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Butler County Jamboree draws large crowd

Georgiana running back Cameron Longmire hurdles a Greenville defender during Friday night’s Butler County Jamboree, a countywide culmination of spring training.

Georgiana running back Cameron Longmire hurdles a Greenville defender during Friday night’s Butler County Jamboree, a countywide culmination of spring training.

Butler County’s Friday Night Lights came to life a little early to provide an illuminating look at McKenzie, Georgiana and Greenville’s football teams.

The Butler County Jamboree served as a culmination to spring training for the area’s three schools as the Class 1A Georgiana and McKenzie combined forces to tackle the Class 5A giant Greenville Tigers.  Georgiana and McKenzie pooled resources and shared a sideline as the two traded offensive and defensive possessions against the larger Greenville Tigers.

Georgiana head football coach Ezell Powell said that considering the logistical challenges of sharing a sideline, things went smoothly.

“It gave you an opportunity to bring your group to the side and sit down and talk strategy,” Powell said.

“Greenville gets to do that because they have so many kids that play, while most of us play both ways, so you don’t have a chance to make adjustments between drives because players are going right from offense to defense.  So it gave us an opportunity to actually sit, talk about what the kids are doing wrong and actually make adjustments in the next drive.”

McKenzie head football coach Tony Norris added that the team-up was just as much of a benefit to Greenville as it was to Georgiana and McKenzie.

“That’s something that I’d talked about—I’d gotten a few ideas about that from some people around the area, and we wanted to try to keep our guys as fresh as we could,” Norris said.

“If we just played two quarters of what we usually played, then Greenville is not going to get to get a good look at some fresh guys.  Most of them only play one side of the ball, just like any other Class 5A team. So if we could keep our guys fresh, it could actually simulate a good game atmosphere for Greenville.”

Greenville head football coach Josh McLendon enjoyed the competitive nature of the jamboree, and it also proved an opportunity to see new blood—including sophomore quarterback Javion Posey and senior running back Jamarcus Jones—perform in game-like situations.

“Brandon Simmons had a concussion during spring, so we held him out,” Norris said.

“Javion Posey took all of the snaps for the first-team offense, and he did a really good job like I knew he would.

“Jamarcus has been a backup or a scout team guy, but he’s doing well this spring.  He played well for us with some good runs and good bursts of speed.”

The jamboree also provided all three coaches an opportunity to find chinks within their armor.  And for McLendon, the focal point for the coming summer was obvious.

“I think we’ve definitely got to get in the weight room and get bigger and stronger,” McLendon said.

“That’s one of the things that playing a tough non-region schedule, plus our region schedule which is always tough, you’ve got to get in the weight room and build that size and strength up.  I want to see us do that this summer—gain some weight and get bigger in some areas and the skill positions so we can play that long season.”

Though Greenville prevailed in both the junior varsity and varsity matchups, both Norris and Powell found no shortage of positives in their respective teams’ play.

Powell was pleased with the maturity of his relatively young players, who avoided a number of common pitfalls of spring training like blown assignments or needless penalties.

“After I watched film, I noticed it, and it’s one of the things that really pleased me with my guys—they showed that they knew what they were doing,” Powell said.

“There are some things to clean up and execute better, but it let us know that they understand the offense and defense.  We just have to take our approach to executing in some areas a little bit better.

“We know that this year’s team is capable of achieving just as much as we did last year.  We’re just going to go about it in a different manner. We have to rely on our defense to hold people, we have to execute on offense and not create turnovers or negative plays, and we have a chance to be just as successful.  We knew we had some young kids that have potential to be solid players behind those seniors who are leaving.  It’s just all about if they’re going to mature enough to be that caliber player this year.  Really, we don’t know until we get going in the fall.  But right now, we’re pleased with the effort of the kids, what they’re learning and the way they’ve executed so far.”

Norris was more than pleased at the defensive wall McKenzie mounted, particularly in the first half.  Though a simplified offensive playbook limited McKenzie’s ability to react to Greenville’s tricky defense, it was the Tigers of McKenzie who proved the top defense to beat Friday.

“I was really, really pleased with the play of the defense,” Norris said.

“We had some kids that really stepped up and played well on the defensive side of the ball.  What I like to do from the defensive side is know your assignment and give effort, and I got that from all of the kids.”