Photo: AJC Sports
Mays Raiders vs. West Forsyth Wolverines
The nightcap game on Wednesday evening pits the host West Forsyth Wolverines, under new head coach Dave Svehla, against a Mays program that is entering a rebuilding season after losing a large part of its team to graduation.
However, for Mays, things are looking promising leading up to the Corky Kell Classic according to coach Nikita Battle.
“So (we had) a little more explosion from some younger kids that I really didn’t put into the equation or plan this year,” Battle said of growth this offseason. “And all the numbers are still good. We have some real good numbers with our kids. We just rebuild and restructure everything on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively.”
In 2019, Mays finished with a 10-2 record and a second-round exit after losing to Coffee 59-36. The Raiders won the fourth region title in school history after championships in 2016-17 and 2003. Battle, who has been at Mays since 2016, has won a region title each season except 2018. Entering the new season, he knows there will be challenges.
“Defensively, we have one returning starter and we lost ten. And on offense, we lost seven and we are bringing back four kids that either started or had varsity experience. So you can see it’s a pretty much brand new team that we’re going to put on the field.”
On offense, Mays will need to replace quarterback Andrew Banks, who was 112-of-205 passing for 1,706 yards and 17 touchdowns to lead a Mays offense. Also lost to graduation was its leading rusher Tyree Nelson, who had 187 carries for 1,217 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. The Raiders also lost its two leading receivers in Zaire Thornton and Tavarious Carswell, who combined for 10 touchdowns receptions last season.
Youth at the quarterback position will be highlighted throughout the upcoming season for Mays. Three players, sophomores Saulaman Evans and Caamal Strickland and freshman Quintavious Johnson are listed as the front-runners at the spot. The Raiders got three varsity transfers who will factor in 2020. Junior free safety Justin Alexander, senior receiver James Copeland and junior linebacker Xadrian Butler.
The receivers corps did take a hit from graduation, however, sophomore Nagari Tophia, junior Amonte Duncan and senior Antonio Bell return. In the backfield, senior Danny Conley III returns with varsity experience.
On the other side of the field, host West Forsyth finished 5-5 last season in coach Shawn Cahill’s third season in Cumming. Following Cahill’s announcement that he would not return to West Forsyth, the program selected Svehla as its fourth head coach since its inception in 2007.
The Wolverines return quarterback Drew Southern for his senior season. In 2019, Southern was 86-of-180 passing for 979 yards and six touchdowns. In the backfield, the Wolverines return their leading rusher in Daba Fofana who carried 121 times for 535 yards and four touchdowns last season. The Wolverines averaged 140 receiving yards and 94 rushing yards in 2019 and after losing their leading receiver Casey Cowart, the focus will be replacing his production. In 2019, Cowart caught 50 passes for 711 yards and eight of the team’s 10 touchdowns receptions.
On defense, the Wolverines return three of their top-five leading tacklers with rising seniors Dalton Tjong and Hudson Posey and rising junior Bryce Allen. But for now, coach Svehla is spending his time through the pandemic doing the best he can to learn his new team and prepare for a hopeful future.
“People are excited to have football back,” he said. “I am excited about that opportunity. I am excited to have the Corky Kell, to have the media attention, to have the television and to have two really good games. I think they will be really good games and I’m excited.’’