There are just 32 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)...
It was a wild ride for the Indians in 2016. They did not get a head coach until June, less than 2 months before the start of the season, yet still managed to be just one win and a few plays from making the playoffs in a rugged Region 7-AAA. Which is what’s making coach Shane Williamson show some early excitement as they get ready for the 2017 campaign. It won’t be without some adversity, however, as they look to replace Zach Matthews and their entire backfield from last season’s potent ground attack. Williamson explained to AccessWDUN that since he has his own full staff, changes are under way and they are encouraged by some early progress.
QUESTION: Coach, you were one win from making the playoffs after not taking over until June last season. Do you expect to see improvement and challenge for the playoffs again this year?
ANSWER: Last year I got here right before the season started I just told the kids we weren’t making any big changes and that our goal was that we wanted the games at the end to mean something -- and they did. If we win one of those last two we were in. Unfortunately it didn’t go our way. But to be able to be in the picture and challenge for a spot like that was very satisfying. This year I have a full staff and the kids know that making the playoffs is our goal -- and I think they expect to make it this year. I have already seen some improvement in some areas. The region is equal again so there’s a chance if we work hard. Depth will be a key thing for us but it usually is for most teams every year.
Q: With that said, you’re replacing a potent backfield from last season and you’re also changing offensive styles. Who looks to be stepping forward so far?
A: Losing a guy like Zach is always a tough one because he was that good. But we’re changing the offense to be more out of the shotgun and we will throw it more. We lost most of our backfield so the change will let us utilize a few more weapons on offense. We do return (starting quarterback) Chandler Woodham and we saw last year he could throw the ball and the has shown us a lot during the 7-on-7 tournaments in the summer. We have three guys -- senior Julian Hazen, junior Ben Jones, sophomore Tucker Kirk -- at wide receiver we think give us a lot of weapons. (Junior) Evan Abernathy will probably start at running back and he can catch the ball also. Our strength may be at having guys that can catch the ball so we feel pretty good about things right now.