Southwest Dekalb is a team to watch in 2024

Southwest Dekalb had a new coach at the helm in Marion Bell in 2023 and went 2-8. As with taking over any team, there are challenges you face and usually a lot of inexperience. However, they showed signs of promise, and a lot of their underclassmen gained valuable experience. One of the bright spots last year was standout cornerback Therrian Alexander, who was a multisport athlete and one of the best track runners in the state in 2023.

“The main challenge was that I took over an inexperienced team. The team I took over was basically a JV team. None of those guys played varsity football except Therrian Alexander, who is at BYU. The biggest challenge was trying to get those kids to try to understand how to play and work for four quarters. That is kind of why we fell short last year,” said head coach Marian Bell.

“I learned my kids. I know my kids and I know what they can and cannot do. It allows me to coach them in a different way.”

Coming into 2024, the Panthers have a lot of talent. It starts with Sam Turner who has continued to generate a lot of buzz in the spring recruiting cycle. Turner was recognized by Adam Friedman of, as the best receiver in a skills showcase in South Carolina back in February. He is rated as a three-star player on 247Sports and has 15 offers notably from Georgia, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi State, BYU, and more. Brandon Gunn is another big-time player for Southwest Dekalb that holds offers from Georgia State, UMass, Georgia Southern, Kansas State, and more.

“I have a more experienced team and I have some talented kids. Sam Turner is 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds and has multiple offers from Power 5 schools. He is a big guy that runs great routes and has very good sudden quickness,” said Bell. “It’s hard for big guys to stick with him because he is probably quicker than a bigger corner, but he is too big for a small corner. That is what makes the matchup with him so difficult.”

“Brandon Gunn is a leader on the field and off the field. He is just a born leader. He is a tough football player who can play multiple positions. He is going to play some wide receiver for me. Gunn also played some quarterback last year for me. We are going to put him at tailback a little bit this year. He is a phenomenal athlete.”

Speed will be the name of the game for the Panthers in 2024. The Panthers have so many athletes who can stretch the field and are dynamic when they get the ball in their hands. Their underclassmen will be a group to watch. The JV track team won their first-ever Dekalb County School District Boys County Track Championship.

“Speed kills. We are going to be very fast on both sides of the ball. We are going to use those track guys to play on both sides of the ball to help take us to the region championship. This year I know what I’m working with. It’s going to be fun,” said Bell.

Another player to watch for the Panthers that could become big on the recruiting trail is Amari Scott. Scott is a rising sophomore who is having another stellar track season and recently set new personal records in the 110M and 300M hurdles.

“Amari Scott is going to be a really good football player and track runner here at Southwest Dekalb,” said Bell. “He grew and is about 6’2. He’s probably going to grow another two inches, so he is probably going to be between a 6’3 and 6’4 corner, who has length and speed. He played defensive end in youth league, so he is physical.”

A position of strength this year for Southwest Dekalb will be running back. They dealt with a few injuries last year including their leading rusher Joshua Jones, but this is a group that looks poised for a breakout.

“I think the running back group is going to put us over the edge. Joshua Jones was the starting running back last year and he got hurt. When he got hurt, it kind of threw us off a little bit. He’s back. Tamir Rudolph is a rising junior. We have running backs with experience, so I am looking forward to watching those guys run.

The Panthers also have two underrated studs on the defensive line Gregory English and Makhi Lombard. Both are great at creating pressure and causing havoc for opposing teams. Lombard and English will play pivotal roles for the Panthers next season. Southwest Dekalb will start spring practice a little less than a month from now and will play against a playoff team from last year in a scrimmage. Coach Bell and the Panthers are excited about the challenge.

“Spring practice starts on April 30th with nine practices in between then. In our spring game, we are going to play Frederick Douglass who has the #1 corner in the state and we believe is also the #1 receiver in the state. We are looking forward to the matchup,” said Bell.

The Panthers will be playing in a tough region this year after the GHSA re-aligned the regions for the next two years. Their region will include Clarkson, Cross Keys, Druid Hills, Lithonia, Marist, North Springs, Northview, St. Pius X, and Tucker. Southwest Dekalb has its sights set on the region and is doing big things next year.

“I think the region schedule is fair. We are going to play some tough teams, Marist being one. St. Pius is another. We got into a shootout with Tucker last year. It’s going to prepare us,” said Bell. “Our short-term goal is to win the region and that is the No.1 thing. The second thing is to get into the playoffs. We missed the playoffs. In the last three years, we haven’t made the playoffs. We want to get back to the playoffs so the kids can see what it is like to play past November.”

Not a lot of people are going to talk about Southwest Dekalb heading into 2024, but it is a team that possesses speed, good coaching, and a hunger for making the playoffs. The talent is certainly there and they will be a team to watch as some of their key players will take bigger roles on both sides of the ball and will be pivotal to their success.

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