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Leopards reloading for 2017

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The Leopards are coming off a fantastic seven-win season that saw them advance to the second round of the state playoffs.

While most teams would be thrilled to come off a season like that, there is somewhat of a bad taste left in the players and coaches mouths, as the Banks County Leopards’ first round game resulted in a forfeit by KIPP Atlanta.

“I feel like they cheated the whole community,” says a fired up Josh Shoemaker on his feelings on the forfeit by KIPP.

“I was happy for our kids, our coaching staff and our community [on earning a playoff home game]. I told GHSA that this community was cheated…I told the coaches at KIPP that I don’t care if you have to get 11 8th graders, send them up here so we can play them. That was a big deal. I mean, our playoff record is 1-1, and I’m going to take it, but I wasn’t happy with how it went down.”

The community definitely suffered from the playoff win that should have been decided on the field. As Shoemaker stated, the Banks County community deserved better and were more than looking forward to the game.

“I swore you could ride up and down the street in Homer and tell it was a big deal,” says Shoemaker.

They may have gotten the win, but the Leopards were essentially cheated out of a true home playoff game by the forfeit, so the 2016 seniors never got to play that game in front of the home crowd. Banks likely would have won the game had it been played.

Nevertheless, Shoemaker and the Leopards are hard at work as the season is just weeks away. There is much work to be done with replacing former mainstay QB Griffin Goodwin (2,000 yds, 18 TD in 2016) and WR Bryce Bennett (1,000 yds, 11 TD), as well as two of the top three tacklers on the team and the leader in interceptions (CJ Thomas, 8 INT) who will forego his senior season on the gridiron to concentrate solely on baseball.

The Leopards do return Trev Thomas, who is splitting time at QB and tallied 97 tackles in 2016, as well as senior Clayton Dykhouse, who burst onto the scene last year with over 1,100 yards rushing and 11 TD.

“Clayton is a great athlete and a great kid,” exclaims Shoemaker. “When he’s on, he’s about unstoppable.”

Dykhouse will return kicks, play linebacker and even occasionally throw the ball perhaps according to Shoemaker, who says he’s not too sure yet how the offensive attack will look for 2017. Running draw plays, changing the count snaps, and other things factor in to how run- or pass-heavy the offense will be.

Banks has a schedule that includes non-region games against rivals Commerce, Jackson, Johnson and Union, as well as an opening scrimmage against Habersham Central for the second year in a row. For the full BLITZ interview with coach Josh Shoemaker on the 2017 season outlook, click here.

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