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The centerpiece of Mountain View’s offense the past few seasons and a four-year contributor at running back — powerful Marvin Elam — has graduated and that leaves an offensive void for Mountain View.
Elam topped the 1,000-yard mark last season and scored 19 touchdowns the past two seasons.
“It is a little weird not seeing Marvin running the ball back there after starting all four years,” Mountain View head coach Doug Giacone said.
A running back by committee solution is the plan for replacing Elam and his production, with one back stepping to the forefront.
“Andre Joseph has done a great job sliding over and leading the way (at running back),” Giacone said.
Mountain View also will boast a new starting quarterback because of another graduation loss, two-year starter Chris Bartlett. Senior Crew Peery emerged as the new QB, displaying poise this spring and summer that pleased his coaches.
He won a position battle in camp with a pair of sophomores.
“(Peery) has a calm about him,” Giacone said. “He doesn’t get rattled easily. He just had good, consistent development throughout the spring and summer.”
Kielan Whitner (pictured), Greg Burns and Mark Adams also figure to be playmakers as the Bears move to a more multiple offense and don’t rely as much on the option.
The unit got a boost up front with the return of Edwin Alvarenga, who missed last season with an injury. Giacone also said that senior Tommy Coggins is much improved on the offensive line.
Like the offense, Mountain View’s defense lost one of its top players to graduation. William Tuider, an athletic linebacker and last year’s top tackler, now plays for Navy.
Despite that loss, the linebacker position looks to be one of the strongest on the defense thanks to the return of Matt Buddan, Andrew Mozingo and Coleton Brindle. Brindle was second on the team with 57 tackles last season.
“Some of the experienced players we have at linebacker will be a strength,” Giacone said.
Noseguard Malik Johnson has been impressive in camp, while the coaching staff also expects a lot out of Whitner at free safety. Whitner was a second-team all-region pick last season after intercepting four passes as a cornerback.
He will play an even bigger role with his offseason switch to free safety.
“Kielan will do a great job in the back end, making adjustments and getting us aligned,” Giacone said.
The Bears are entering just their fifth year of football, but that youth hasn’t tempered the program’s expectations.
Giacone is the first to admit that he wasn’t happy with how last season, his first as head coach, went. Mountain View went 3-7, losing five of its final six games in a tough region.
Of those seven losses, all were by 21 points or more — Archer (46-7), Mill Creek (49-0), Collins Hill (40-7), Peachtree Ridge (34-12), Norcross (48-6), North Gwinnett (49-7) and Duluth (35-14).
“It’s a process and last year didn’t meet our expectations by any means,” said Giacone, who has coached the Bears since the school opened, previously serving as defensive coordinator. “We just weren’t very good. You go back to square one and you work on some things, and I’m having a ball this year. We’re farther along than we were at this point last year.
“I’ve been fortunate to have been part of some pretty good football teams and last year did not meet my expectation of a good football program and how the game should be played. It’s Year 5, either you show up and compete or you don’t.”
Giacone feels good that his team will meet his No. 1 goal — to compete.
Though the school’s enrollment still is below many Class AAAAAA high schools, Mountain View has its best-ever participation numbers with 84 seniors, juniors and sophomores. That’s on top of 40 ninth-graders.
It’s a huge change from 2009, the program’s first year. And it’s a growth process that Giacone has witnessed from the start through today.
“To go from the first year, when we didn’t look like a football team at times, to seeing us be able to compete at a high tempo and see our kids compete physically is great,” Giacone said. “That’s a big thing is competing physically and our strength and conditioning coach, Brad Palmer, has done an incredible job. A big difference between Year One and now is that the juniors and seniors understand they’re going to get coached up every minute they’re out there and they understand it’s for their betterment. They understand what they need to do to compete in Gwinnett County.”
Mountain View’s players will have a different look on the field after switching from their previous shiny, gold helmets to matte black helmets. The helmet logo colors also will tweak slightly with a black M with white outline and a gold V. … Giacone, not satisfied with just a managerial role, will coach the defensive backs himself this season. He also made some hires and staff changes, picking longtime college coach Nick Bach (previously at Buffalo) as defensive coordinator, while assistant coach Jason Turner has been promoted to offensive coordinator. The other two new hires are wide receivers coach Brian Tamalone and outside linebackers coach Ricky Aspinwall. … The Bears sport a strong group of sophomores, who went a program-best 4-3 last season in ninth-grade games.