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Screven County poised for run at region crown

SYLVANIA — What started off as a new beginning for Screven County football has quickly escalated into a full-blown Cinderella season.

Winners of just five games over the course of the 2010-2011 seasons, the Gamecocks brought in some new blood in hiring Ron Duncan away from Elbert County. New schemes and old troubles aside, Screven County caught fire early and has stayed hot, blazing its way to a 5-1 record as it gets ready to head down the home stretch of the regular season.

"I’m definitely pleased at the amount of success that we’ve had so far," said Duncan. "From the first day that I got here in January, I think the coaching staff really got the feeling that the kids were willing to buy into what we’re trying to do."

That sort of commitment couldn’t have been easy for many of the Gamecocks. For the seniors on the squad, Duncan marks the third head coach in their four-year careers. Aside from that, nobody on the roster has ever experienced a winning season at the high school level.

Things started changing throughout spring and summer workouts, but it wasn’t until the first games of the season that the Gamecocks’ transformation was evident to fans.

Screven got things started with a blowout win over Groves. From there, the Gamecocks have been in plenty of closer games, but have had the determination and talent to come away with wins in all but one contest.

"I think that speaks to our guys’ belief in what we’re trying to do each week," said Duncan. "We’ve come from behind in almost every game. We still have lots of things that we can improve on, but we know that we have what it takes to win week in and week out."

Screven has also enjoyed racking up some payback on rivals for the recent losses that it has endured. In the second game of the season, the Gamecocks stormed back to wrestle a win away from an Effingham County team that had defeated them in each of the past two seasons.

The Gamecocks’ biggest returned favor — and the win that has put them in the driver’s seat of Region 3-AA — came on Oct. 5 as they traveled up to Augusta and notched a hard-earned 21-20 win over preseason region favorite Laney.

"We heard a lot leading up to that game about how Screven never does well up at Laney," said Duncan. "But this is a new team. One thing that really doesn’t get discussed a lot around here is anything from last year or anytime before. We’re focused on what this year’s team can accomplish."

The answer to that — so far — has been plenty.

Four-year starting quarterback Aikeem Mingle has progressed nicely in adjusting to the new option offense while Jeremy Johnson has already eclipsed 20 touchdowns on the season. As the Gamecocks get more comfortable with the base option schemes, Duncan has opened up the playbook, leading to a more balanced and even more dangerous attack.

Defensively, plenty of Gamecocks are getting their first chance to shine. Screven has allowed its fair share of points this season, but the defensive execution is a far cry from the squads of previous seasons that were apt to give up plenty of big plays.

"We came into this year with just two returning starters," said Duncan. "And we lost one of them for the season early on. These new guys have gelled as we’ve gone along. That’s how this whole team has been. We’ve come together, but we still have a long way to go."

Screven County is currently tied with East Laurens as the only two unbeaten teams in region play. With a win over Westside, Augusta in Sylvania Friday night, the Gamecocks can put themselves in line for a showdown against East Laurens in Dublin next week.


Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.