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)...
The Panthers finished the 2016 season 3-8 but still fought their way into the state playoffs for just the third time in program history, finishing with the No. 3 seed from Region 8-AAA (Jackson County's previous two state appearances came as a No. 4 seed). They were also just 16 points removed from a .500 regular season mark. Most crucially, coach Brandon Worley, in his second season, began to build some depth and experience at key positions, that he hopes will pay off heading into 2017. Worley recently took time to talk about his team, including standout running back Noah Venable and the Panthers offense.
QUESTION: Last season Noah Venable proved a standout for your offense. Outside of Venable, who do you see assuming an offensive production leadership role this season?
ANSWER: Last year, I'm sure Noah would tell you the same thing, the running game has a lot to do with the guys up front. Right now we have five guys with significant playing time from last year returning up front (Noah Hayes, Jonathan Fountain, Hunter Bagget, Noah Breakspear, Collin Lewis), so we're expecting great things on the ground this year, no doubt.
Q: It seems as though you have been building forward momentum for the program. Is this another season where you feel you can take a step forward?
A: No doubt. We definitely have high expectations. As far as the weight room -- we're doing great in the weight room right now, super, super strong compared to what we were the past two years. So hopefully that will carry over to the football field, which we expect it will.