There are just 34 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)...
Jefferson was as dominant as any team in the state in 2016 going 11-0 against anyone not named Thomson. However, they lost twice to the Augusta-area powerhouse, including the Class AAAA semifinals.
The Dragons will come into the 2017 season with one of the state’s most dynamic running backs in Colby Wood, but will also face several key questions along the always-important line-of-scrimmage after the graduation of Division I players Caleb Chandler and Dontae Wilson. Oh, and they also will be sporting a new coach in Gene Cathcart, who took over for Ben Hall, who left to take the same position at Flowery Branch.
Cathcart is no stranger to the area having led Habersham Central from 2003-08. AccessWDUN’s Jeff Hart caught up with Cathcart after a series of successful 7-on-7 tournaments for the Dragons.
QUESTION: Coach, I know you weren’t here last season, but how do you go about replacing guys like Caleb Chandler and Dontae Wilson up front?
ANSWER: That’s a good question. Both guys did great things here both on and off the field. Dontae was the Class AAAA Defensive Player of the Year and both were just dominating on the offensive side opening things up for the big power run game. We’ll definitely be much smaller this year but we have three guys coming back -- seniors Logan Garner (center) and Hunter Griffith (guard) and junior J.T. Middleton -- so we still have some experience up front. We’re looking at about four guys to see who can fill those two huge spots.
Q: How will (Chandler and Wilson’s) losses affect the running game on both sides of the ball as well?
A: Probably the biggest thing is that both of those guys played virtually every snap on both sides and right now we just don’t have anyone ready that could go both ways with that kind of effectiveness. Depth will obviously be a big issue and development of some of the younger guys. But chemistry is so important on the line and that is where we will be looking at a lot of guys to see who fits where. All this will affect the run game so to me it also means we will need more balance with the passing game to overcome not having as powerful a run game this year. That could be the key to our season -- balance.