Only the Strong Survive Brooks County H. S.
Powerlifters facing the Trojans’ football players are in for a big surprise
By Maria Hardman
Published: Summer 2003
The Brooks County High School Trojans of Quitman, Georgia, have come a long way from being the underdogs to being feared and respected by their opponents.
In April 2001 the Trojans, who compete in Region 2-AA, were under new leadership as Coach Ryan Branch was named the new head football coach. Coach Branch saw great potential and willingness in an underestimated team and made immediate changes in the football and weightlifting programs. He named Tony Long the new strength and conditioning coach, putting him in control of the weight program and appointing him defensive coordinator.
Branch and Long worked together to update weight room equipment and institute a new program. Bigger Faster Stronger would be the key to gracing the Trojans with success. Before the new program, the team had only five players who could deadlift 500 pounds. Now they have 19 players who can deadlift over 500 pounds, six deadlifting over 600 pounds, and one player lifting over 700 pounds.
In February of 2002, almost one year into their new leadership, the Trojans were already showing improvements and hosted the first-ever Brooks County Iron Man competition.
The Trojans were split into two teams and separately won first- and third-place trophies, thereby renewing respect from teams who had earlier overpowered them. In March 2002 the class 2A Trojans traveled to Valdosta High School to compete in the Georgia Strongman competition. They placed second out of 14 teams after just a year earlier placing twelfth. They were deprived of the first-place trophy by a class 5A school, Camden County. In football, they earned two more victories to improve their record to .500 in a region that had four of nine teams that were ranked in the top 10 of their state.
For 2003, the team set their goals and standards higher in an effort to better themselves not only in the weight room but also on the football field. In addition to taking home the top prize in their second annual Iron Man competition, several Trojans broke school records and exceeded expectations throughout Brooks County.
Upon returning to the Georgia Strongman competition in 2003, the Trojans placed second for the second year in a row, shutting out several 4-5A schools, including Camden County. The Brooks County athletes have broken every school record within the last 18 months, some two and three times. Recardo Davis, a 6’3” junior weighing in at 230 pounds, has broken the power clean record twice this year, maxing out at 325 pounds after being on the new program for just 18 months.
The Trojans have worked every day for almost two years to get where they are now. Another Trojan highlight is Taurus Phillips, who has lost over 50 pounds since he has been on the program. Taurus now weighs 195 pounds and credits his weight loss to the Brooks County coaches, saying that they are the ones who kept him motivated. Contributing to the Trojans’ success are nine players who have been recognized as the region’s best.
Among those nine players is 204-pound freshman Alex Wright. Coming into the weightlifting program as a timid freshman, Wright was power cleaning 185 pounds. In only nine months, he has improved to 270 pounds, setting a tough standard for upcoming students. He has increased his bench press by 90 pounds, starting out at 185 pounds and currently maxing out at 275. Even more impressive is his deadlift. Wright was deadlifting 425 and now has achieved 585. He has earned the honor of being named to the All Region Team for Freshmen.
Not only have the Trojan weightlifters improved in the weight room, their success has in fact gone farther. Brandon Sheppard has improved his running time in one year by almost .30 seconds. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds and the 100-meter in 10.61 seconds. Sheppard’s secret is simple: he has trained harder than ever in his routine of jumping boxes and training on the running ladder.
Joseph Huewitt, a sophomore who has known only the Bigger Faster Stronger program, has made huge improvements in all weightlifting categories, including an unbelievable 205-pound increase in his parallel squat, from 135 pounds to 405 pounds.
“Only the strong survive” is the motto painted on the weight room wall as a constant reminder. Strength and agility are the hallmarks of this team. According to the coaching staff, a better group of guys cannot be found. “These guys deserve any and all praise that they receive,” stated Coach Tony Long. “They have worked harder than hard and are still reaching for the stars.” No team could be consistently successful without a coaching staff that cares more about their players than the game. The players say that they are tethered together and consider themselves more than a team—they are a family.