By Ken K. GreenExpectations are high as the Lamar County Trojans are set to kick off the 2012 prep football season tonight when they travel to Griffin to take on Spalding High at Memorial Stadium.Coming off their best season in school history that saw them go unbeaten in the regular season, win the region championship and finish the year 12-1 and ranked sixth in the state, the Trojans find themselves at number five in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and MaxPreps pre-season poll while the Associated Press, Georgia Sportswriters rank them as the second best team in Class AA coming into the season.Defending state champion Calhoun is first in all three pre-season polls. Other schools in the three polls include Fitzgerald, Cook, Dublin, Brooks County, Lovett, Westminster, Greater Atlanta Christian, Bremen, Laney, Jefferson and Vidalia. Lamar is picked by MaxPreps, a nationwide computerized ranking service, to repeat as Region 4-AA champions followed by Putnam County, Bleckley County, Taylor County, Northeast Macon, Monticello, Crawford County and Macon County. The MaxPreps ratings use history as its guide and does not take into consideration stats, returning players, new coaches, etc.The Trojans will be playing their first season under new head coach Franklin Stephens who was hired when Jason Strickland resigned to take the reins at Fitzgerald. Stephens’ hiring sets the bar even higher for the Trojans as he will be expected to produce the same results he had at his last job where he led Tucker to a 64-6 record overall the past five seasons, including state championships in 2008 and 2011 and semifinal appearances in 2007 and 2010.Dr. Stephens inherits a squad that returns a nice stable of skilled players, including four returning allregion performers, but inexperience in the trenches.He will employ a variation of the wing offense and a three-man front with three linebackers and secondary players on defense.Last year’s leading rusher, Lance Austin (84 carries/834 yards/10 touchdowns), returns for his junior year but will shift from running back to quarterback. Lawrence Austin (88/825/10), also a junior, will lead a bevy of running backs that includes seniors Jeremy Fletcher (55/297/4), Antwan Wallace (59/337/4) and Sidarius Gotell (35/297/1) as well as juniors Aaron Holloway (16/62) and Sed Piercy. Wide receivers include seniors Nick Harden and Jamarcus Walker and juniors Quay Searcy (7 receptions/ 177 yards/1 touchdown) and Quentin Frazier.Sophomore center James Bannister is the only returning starter on the offensive line so coach Stephens and his staff will have to find a pair of guards and tackles from a group that includes seniors Grant Turner and Kyler Selsor, juniors Daniel Aiken, Jason Caslin and Matt Presley and sophomore Chris Elliott.When a tight end is used seniors Tre Evans and Marcus Brown are expected to fill that position.Defensively, sophomore Alex Gardner is the lone returning starter on the line and will be joined by senior Marcus Brown and sophomore Rashad Johnson.Backing up the trenches at linebacker will be Evans, Caslin and Piercy as well as senior Bo Dunn and junior Ray Lyons.Returning all-state defensive back Searcy returns to spearhead the secondary after leading the state in interceptions as a sophomore with eight. He is expected to be joined by the Austins, Harden, Wallace, Frazier and Walker. Junior Tyler Scandrett who, along with Searcy, is on the AJC’s pre-season allstate watch list, will handle kickoff and place kicking duties. He is also working as the team’s punter.Walter Geiger will provide realtime scoring from the game here on barnesville.com.