There are just 37 days remaining until the kickoff of the 2017 high school football season. But make no mistake, preparations for the upcoming campaign got underway months ago in weight rooms, sand pits and practice fields throughout the state. And teams throughout northeast Georgia are in full countdown mode.
With that in mind we spent the last few days catching up with programs around our area to get a feel for how spring practice went, how the summer is going and what coaches believe the fall will look like. We call the series "Two-a-Days" in honor of those old-school grinding sessions that lead us out of summer and into fall, asking each area coach two key questions about the state of their respective programs.
Over the next few days, AccessWDUN's Friday Game Night will get you prepped for the start of gridiron action with responses from coaches throughout northeast Georgia. (Teams run in alphabetical order)...
East Jackson was one of the big surprises in northeast Georgia during the 2016 season. The Eagles won as many games (4) last season under Christian Hunnicutt and his staff as they had in the previous four campaigns combined.
However, Hunnitcutt was lured to Grayson, where he was a former assistant, during the offseason. Fortunately, the Eagles also had former Cedar Shoals coach Scott Wilkins on staff and Wilkins will be taking over a team that may be primed to take another step forward.
AccessWDUN’s Jeff Hart asked Wilkins, who is no stranger to running a successful program, about the state of the program with yet another change.
QUESTION: Coach Hunnicutt, along with you and the rest of the coaching staff, did a great job of bringing confidence back to the program. What has been your biggest challenge as you now take over the program?
ANSWER: The biggest challenge has probably been trying to build off the success of last year. We lost some really good players, including our quarterback Josh Adair, who had a very nice season, and many of those guys were important leaders for us. But, our numbers were very good this spring and the confidence of the kids in the program is extremely high. That is a big positive from when we came in last year. They got a taste of success last year and they seem hungry to build on that. The chemistry of the team will be key but the seniors are really stepping up so far and leading the way. I feel we’re in very good shape right now.
Q: The defense seemed to be the key area last season. Y’all were 1-6 when allowing 17 or more points and 3-0 when allowing less than 17 points. Will that be a point of emphasis coming into the 2017 campaign? And, how different will things look with new defensive coordinator J.R. Ragan?
A: As a team you’re only as good as your defense. We want to make people earn points and last year I think we just gave up too many big plays. We played a lot of man-to-man coverage last year and in the games we lost we just didn’t have the speed we needed in the secondary. Coach Ragan came from McIntosh County Academy [Class A Public state runner-up] and did a great job for them. I think we’ll be a little more versatile on that side this year and mix up the coverages a little more. But no matter which system, we have to be able to stop people and not give up big plays. That is what we’re focusing on.