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Brookwood knocked off No. 1 ranked Lassiter in the first round of the state playoffs last year. The Broncos used a game-winning field goal by Brandon Morrow for the win and the senior is back. However, he’s one of a few returning starters for the Broncos.
“I know we don’t have a bunch of superstars and that kind of stuff, but we have a good bunch of kids,” Brookwood head coach Mark Crews.
Brookwood’s closest thing to a high-profile player is Josh Brown (pictured), a Division I prospect at running back.
“Josh is a good player, he just hasn’t played a whole lot at running back yet,” Crews said. “When he does, he’s a pretty good player.”
After two years as a backup, Joey McLane takes over at quarterback. His older brother Ben led the Broncos to the 2010 state title.
“Joey has been a backup for two years, but he has a good pedigree at quarterback,” Crews said.
Matt Price, Central Gwinnett transfer Michael Allen, Grant Hill and track standout Bailey Vitatoe have emerged as McLane’s top receivers this summer.
Joe Kelley, a college prospect, is the Broncos’ only returner on the offensive line, which averages 6-1.5, 260 pounds.
“We’re big on the offensive line. Bigger than we’ve been in four or five years,” Crews said. “That doesn’t mean we’re very good yet, but we have some big ‘ol physical kids that have a chance. The offensive linemen sort of have to gel. I think if we can get Josh behind those guys, we’ll be pretty good at running the ball.”
Brookwood’s defense was a weak spot last season, allowing 410 yards and 28 points a game. Crews believes the unit will be better this year, especially in the secondary.
“I think we’ll be better on defense. We better be better on defense,” Crews said. “We had some inexperience in the secondary. We gave up too many big plays. If we improve and get better in the secondary and on defense, then I think we’ll improve on what we did last year.”
The secondary returns three starters in DaQuan Joy, Nick Aube and Matt Price, who led the team in interceptions with four.
Linebacker Chris Dancy will be a three-year starter and is the county’s top returning tackler with 153 stops last year. Hobby McCain is also back at linebacker and brings great leadership. Rivion Johnson and Frank Robinson will also compete for playing time at LB.
The defensive line will feature some fresh faces with Zach Williams as the only returning starter at defensive tackle. Nick Coker will play the other tackle spot, while Nigel Simmons, Chad Price, Casimir Miles and Ian Barnett will rotate at the ends.
Crews is entering his 12th year as Brookwood’s head coach, which is the fifth longest active tenure in Class AAAAAA.
During that time, Crews has learned it’s not how about your team that determines your success, but your opponents as well.
“There’s so many variables, particuarly playing in our league, that sometimes it’s not how good you are, but how good everyone else is, too,” Crews said.
Brookwood is 104-34 under Crews, which includes four region titles and the 2010 state championship.
“Barring injury, I think we have a chance to be pretty good again,” Crews said. “The expectations are always sort of high around here.”
Offensive coach Mike Owens left Brookwood to take the head coaching job at Chattahoochee. The Broncos added two former players to their staff. Philip Jones was a captain on the 1996 state championship team and spent the last two seasons as the head coach at Banks County. His father, Tom, is the offensive line coach at Brookwood and brother Tommy is the head coach at Dacula. Brian Thomason, who played at Brookwood in the early 2000’s also joined the staff. … Brookwood has 82 players on the varsity from 10th through 12th grade, including 40 seniors. … Of the 82 players on the team, only three missed summer workouts and had to perform the conditioning test.