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Screven County looks to get over second round hump
Screven WEB

 30 minutes northeast of Bulloch County lies Screven County, whose county seat, Sylvania, has a population a tenth the size of Statesboro. 
Screven’s most notable citizen is New York Yankee World Series champion Bucky Dent, but outside of the shortstop – the small, rural border county isn’t known for much. However, every fall surrounding area football teams know Screven County for their Gamecocks – who look to reach double-digit  wins for the fourth time in five seasons.
    “It’s important to instill pride, because when I got here there wasn’t a whole lot,” said head coach Ron Duncan. “It’s still a work in progress though.”
    It’s not as if Screven was completely devoid of success before Duncan arrived from Seneca, SC in 2012. In 2002 the Gamecocks captured their third region title in a row on top of a 15-0 state championship season. 2003 even saw a 10-2 season, but between 2004 and 2011 Screven County was 36-46 and 0-2 in the playoffs.
    “It kind of bottomed out right before I got here. I brought some coaches with me and we had a good core staff. The players bought in and everyone worked extremely hard,” Duncan said. “They do what we ask them to do and that’s how we got things going, we’ve been 10-2 three out of the last four years and we’ve lost to some pretty good teams. We need to get over that hump.”
That hump is the second round of the playoffs, which Screven has been knocked out of in each of their double-digit win seasons. Region championships haven’t been elusive though, as Duncan has won two in 2012 and 2014. As the San Francisco Giants would say – it is an even year.  
    “Jefferson County went 12-2 last season and beat us for the region last year,” Duncan said. “But we beat them two years ago. Laney High School comes down from AAA last season and will be good. But those are the two teams I’d say will pose the biggest challenge for us.”
    The Gamecocks have plenty to be optimistic about beyond their region and state outlook. The makeup of the roster has the components to get over the second round hump – seven seniors and 30 juniors to fill in behind them. This is a team that has all upperclassmen starting in 2016, with all five starters returning on the offensive line for the first time in Duncan’s tenure.
10 of those junior starters return from duty last season, and five of those juniors have started since they were freshman. So any concerns about losing five players to college football, two of them to D-1, can be squashed right there.
    “No one in this group has complained once over the summer,” Duncan said. “It’s a lunchpail kind of group.  They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do and we’re very pleased.”
Perhaps the most talented of those juniors is defensive tackle C.J. Wright, who was named all-state by the Atlanta-Journal Constitution and many other publications. Standing six foot one, 290 pounds, Wright can bench 500 pounds and will be the heart of the Gamecocks defense. It should be noted he’s also the teams’ starting fullback, so Screven County opponents should be weary of Wright on both sides of the ball.
    “He’s one of our guys who’s getting some college attention,” Duncan said. “C.J. will be one of the players who carry our success.”
Screven’s defense is littered with upper-class talent. JaTarri Tanksley will be the featured player in the secondary, and has speed to burn as the runner-up in the 100 meter dash final in the spring. Richmond Whitfield returns as the team’s leading tackler and play caller for the defense.
    “I take personal pride on the defense. I am the mike, so I call the plays,” Whitfield said. “It puts a lot of pressure on me. I don’t want to hear it from Coach Duncan if something goes wrong. Our one goal is to win and continue winning.”
    On offense Screven returns eight starters, as already mentioned five on the offensive line, a quarterback, wide receiver and fullback. The best of the bunch will be junior Tyquan Johnson, who already has offers from Georgia Southern amongst other schools and holds many of Screven’s receiving records after only two years of playing.
Junior Armani Bunbury will return as the quarterback, and will be the most important cog in Screven’s I-option offense. Bunbury rushed and passed for a combined 2000 yards last season, and those numbers will look to improve in 2016 behind an experienced front line.  
    “I think we’re good enough to win state,” said senior center Stephen Thompson. “We just have to say committed and focused.”
    Screven opens their season tomorrow against Bluffton High School from South Carolina at the Erk Russell Classic. Kickoff is set for 5:00 p.m. at Paulson Stadium.