2021 High School Football Preview: Experienced passing game, continued clutch play can help Northwest thrive

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Aug. 19—TUNNEL HILL — Northwest Whitfield High School head football coach Josh Robinson knows his offensive philosophy isn't for everyone.

But, if you've got the quarterback to pull it off, Robinson says, throwing the ball as much as the Bruins plan to can lead to big plays.

In Owen Brooker, a junior and third-year starter, Robinson thinks they have the right QB.

"As much as we throw the football, some people consider that risky football," Robinson said.

Brooker started as a freshman in 2019, then helped lead the Bruins to an 8-3 record and to the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs as a sophomore last season.

"We're absolutely putting more of the offense on him," Robinson said. "When he was a freshman, we barely gave him any of those, especially early in the year. As the year went and last year went, we're just giving him more and more responsibility. He's a three-year starter and we expect big things out of him."

With more command of the offense, Robinson said Brooker needs to lead a potent passing attack this season for the Bruins to stay on the field on offense.

"We've got to hit our rhythm early and be successful and find a way to stay on the field without getting off the field very quickly on offense," Robinson said.

Brooker lost one of his favorite targets from last year's team in wide receiver Matt Redmond, but Ray Morrison, who racked up 930 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns last season, is back to help the passing attack.

When the Bruins do go to the run, they'll have senior running back Adrian Reyes in the backfield.

Robinson said it's up to seniors like Morrison and Reyes to lead a team that should get contributions from players both younger and older.

"We have plenty of younger guys playing," Robinson said. "We potentially will start a couple of freshmen all the way through several juniors. At the end of the day, how the seniors go and how they lead us will be the ultimate question. We have a lot of questions and a lot of guys we feel good about, but there's nothing like Friday night lights."

One position group the Bruins will have to answer some of those questions in is the secondary. Northwest doesn't return much experience from defensive backs.

For the Bruins to win in 2021 in the same volume that they did last season, they may need to replicate some clutch play.

Northwest won several close games, including a 31-27 win over Heritage and a 29-26 victory over Pickens to help them reach the playoffs. Once in the postseason, a game-winning touchdown pass from Brooker gave the Bruins a 28-24 win over Stephenson.

"That requires people to make big plays in big moments," Robinson said.

Northwest Whitfield

Mascot: Bruins

Colors: Blue and orange

Classification: Region 7-4A

Head coach: Josh Robinson

Last year's record: 8-3

Key losses

WR/DB Matt Redmond

WR Preston Nealey

LB Jordan McCamish

Key players

QB Owen Brooker, junior

RB Adrian Reyes, senior

WR Ray Morrison, senior

DB Keaton McQuaig, senior

Circled on the schedule

Central (Carrollton), Oct. 1

—Northwest hosts Central for its Region 7-4A opener and kicks off a stretch of important region contests. The Bruins fell to Central on the road last year, but managed to overtake them in the region standings by season's end.

@ Cedartown, Oct. 8

—Northwest travels to take on the defending Region 7-4A champs. The Bruins fell 44-8 in the 2020 matchup.

Pickens, Nov. 5

—Northwest closes out the regular season with a home game against Pickens. The Bruins needed this game for playoff seeding last year — it helped them lock up the second seed in Region 7-4A. It's sure to be an important competition again this year.

Region 7-4A

Cedartown

Central (Carrollton)

Heritage (Ringgold)

Northwest Whitfield

Pickens

Ridgeland

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