There are just 38 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)...
The Tigers offense averaged nearly 40 points a game while the defense allowed a respectable 23 points a contest in an offensive-minded Region 7-AAA in 2016. But the defense was exposed for 91 points in its final two games and that unit will now go under some major renovations with the graduation of seven key starters, including all-state linebacker and tackle-machine Luke Martin. However, Tigers coach Sid Maxwell, now in his third season, said they should be better equipped in 2017 to overcome those key losses. And having senior quarterback Coey Watson returning won’t hurt either. Maxwell told AccessWDUN’s Jeff Hart that they are not expecting a major dropoff in 2017.
QUESTION: Coach, you lost seven key starters on a defensive unit that more than held its own in an explosive offensive region. Who will you look to to fill some of those spots?
ANSWER: Graduation is something that every program has to deal with every year. As a program you try to lessen that by developing the younger players. This is our third year now and the (younger) kids have embraced knowing that it’s their turn now. Luke will be a big loss, especially on the leadership side of things. We’ll need more a team concept on leadership. (Senior defensive tackle) Taylor Swofford may be a guy the others look to. Also, (senior linebackers) Nate Umbarger and Logan Brumbelow and (junior defensive back) Logan Barnes all have some experience so I think we have a foundation to work with.
Q: You do return quarterback Coey Watson but also graduated several key offensive pieces, including two on the offensive line. Is finding some playmakers a high priority?
A: The biggest thing on offense is that we lost five running backs with experience. But, I feel that (receivers) Ryan Glass and Ethan Howard are guys that could be ready to step for us. We will need a group of guys to step up and that’s what we’re looking for as we get closer to the season. We may be a little more inexperienced in some key spots so we’ll see how quick those guys grasp things and progress.