askew join juniors Ka’leil Johnson and Trey Franklin. Keishoen Jarrett and Zay Hicks long, rangy players at outside linebacker, both standing at 6-foot-3, and senior Jaiyon Nealy (6-1, 245) will star on the defensive line. The coaches are also excited about 6-foot-1, 290-pound sophomore defensive lineman Tylon Chambers, and juniors Jamir Best and Sion Spencer will also log a lot of snaps.

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