Georgiana finds new starting quarterback

Published 5:03 pm Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Georgiana Panthers will have a new face under center when the season kicks off in roughly two weeks.

Senior Alen Smith will take the mantle of starting quarterback, with Jacquez Payton serving as backup in addition to his new roles as a running back and slot receiver.

Georgiana head football coach Ezell Powell said that Smith had the physical tools necessary for the position last year, but Payton grasped the new system faster.

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Regardless, the decision to use Payton elsewhere was a tough one, but it’s a move he believes will ultimately pay off.

“It was a big decision, but we feel that it gives us the best chance to be successful all the way around, with him possibly playing slot receiver, running back and quarterback and having to worry about different areas in the ball game,” Powell said.

“It also allows for some other guys to possibly have breakout seasons because so many teams focus on him at those positions and it allows other kids to be good weapons for us.

“Jacquez is our workhorse right now, so we’re going to do the best we can to get the ball in his hands in different facets of the ball game and try to be successful doing it.”

Payton’s new role on Georgiana’s offense is the beginning and end of the list of changes made to the team’s overall system.

The notable difference lies within the players themselves, as Powell expects his players to play faster than last year with more reacting and less thinking.

And though his team’s focus on fundamentals hasn’t changed, a healthy offseason means his players now see the bigger picture more clearly than ever before.

“We understand how the little things we were focusing on last year are so important to the overall success of each ball game,” Powell said.

“So they understand now not to neglect the little things as much as last year because they weren’t sure how those small things played in the big picture like they do now.”

Having a proper spring and summer to prepare means past few months have been spent on a great deal of strength training and conditioning to even the odds against teams that gave the Panthers trouble in 2013.

One of the biggest surprises for Powell this summer was discovering that those efforts in the weight room would be led not only by seniors, but by underclassmen, as well.

“There are some 10th graders stepping up and leading,” Powell said.

“We’ve got seniors, juniors and sophomores that all understand the importance of leadership, and it really makes for a good football team not only now, but also in the future.”

The Panthers will travel to face Prattville Christian, last year’s preseason opponent, for the first regular season game of 2014 on Aug. 22.

The game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.