There are just 28 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)...
Coming into last season, the Wildcats faced uncertainty after graduating one of the best senior classes in program history -- one that led them to the state quarterfinals for just the second time. Rabun County responded by going straight back to the quarterfinals in 2016. Coach Lee Shaw certainly has his alma mater rolling, but, after graduating another stellar senior class, can the Wildcats maintain the level of success of which they've grown accustomed? Shaw talked about his team's desire to do just that and one of the players that will help get them there in quarterback Bailey Fisher. As a junior, Fisher dominated, rolling up 3,672 combined yards and totalling 48 touchdowns, and the dual threat is hoping to improve on that in his final prep campaign...
QUESTION: You graduated a number of key players from your 2015 team that equalled the best mark in program history by reaching the state quarterfinals, and yet your 2016 team went right back to the quarterfinals. Is your program to the point now where you feel like you can simply reload each season?
ANSWER: Last year was kind of a surprise really. We weren't sure which way we were going to go after graduating that special group of seniors. And that's the great thing about football -- and all team sports -- you almost always have to have a catalyst guy. You've got to have that guy, both sides of the ball, that you kind of build it all around. And last year was just really a team of guys that bought into team play and really grew close together... I don't want to say it was surprising, but I didn't know how good we could be. And, coming out of non-region games, we figured the competition we had to play against in non-region that we had a shot to make a run and also make a little noise in the state playoffs, and that's what we did. Of course we had Bailey Fisher, a catalyst guy, one of the best quarterbacks I've ever coached. We've got him back this year, and this is a really good group of players. We've got 15 seniors, and it's hard for me right now to really name a captain. I usually have anywhere from two to five captains, and within this senior class I got 15 guys that all 15 could be a captain. That's a really good sign that they've all bought in. You just plug them into the system on offense, defense, special teams because we haven't really changed anything, just adapted to and tweaked this and that. But everybody kind of falls into what they're supposed to do, whether it's in the weight room, training through the summer or 7-on-7s. Offseason, in-season, there's been a total buy in, and these guys started believing in 2012 and great things started happening. This 2017 group has invested as much as any team I've coached. They continue to want to be the best team in RCHS history. The 'Cats are still hungry for success. The culture has changed with Rabun Football. They believe we are supposed to be good every year no matter who graduates.
Q: You mention Fisher, do you believe he is the most complete player right now in northeast Georgia?
A: Personally I think so; now some other coaches might have something different to say about their own guy, but you look at what he brings to the table offensively -- he could play free safety for us and be a great safety. He's probably going to be our punter this year. All that is a dual-threat quarterback, 12-14 yards deep in an extended shotgun, and that's kind of what we're looking at. He's a great athlete, can play anything really. There's so many things he can do offensively as a quarterback, and he's a student of the game. I wish he was 6-2, because if he was 6-2 he's getting all kind of offers. He's got offers on the table of course (Presbyterian and West Georgia). But to be 6-foot he's very dangerous.