Titans Football: A Force to be Reckoned With
North Oconee is staking its claim as a solid football team and serious contender in post-season play.
North Oconee High School finished the 2010 football season strong with a 9-2 record.
"I've had some good seasons coaching, but this 9-2, this was a great season," said head coach Terry Tuley.
The Titans made it to the first round of the Class AA playoffs but were ousted from the tournament by a last-minute field goal from Westminster.
The Titans scored 339 points over the course of the season and allowed a mere 51 to slip by. Five games were complete shutouts. North Oconee lost only once in the regular season, to Elbert County.
"We all knew this was going to be one of those pivotal years," Tuley said. "It was either going to be a rebuilding year or a reloading year, and it was a reloading year."
After the 2009-2010 season, North Oconee lost about half of its starters to graduation, but the Titans improved on their 8-4 record from last year.
Twenty seniors will be graduating this May, including several four-year starters. Tuley is not worried, though.
"You move the pieces around and these kids will step up," he said.
The Titans' running game was highlighted by senior Lane Thompson, who rushed for more than a 1,000 yards, more than a third of the team's season total. Teammates senior Jace Brannon, sophomore Nick Colvin and senior Russ Williams rushed for a combined 1,300 yards out of the team's 2,800-yard-plus total.
After going to the playoffs three years in a row and maintaining a consistent win record, Thompson believes the North Oconee football program has established itself.
"We wanted to put North Oconee on the map, and I feel like we really did that this season by going 9-2 and being ranked in the top 10 for several weeks," Thompson said in an interview with Oconee Patch.
Junior quarterback Blake Gaubert, relying on a drop-back shotgun game, threw for 738 yards and completed 51 of 106 passes for a 48 percent completion rate.
"This year we played in a harder region and together, as a team, we stepped up to the challenge and competed," Gaubert said.
Senior linebacker Chris Ranieri made a strong display for the defense with 56 tackles, while defensive end/tight end Greg Hall netted 15 sacks and 28 tackles.
With the Titans' success since Tuley became coach in 2006, "the kids' expectations of themselves have increased," Tuley said.
"I think that we will be just as good, if not better, than we were this year," he said.