Spring storylines: Practice underway for area high school football teams

May 10—Local high school football teams are in the midst of spring practice, a period of full-contact practices allowed by the Georgia High School Association. Spring practices for some teams culminate with a spring scrimmage against another team.

A lot can change between spring and fall, when the finalized teams from each school will take the field, but spring practice provides coaches an early look at the possible makeup of their teams.

Here's a look at the top storylines surrounding each team in Whitfield or Murray County:

Christian Heritage School 2023 record: 5-6 Head coach: Frank Barden

Christian Heritage School played through the 2023 season with just one senior on the roster: Kicker Carson Russell.

The Lions play in spring ball with plenty of continuity as the Lions head into coach Frank Barden's second season with the team.

Carter Triplett returns at quarterback after leading the team in passing, rushing and touchdowns last year.

After two years in Class A DII, Christian Heritage moves into Class A DI for 2024. Private schools, like Christian Heritage, will play in a separate state playoff bracket from public schools within the same classification.

Christian Heritage plays at North Murray tonight at 7 in the Lions' spring game.

Coahulla Creek High School 2023 record: 5-5 Head coach: Drew Carter

Coahulla Creek heads into the second season under head coach Drew Carter needing to fill the shoes of offensive playmaker Chase Ward at quarterback.

After the 2023 graduation of former Colt QB Kace Kinnamon, Ward stepped behind center for his senior year and passed and rushed his way to the Region 6-3A offensive player of the year award.

The Colts will start their third quarterback in three years this fall. Waylon Baliles, a rising sophomore, was Ward's backup as a freshman and saw some playing time last year.

Creek also loses key targets Nate Tilley and Keith Collins, both two-way players.

Coahulla Creek, which had played its first 12 seasons of existence in Class 3A, is set to join Class 2A in 2024 as part of the GHSA's realignment.

Creek plays its spring game Friday, May 17 at Gordon Lee in Chickamauga.

Dalton High School 2023 record: 8-4 Head coach: Kit Carpenter

After a 2023 season in which the Dalton High Catamounts finished with a winning record for the first time since 2019, Dalton will be facing some significant changes headed into 2024.

Adding to the loss of graduating senior offensive playmakers like running back Adriel Hernandez, wide receivers Bubba Tanner and RJ Storey and tight ends Jeffson Locke and Bannon Phelan, the Catamounts also lose standout rising senior quarterback Ethan Long.

Long, who tossed for 2,848 yards and 31 touchdowns last year, transferred to Adairsville High School. Eric Long, Ethan's father, was hired as Adairsville's new offensive coordinator after serving in the same role at Dalton. Isaac Ferrell will be the Dalton OC in 2024.

Dalton was in Class 6A from 2016 to 2021, then in 5A for the last two seasons. Dalton will be in Class 4A for the 2024 season after GHSA realignment.

Dalton will play its spring game Friday, May 17 against Trion at 7 p.m., but there will be some added intrigue to coincide with the spring game. Former Dalton standout running back Jahmyr Gibbs, now with the NFL's Detroit Lions, will have his No. 1 jersey retired at halftime.

Murray County High School 2023 record: 2-8 Head coach: Kurt Napier

After a 1-9 season in year one under head coach Kurt Napier in 2022, then an improvement to 2-8 in year two, Murray County High School will aim to set the foundation of continued improvement during spring practice.

After making those strides, Murray will have to replace offensive standouts in quarterback Judah Woodall, running back Braylon Myers and tight end Braxton Vineyard.

Murray County remains in Class 2A after this year's GHSA reclassification, and the Indians will stay in Region 7-2A and be joined by a few returning teams and a few new ones.

North Murray High School 2023 record: 8-4 Head coach: Preston Poag

North Murray is using its spring to help develop a plan to replace a huge departing chunk of offense from last season.

Judson Petty, the do-it-all standout receiver/running back/linebacker and Region 7-2A athlete of the year as a senior, has signed with Georgia Tech, and quarterback Skyler Williams, who threw for 2,211 yards and rushed for 1,201 yards last year as a junior, transferred to Warner Robins High School.

North Murray remains in Class 2A heading into 2024 after bumping down from 3A into the classification during the last GHSA realignment two years ago.

The Mountaineers will display their new-look offense to the public for the first time when the Mountaineers host Christian Heritage in their spring game tonight at 7.

Northwest Whitfield High School 2023 record: 6-5 Head coach: Josh Robinson

After a year away from the state playoffs in 2022, the Bruins were back in it a season ago.

In this year's spring ball, the Bruins will be focused on putting together a team that can keep another playoff streak alive.

Standout Bruin quarterback Gavin Nuckolls will be back for Northwest, but he'll have to find some new weapons to throw to. The Bruins lose receivers Isaiah Foster and Hudson Gray to graduation, the latter signing with Tennessee-Chattanooga.

Defensive lineman Myles Mays will be back for his senior year after a spring filled with impressing college coaches. Mays picked up offers from Elon and Austin Peay earlier this week.

Northwest heads into Class 3A for 2024 after remaining in Class 4A since 2003. The Bruins will join a new-look region that also includes Adairsville, Calhoun and LaFayette.

The Bruins play their spring game Tuesday at home at 7 p.m. against Tennessee's McMinn County.

Southeast Whitfield High School 2023 record: 1-9 Head coach: Todd Murray

The Raiders of Southeast Whitfield are wrapping up their first week of spring practice tonight, then will be back on the field next week ahead of a spring game Friday, May 17 at 7:30 p.m. against Chattooga.

Southeast was reclassified into a Class 4A region with Dalton, Cedartown, Cass and Cartersville ahead of the 2024 season, but the Raiders will be playing a non-region slate this fall.

Southeast maintains its rivalry game with Northwest Whitfield this season despite the two being separated into different classifications for the first time since 2011.