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)...
The Longhorns took a slight step back in 2016, finishing second in Region 8-AAAAAA after two straight Region 8-AAAAA titles in 2014-15. But after graduating a number of standouts, including current Southeastern Conference defensive tackle Derrick Brown, Lanier showed that its level of expectations have risen quickly for a program in just its fifth season of varsity play. Coach Korey Mobbs enters his fourth season in Sugar Hill at the helm of a team that expects to be right back in region and playoff contention in 2017, and he talked about some of the standouts that will help put them in that position...
QUESTION: Your roster includes some players, including a number of linebackers, that are being recruited by several high-level collegiate programs. How good can that linebacker corps be this season?
ANSWER: We hope that they'll be a group that leads us. They're led by (junior) Kameron Brown, who returns in the middle this year -- started for us as a sophomore. He's kind of our physical presence inside. But I think a young man by the name of Malik Johnson (a senior) has also had a really good summer for us. Those two guys will kind of anchor us inside. And then we also return on the outside (senior) Erick Turner, who's one of our leaders from an emotional standpoint. So we feel really good about that group. I think we're young around those guys, and we're going to be young on offense from the skill standpoint, so we may have some growing pains early, but it's just like every year -- you hope to not be rebuilding but just reloading and plugging in the next guy. We hope at some point we'll get to that point. But we feel like this is a year, where we'll play some young guys, but we'll have the same expectations for those guys that we've had in the past.
Q: Talk about what you've seen from your quarterbacks this summer in 7-on-7s and drills. How are they progressing, and how will that shape your offense?
A: We'll have a first-year starter. His name is Zach Calzada. He played a little bit for us last year as a sophomore. We tried to plug him in there in some situations, and we're excited about the fact that he's a junior. So, hopefully, we'll have him for a couple of years. He throws the ball really well, knows how to play the position. I think the question's going to be, when the love action starts flying, are we taking care of the football; are we making the right decisions to play winning football? We this he can get to that point. We think he's still got a ways to go. The 7-on-7 game's a good bit different from when you put pads on and you've got a bunch of guys running at you, trying to knock you sideways. But we feel good about that spot. We've had some receivers step up this summer as well. Mekal Fuller (a junior) will be one of our slot guys that has had a really good summer for us, so we're hoping that translates into real football. And we return one running back, Tywon Reaves, he'll be a senior this year. And we're excited about what he brings back. And it's kind of the same deal offensively as defensively. We've got some youth, but we feel good about their talent level. We've just got to get them to the expectations that we want.