TUNNEL HILL — In a season of uncertainty due to the new coronavirus (COVID-19), the Northwest Whitfield High School football program knows it has at least one thing figured out heading into the 2020 campaign: its starting quarterback.
Most sophomores are just beginning to make contributions to the varsity football team, but Owen Brooker already has an entire season of starts under his belt. As a freshman in 2019, Brooker passed for 1,561 yards and 14 touchdowns, rushed for 179 yards and four touchdowns and led the Bruins to a 7-4 record and a playoff berth in Class 4A.
Coming into 2020, Brooker has added weight, speed and the trust of his teammates and coaches at the clear-cut choice for signal caller.
“Last year he had a good year for a freshman, this year we want him to have a better year for a sophomore,” Northwest head coach Josh Robinson said. “Last year, we had limits on his decision-making, which in turn limits what we did. We’re turning him loose in that regard this year as well as running the ball more. We feel like he’s making that next step.”
Brooker, who’s put on 25 pounds in the offseason, said he’s excited to take on that coach’s challenge in his second season starting.
“I think I’ve gotten a lot better,” Brooker said. “There’s accountability now, I have to take the reins and be a leader.”
Outside of Brooker, the Bruins have several new faces to work into the starting lineup. Robinson said he expects to have 14 new starters on opening night.
“When you start the season with that many new people that haven’t had any first-game, beginning of the year varsity experience, that’s going to be tough,” Robinson said.
Brooker will have a familiar offensive weapon at his disposal, however, in senior Matthew Redmond. Redmond had 54 catches for 606 yards and five touchdowns in 2019 in addition to the work he did in the other two phases of football. He intercepted two passes as a defensive back and even was the Bruin punter.
The Bruins lose three of four starters from last year’s strong linebacker corps, but the returning starter is Jordan McCamish, who had 165 tackles a season ago.
The Bruins are stepping into a new region for 2020, moving from Region 6-4A to Region 7-4A, but that doesn’t change a whole lot at the top of the pecking order. All four of last season's Region 6-4A football playoff teams, including Northwest, will compete in Region 7-4A this year. Newcomers to Northwest’s region include two schools that competed in Class 5A last season, Carrollton's Central and Cedartown. Cedartown was a playoff team last season, while Central missed out.
“Cedartown is going to be a good team,” Robinson said. “I would say they’re going to be as good of a team as any in the region. Everybody else up here, we’re all familiar with each other, and I think a lot of the matchups are going to be really even.”
Colors: Blue and orange
Classification: Region 7-4A
Head coach: Josh Robinson
Last year’s record: 7-4
RB Gavin Ellis
OL/DL Jeb Brooker
LB Logan Akins
LB Bailey McQuaig
LB Colby Ramsey
DL Zach Costlow
DL Chase Humble
QB Owen Brooker, sophomore
WR/DB Matt Redmond, senior
WR Preston Nealy, senior
LB Jordan McCamish, senior
Circled on the schedule
@ North Murray, 9/18
• It’s the first ever matchup between the two schools from neighboring counties. North Murray had its best season in the school’s 12-year history in 2019, finishing 11-2 and reaching the third round of the Class 3A playoffs.
-Cedartown was a playoff team in Class 5A last season, but joins a crowded Region 7-4A with Northwest for 2020. The second game on the region slate may be a tough test for Northwest.
-Northwest’s final game of the 2020 regular season is against Region 7-4A foe Pickens, who handed the Bruins a 35-20 defeat last year.