Photo by Christine Troyke

Photo by Christine Troyke

With its rich history, Brookwood expects to win region championships and compete for state championships.

Despite a 6-6 season last year, there are reasons to be confident this fall. And it starts with senior quarterback Ben McLane, who returns as the county's second leading passer. McLane threw for 1,780 yards and 16 touchdowns, behind only South Gwinnett's Kent Rollins, last season.

"We know we have great talent, but, more importantly, we work hard and we have great character on our team," McLane said. "We're trying to make sure we make character first and hard work first."

In the regular season, McLane nearly rallied his team from a 15-0 halftime deficit against eventual region champion Grayson. He passed for two second-half touchdowns, including a 54-yard connection with Michigan State commit Andre Sims, to make it a three-point game early in the fourth quarter. Grayson, however, responded and went on to win 22-12.

Needing a win against cross-town rival Parkview to advance to the state playoffs, McLane sparked the Broncos' offense to a 28-14 victory. On the opening drive, he completed all four of his passes for 52 yards including a five-yard touchdown pass to Sims. He then connected with senior wide receiver Nick Moore for a 48-yard touchdown that proved to be the game-winning score.

In the first round of the state playoffs, Brookwood upset previously unbeaten McEachern 20-10 behind a stifling defense, a powerful running game -- and McLane's 133 passing yards. However, McLane and Brookwood's surging offense was stifled in the next round, falling to Peachtree Ridge 21-6.

"I think the end of last year was hard work finally paying off," McLane said. "We just kept at it and persevered through games when we played bad. We always kept working hard, always kept playing hard, and it paid off in the end."

While this is his third year as Brookwood's starting quarterback, McLane has also grown up around Brookwood's tradition of excellence. His grandfather was a volunteer trainer for Brookwood, his father has been an assistant coach for nearly 20 years and he saw countless Bronco games from the sidelines as one of the team's ballboys.

"He's grown up using our terminology," head football coach Mark Crews said. "He understands our system and what we're trying to do. He has a real firm grasp on our offense. If we can get an offensive line that will develop around him and do a good job, there's a chance for (McLane) to have a very special year."

McLane knows what it takes to be a leader on this year's team.

"I've been around the offense my whole life because I grew up around Brookwood football," McLane said. "I don't just go out and run the plays I'm told to, I can go out there and understand what I'm doing, why I'm doing it, how we're attacking the game and why we're running the plays we are. I can do my job better and help my teammates do their jobs better."

With McLane and Sims returning, among others, Brookwood is poised for a breakthrough season. The Broncos remain the last school to win Region 8-AAAAA other than Grayson, capturing both the region title and handing the Rams their last region loss in 2007.

"I think that over the course of last year, our leadership and the idea of develop a team instead of just some good players had grown," Crews said. "A lot of those things carry over from last year. It's not so much how we finished as much as what we could have done and should have done if we had done those things earlier in the season. I think they may have learned from their mistakes and we're looking forward to them having a great year."