Macon County’s Copeland, MCA’s Robinson give thoughts on their seasons

As Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy and Fellowship Christian School decide the private school champion today (10 a.m., Georgia Dome), Macon County’s Dexter Copeland and McIntosh County Academy’s Robby Robinson put their seasons in perspective on the eve of their public school showdown Saturday morning.

Public School Final:  No. 1 Macon County (11-2) vs. No. 6 McIntosh County Academy (10-2), Saturday, 10 a.m., Georgia Dome

Dexter Copeland, Macon County
Fun fact: Or perhaps, not so fun. On the way to its season opening game against Dooly County, one of the Macon County team buses skidded off of the road and onto a nearby field. No one was injured and the team continued on to Vienna, where they pounded the Bobcats 45-0.

What has been the biggest reason for the team’s success this season?
“Our senior leadership. The whole season our goal has been to win a state championship. In order to do that you have to be focused right from the start, and you have to work hard and have great belief and faith in each other.”

What has been the biggest area of improvement – during the season and/or from last season?
“I’d say our defense. Last year we gave up about 30 points a game. We came back with almost the exact same guys, but we moved some guys around and changed our philosophy a little bit. We gave up 70 to a Fitzgerald team that is unbelievable and in the [Class] AA finals, and we gave up 45 to Northside-Warner Robins, who just got put out of the [Class] AAAAAA semifinals last week. But we learned from those games and have gotten better each week.”

Who have been your key players this season?
“Of course you have [ATH] Curt McDonald who plays almost everywhere for us, [WR] Trey Brown, [OT] Christian Meadows, and [RB/DB] Jared Daniels. And our quarterback, K’hari Lane, has been phenomenal. He’s thrown 52 touchdown passes and one interception, and that wasn’t his fault. Our receiver ran the wrong route. He’s two touchdown passes away from the state record, but he hasn’t even mentioned it. Not once. He’s only concerned with winning a state championship. That’s the kind of kid he is, the kind of leader he is.”

Who is the team’s biggest unsung hero?
“Mr. Ray Yoder. He’s our maintenance guy for the school and he does everything. And when I say everything, I mean everything for Macon County football. When the lights went out at our stadium, he got them back on. He prepares the field for us. He lines the field and won’t let anybody else do it. He works his tail off.”

What concerns you the most about McIntosh County Academy?
“Their speed. They’re very aggressive on defense. Their front four will line up and just get after you from all different angles, and they don’t do the same things a lot. They have a tremendous quarterback [junior Major Robinson] and running back [junior J.P. Palmer]. They’re very athletic. They remind me of Turner County, which gave us a hard time.” [Macon County defeated Turner County in the second round, 47-37.]

What will you need to do to beat them?
“The game is always won in the trenches. The defensive line and offensive line wins the game. Both teams have to play error free and not turn the ball over. Special teams play will be important and quarterback play will, too.”

If you win, who will be the first person you thank when you’re on stage accepting the trophy?
“My superintendent, Dr. Ray Hill, and our principal, Nikia Parks. Without their support, we wouldn’t be where we are. Our community in Macon County, which is the best I’ve ever been around. My wife [Holly Copeland]. It’s been real hectic for her too, and she’s been right there with me. And my mom [Zerita Copeland], who’s helped to calm my nerves through this whole season.”
Robby Robinson, McIntosh County Academy
Fun fact:
In spite of posting a record of 54-24 in seven seasons from 2004-2010, with playoff appearances in each of those seasons, a new superintendent came to Darien and fired Robinson and his staff, wanting to go “in another direction.” That location was down, as the Buccaneers went 18-25 the next four seasons, including 0-10 in 2014. Robinson was rehired in 2015 and has MCA in the finals one year later.

What has been the biggest reason for the team’s success this season?
“The attitude of our kids. They’ve been willing to do what it takes to continue to work hard and get better each week.”

What has been the biggest area of improvement – during the season and/or from last season?
“Our offensive line play. All five of those guys have stayed together all year long and have been great for us.” [C Austin Anderson, OG Jay Harris, OG Courtney Jones and OT Cam Evans are all juniors, while OT Buster Sullivan is a senior.]

Who have been your key players this season?
“Our kicker, Valentin Salazar has been solid all year. He’s a senior and a first-year player. I tried to get him to come out last season but we got him this year. And our defense has been our rock all season. Barry Jackson and Joseph Roberts are both seniors and play defensive ends for us. All four of our linebackers are seniors and they’ve done a tremendous job: Johnathan Jason, Fred Carswell, Dallas Anthony and Akhari Roberts.”

Who is the team’s biggest unsung hero?
“Our team chaplain, Rev. Charles Mangrum. He was here with us the first time and is back involved with us. He’s a pillar of our community.

What concerns you the most about Macon County?
“Their big play ability on offense. Their quarterback is just two or three touchdowns away from the state record. They have a great wide receiver and a very solid offensive line.”

What will you need to do to beat them?
“We’ll have to be fundamentally sound. We’ll have to stay in our rush lanes, mix our coverages and try to break on the ball when it’s in the air and try to get some turnovers.”

If you win, who will be the first person you thank when you’re on stage accepting the trophy?
“I’ll give all the glory to God. That’s where it all starts.”


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