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Youth movement over in Claxton, Tigers ready to punce
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    CLAXTON — The youth movement in Claxton is over.
    When coach Allen Cartwright arrived at the Pecan Grove in 2005, he was handed nothing but freshmen.
    Now, after five straight losing seasons, the Tigers are hoping this is the year many of their young players of years past are ready to grow up and give CHS a positive record in 2008.
    “Two years ago we had to play with several freshmen — we had a large freshmen class, and our numbers weren’t real good,” said Cartwright. “This year they’ll be juniors, and we do expect the experience those guys have picked up over the last two years to translate in some improvements on the field.”
    Claxton was just 2-9 in 2007, but made the playoffs out of Region 3-A. They’re looking to build on that playoff berth in 2008.
    “Everything’s real positive right now,” said Cartwright. “We had a great summer, we got a lot stronger in the weight room — the kids have been working extremely hard. Leadership is much better and so far we’re healthy. Everything’s going good so far.”
    A big part of the momentum is running back Jamalcolm Morgan, who rushed for 1,172 yards.
    Morgan, a junior, will be leading the way offensively for Claxton’s option-attack which averaged 17.7 points/game in 2007. Quarterback will be a big question mark with the graduation of Tristian McCoy.
    “Offensively, we feel like we should be okay,” said Cartwright. “It usually takes a little while to really get the timing and everything down in the Wing-T offense that we run, but we think by the time region play starts that will be one of our strengths.”
    Michael Davalos is gone from the offensive line, but Cartwright feels CHS should still be strong up front with Mac Edwards, Wesley Smith, Lorenzo Love and Anthony Lewis.
    Felles Grant and Chris Bellamy should also see plenty of totes from the backfield.
    On defense, coordinator Charrard Freeman is now at Portal, so Patrick Hendricks has taken the reins of the Tiger defense. Cartwright expects a more attacking style of play on that side of the ball.
    “We’ll still base out of a 50,” he said. “But with all the spread (offenses) we’re starting to see, we’ve had to modify and tweak our defense a little bit. We’re going to be more of an attacking team this year — take some chances and get after some folks.
    “We realize at times it’ll be a gamble, but we’re trying to get our guys running a little bit.”
    Tray Bacon anchors the defense from the linebacker position while Quin Bacon will be key on the line.
    Antoine Freeman, Xavier Slater and Demetri Middleton are all solid in the secondary.
    The Tigers gave up 314 points in 2007, and that included a shutout. Still, after an 0-5 start, CHS slipped into the the playoffs as a No. 4 seed. They lost to Clinch County by 27 in the first round of the GHSA Class A playoffs.
    Making the playoffs will be a little bit trickier in ‘08. With a sub-divided Region 3-A, the Tigers will have to win in Week 10 to get to the postseason.
    “Our side of the region is going to be very competitive,” said Cartwright. “Savannah Christian comes down from double-A, and they will probably be the team to beat. After that, I think you got a scramble for the remaining spots.”
    The Tigers have a great chance to get off to a fast start. After opening the year at Tattnall County, CHS hosts Metter and Montgomery County. Those latter two teams  went a combined 0-20 in 2007.
    “(We have to) stay healthy — we don’t have a lot of depth,” Cartwright added. “We have to win the close games. Last year we lost some games that we were leading at halftime. We played very well in quarters and in halves, but we were really never able to play well throughout an entire game.
    “If we can learn how to play four quarters we could be a pretty decent football team.”