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Allatoona's Dante Marshall (2) makes a pass during the first half of Friday's game at Sprayberry High School in Marietta. (Photo: Kyle Hess)

Allatoona looked to check off every box this spring.

The Buccaneers finished 8-4 in 2018, and coming into spring practice, coach Gary Varner looked to solidify the quarterback position.

“I feel that we have two good quarterbacks,” Varner said. “The biggest thing is getting the guys prepared, no matter who is the starter come Week 1. We will evaluate the position heavily this summer.”

Last year’s starter, Dante Marshall, will fight for the starting job with backup Elan Hall.

Allatoona was not as potent through the air as it was on the ground last season. Marshall passed for 818 yards and three touchdowns, while Hall passed for 9 yards, with minimal game action.

Varner believes Hall has improved, even with the lack of playing time.

“We love Elan,” Varner said. “He is a really good kid and works extremely hard. I know he didn't play much, but spring is where you show you’ve improved. I like what I see.”

Allatoona amassed 2,728 yards on the ground, with much of the load taken by Daniel Parsons, who rushed for 1,129 yards and nine touchdowns. The offensive line provided open holes for Parsons and other backs, which gave the Buccaneers stability later in the season.

“Our offensive line came through for us later in the season,” Varner said. “The offense really came to life once they got rolling. It was great to see.”

With Parsons graduating, Alex Wilson (22 car., 256 yds., 3 TD) and Dean Maddox (16 car., 142 yds., TD) are the most experienced returning backs.

On defense, Allatoona put a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, leading Region 6AAAAAA with 30 sacks and ranking third in tackles with 752.

Calvin Rucker led the Buccaneers with 86 tackles and 10 sacks. Eric Carty added another 8.5 sacks as the duo will return to lead a young defense.

The secondary flew around all season, totaling 11 interceptions. Jansen Twigg led the region with five, while Izaiah Taylor snagged two interceptions.

Though Allatoona will lose the two cornerbacks to graduation, Varner expects the secondary to rebound come next season.

“We had some really good corners last year,” Varner said. “The goal for us is to find some guys in the secondary that can step up.”

Slot corner Mike Austin and Israel Wadley could be next in the chain of upcoming starters. Varner loves speed and both corners have shown in the season and spring practice that they can cover.

Varner expects the young players to take their skills to the next level at every position.

“After two to three years in this system, our guys should know the expectations of the team,” Varner said. “Every year is different, so we don’t expect a drop-off in talent.”

John Bednarowski is the sports editor of the Marietta Daily Journal and president of the Associated Press Sports Editors. He can be reached at sportseditor@mdjonline.com or on Twitter @jbednarowski

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