Arabia Mountain’s first two varsity football opponents each won a state playoff game last season.
That caveat will not be lost on Rams’ players as they have a shot at a state playoff berth for the first time. DeKalb County’s newest school, in its second year, will play a full varsity region schedule after playing other first-year programs a year ago and posting a 2-5 mark.
Head coach Christopher Beal knows the road ahead is long but is hopeful he will see gradual progress this season. He will have Arabia Mountain’s first senior class at his disposal.
Quarterback John Bryant, who passed for 1,329 yards and six touchdowns a year ago, leads a group of about seven seniors.
The Rams were able to go through a full preseason conditioning program including spring practice, and summer camp. Beal did not report until June last season.
“A lot of the kids have gotten stronger,” Beal said. “They see the speed required to play in this system. As I tell the kids, each day we want to get better than the day before. We still have mountains to climb, and it’s going to be a challenge.”
Beal will take on that challenge with more players than in the inaugural season. There are about 86 players on the roster, with preseason practice started on Aug. 1. At this time last season, Beal said, there were 68 players participating.
“A lot of interest has been generated in the program,” Beal said. “I’m glad a lot of people want to be a part of the program.”
Prior to coming to Arabia Mountain, Beal spent a year as defensive coordinator at Johnson High School in Savannah, and a year as an assistant at Savannah State. Before that, he was an assistant for five seasons at Westlake in south Fulton County.
Beal has been building a program in a county rich with football talent since he arrived last summer. He is hopeful that talent will mature enough to compete in a rugged Region 5-AAA this season.
The Rams will run the spread offense again this season, and Bryant will have a solid group of junior receivers to work with. Junior Mials Woodberry leads the receiving corps after averaging 6.3 catches per game for 607 yards and four touchdowns.
“In our case, we have a shortage of big offensive linemen so the spread is a way to make the defense defend the whole field,” Beal said. “You can’t go crazy with it. You still have to develop a solid running game. But it’s more exciting, and it helps pack the stands more.”
The community’s anticipation of the Rams’ first full varsity season also should help generate crowds.