Northside-Warner Robins, ranked No. 3 in the latest GPB Class AAAAA poll, opens the 2012 season at No. 8 Flowery Branch, looking to extend a regular season winning streak that dates back to October 2009. Under head coach Kevin Kinsler, the Eagles have not lost in the regular season as he has taken the program to a 23-2 record in his two years on the sidelines. Kinsler's squad posted a 13-1 record in 2011, with the lone loss coming in the Class AAAA semifinals to eventual champion Tucker. The Eagles will be led by Score 44 standout Keshun Hill, who is dangerous both as a receiver and in the return game. Hill is one of six starters returning on offense, but he will be working with a new quarterback after Jack Montgomery's departure. Running back Marte Polk also graduated, but look for senior Curtis Martin to step into the starting job after splitting time last season.
Defensively, seven starters return including a solid group of four seniors that will offer leadership. On the defensive line, Austin Roberts and Anfirnee Chatfield will be leaned upon to present a pass rush from the front four. Linebacker Trey Payne is a rare three-year starter that was named to the Macon Telegraph's 12 to Treasure, and he should fly around and find himself around the ballcarrier throughout the season. In the secondary, look for Rodney Levine to try and blanket the opposition's best receiver each week.
Flowery Branch is breaking in a new coach, Chris Griffin, who took over in the offseason for Lee Shaw, the program's only coach in its 10-year history. Griffin will have Jacob Allen and Darius Curry back on defense, ready to make plays against the Eagles. Allen was the team's leading tackler last season while Curry is a beast in the defensive secondary. He is joined in the secondary by Noel Padmore, an Ole Miss commitment. Look for Dexter Jackson to man the middle of the Falcons' 3-4 attack up front.
Offensively, Jackson McDonald takes over as quarterback after Kanler Coker (46 touchdowns in 2012) departed for UNC. McDonald will be the first junior to start at quarterback for Flowery Branch since Connor Shaw in 2008. He will have plenty of protection in front of him with four returning offensive linemen including Chandler Bridges. Curry will also play wide receiver along with Jamaad Stephens and Cris Dilidili.
Fans making their way out to Flowery Branch Friday should expect to see some battles between the Flowery Branch offensive line and the defensive front of Northside. The Eagles are motivated to atone for a premature ending to last season, but if the Falcons can put some points on the board early at home, this one could come down to the wire.