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, twice daily)...
After five straight seasons of improvement and two straight state playoff appearances, the Vikings slipped to a 3-7 mark in 2016. That said, East Hall was also 36 points from posting a winning record and getting back to the postseason. Coach Bryan Gray is entering his 11th season in Valhalla and, this summer, Gray says his squad is focusing on replacing some key playmakers on offense and getting back to basics on defense, as they look to return to the state playoffs.
QUESTION: Last season's offense was explosive, averaging just over 34 points per game. You return quarterback Austin Parker from that unit but also graduated some key playmakers in Markece Jackson and Deon Ellison. Who do you see stepping up to fill those roles?
ANSWER: I think we'll be a little more player by committee. I feel our depth at running back and receiver is as strong as we've had, and I think we've got a number of kids that will work to fill those two key losses from last year. I feel excited that we have every receiver, every running back back besides those two. They've gotten bigger and stronger, and I think we're going to pick up and be a little bit more spread out in our offensive touches and try to be more diverse.
Q: On the other side of the ball, your defense gave up some points last year (425 on the season), but you also lost three region games by close margins. What are you doing right now in an effort to try and get those defensive numbers allowed down?
A: We've just got to get back to fundamentals and get back to be sure tackling, getting our kids to play fast, not have to think at all -- just one more year of improvement for a unit that the majority comes back. I think we'll be improved just by another year of growth and physical development and focus on the fundamentals -- I think we'll be alright.