Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Greater Atlanta Christian quarterback Rafe Chapple looks for an open receiver while competing in a passing league competition against Archer at Archer High School in Lawrenceville on Tuesday.
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A new era begins tonight at Greater Atlanta Christian.
Former Mountain View head coach Tim Hardy makes his debut with a home game against Stone Mountain, bringing with him a less conservative offense than what the Spartans have used in recent years. He also will have a new starting quarterback and a lineup of fresh faces as only three starters return on each side of the ball.
An aggressive 3-4 defense is promising, but much of the fans' focus will be the offense of Hardy, a former Wheaton College quarterback who coaches GAC's QBs and calls the plays as offensive coordinator. The offense will maintain some traits of the previous staff --ball protection and focusing on the run --but it should feature the pass more prominently.
"We're going to definitely commit to running the football, but we'll still probably throw the ball more than your average high school team," Hardy said. "I think we've got some potential on offense. To me, it's always about taking care of the football."
The guy guiding Hardy's offense is Rafe Chapple, the youngest of four brothers, all GAC quarterbacks. His older siblings Lee, Colton and Jarod all preceded him at the position.
Chapple pulled ahead of Jack McLaughlin in the preseason to earn the starting job.
"Rafe is a good player," Hardy said. "He's intelligent. He's got all the natural qualities you want in a quarterback. And he throws a good ball."
Kyle Scales returns as GAC's top offense playmaker. He's the starter at tailback, but Hardy also thinks Corey Stevenson will have a breakout year at that position despite an inexperienced Spartan line that has just one starter, Andrew Bartolomei, returning.
Peter Whiteneck and 6-foot-5 tight end Andrew Lewis have emerged as key targets for Chapple.
GAC, coming off an 8-2 season, will have a tough opener tonight against Stone Mountain, which also went 8-2 last year. The Pirates play in Class AAAA, two classes higher than GAC.
That's indicative of the Spartans' tough early-season schedule against teams from higher classifications. They also face Savannah (AAA), Apalachee (AAAAA), Chamblee (AAAA) and Thomson (AAA) in the coming weeks.