L-R: JOEY SAMPLES (LB/RB) SR DILLON SILVER (QB) SR DANIEL JOLLY (RB) SR - Photos Andy Calvert
A couple of close region losses kept the Model Blue Devils from advancing to the playoffs in 2021 and a new-look version of Region 7-AA will offer the squad a challenge in 2022 as Coach Jeff Hunnicutt enters his fourth year at the helm for the Blue Devils.
Hunnicutt doesn’t mince words when asked about the off-season program or the challenges facing the coaching staff and the teams in 2022.
“We didn’t have the best numbers in the off-season program. It was actually the lowest numbers out working since I’ve been here,” he says. “However I think back to the Green-Taliaferro days where we had 32 kids on the team and wound up winning the state title.”
The Blue Devils also have to rebuild on both the offensive and defensive fronts, which is never an easy task.
“We are a green team as far as our offensive and defensive lines go but skill position-wise most of our guys are back, and we’re mostly juniors and seniors,” Hunnicutt says. “We just need to find guys who can fill in on the offensive and defensive line.”
A big change for the Blue Devils is their region foes. Model is the sole remaining Floyd County squad in Region 7-AA, as Murray County, Rockmart, Fannin County, Haralson County, North Murray, and Gordon Central round out the region which has traditionally been the home for Rome-area teams.
“I think we have a couple of region champions from other regions moving into Region 7-AA. Rockmart won their region last year, and Haralson County is a tough physical team. Fannin County has won back-to-back region titles,” Hunnicutt says. “I think we’re going to have to pull a couple of upsets just to try to secure a spot in the playoffs.”
Model faces some tough non-region opponents to prepare for the region gauntlets, including Cherokee County (Alabama), Pepperell, Woodland, and Trion. Once clear of those games, Model will open Region 7-AA play at home against Murray County.
While the Blue Devils do have to find some more linemen, their skill position players should be ready to go. Hunnicutt mentions that Joey Samples has become a household name and will provide some offensive sparks as well as being a leading tackler on defense.
The Blue Devils return several running backs and also Daniel Jolly who has plenty of speed but suffered from some issues with holding on to the football in 2021. Quarterback Dillon Silver returns and should have plenty of weapons to work with.
But after mentioning the plethora of skill position players at his disposal, Hunnicutt immediately reiterates his point about needing more linemen.
“We’ve got to find some guys on the offensive and defensive line. We need to find them, because those zero stat guys are the ones that help you win games,” he says. “They don’t get all the accolades, but those are the key guys who will win or lose games for you.”
Like Hunnicutt says, if the Blue Devils can develop talent along both offensive and defensive fronts Model could find itself in the thick of the Region 7-AA race.