Plains’ truth: Challenges keep progress in check for Harmon, ’Cats
by Joe Medley
jmedley@annistonstar.com
Aug 23, 2011 | 3393 views |  0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WHITE PLAINS — Heath Harmon sure has faced challenges in getting White Plains football on the “Build It” plan.

Realignment greeted him, as the AHSAA bumped the Wildcats up from Class 2A to 3A before his first season in 2008.

Another realignment in 2010 put White Plains in a nine-team region that included 4A dropdowns like Saks.

This for a program that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 1994.

But White Plains is a growing school, and surely the roster would catch up as enrollment forced the Wildcats into tougher competition. Well, not exactly.

A core group of building-block players like Brock Wright, Konnor Amis, “Dirt” Jones and Kyle Bowen have melted away, and that undefeated middle school team from a few years back?

Not all of those guys will be on the field this year.

“We had one (sophomore Dylan Randall) that’s not playing because of injuries (concussions), and we had a couple of others that decided not to play,” Harmon said.

Add that White Plains returns just four starters on offense and three on defense from a 3-7 team, and Harmon sure has his challenges in trying to make his fourth Wildcats team the first to break the school’s playoff drought.

“We’re returning some really solid linemen,” Harmon said, emphasizing the positives. “When I first got here, I felt like we were weak in all areas, but the line was the worst I’d ever seen. They have come so far.”

Here comes the “but.”

“But the skill guys that we were counting on, some of them are not playing,” he said. “We’re having to take other guys that maybe we weren’t counting on two years ago and get them ready to go.

“I think we can, but as far as our plan of what we were going to build toward, that’s happened on the line. It just hasn’t happened on the skill. We’re kind of still struggling a little bit on our skill players.”

It’s one step forward, one step back, and that’s new to a proven winner like Harmon. His track record is quick steps forward, with breakthrough second seasons.

It almost happened that way at White Plains. The Wildcats came within one victory of the playoffs in 2009 but lost a heartbreaker in a winner-goes game at Wellborn.

That team finished 5-5 despite losing a top defender in Dillon McGuffie, and Harmon thought he had another 5-5ish team a year ago. Oh, those challenges.

A preseason shoulder injury kept Bowen, a defensive lineman and a key offensive threat at tight end, out until the Glencoe game.

Coming into this season, Harmon’s challenges include fall baseball. Of the 17 players from a baseball team that has gone three rounds deep in the playoffs the past two years, only one plays football.

“I’ve never had that problem before,” Harmon said.

The Wildcats’ roster counts 35 players, down from nearly 50 in Harmon’s second year. He likes the players he has.

“The kids that I coach work really, really hard,” he said. “Most coaches say that, but they do. They do everything we ask them to do, and they believe in what we’re doing.

“Our whole thing of ‘Build it,’ they‘ve bought in.”

If White Plains is to break through this season, it will do so with raw skill players like quarterback Dalemetrius Reddick

“He is really doing well,” Harmon said. “He’s real crafty, and he has real good vision, and he’s pretty smooth at what he’s doing.

“He’s not trained in the skill of playing quarterback, but as far as the intangible things, he has them.”

Harmon also has a new and unusual running back in 260-pound Roderick Young.

“Roderick is kind of a project,” Harmon said. “He played as an eighth-grader last year and started varsity on the offensive line, but he’s one of our faster guys.”

White Plains will also rely heavily on Jalen Hill in the backfield.

Fullback Logan Giddens will move to Bowen’s tight end on offense and Jones’ middle linebacker slot on defense.

“He’s probably our purist football player, just a physical, mean football player,” Harmon said. “He can play any position on the field, pretty much.”

Giddens said he’s up to the challenges of his new positions, and White Plains is up to its many challenges.

“Expectations are going to be high,” he said. “We’ll have a really explosive offense. We’ve just got to step up and have leaders like we had last year with Kyle and Dirt and Konnor.”

Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or jmedley@annistonstar.com. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.
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