There are just 27 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)...
Football has taken a back seat for part of the summer for the Indians, as they dealt with the tragic deaths of two teammates, Eli Alexander and Kainan Green, rising seniors who were killed in a car wreck in late June. Coach Frank Barden says his players and coaches came together to try and deal with the losses and that they are trying to move forward and look toward the 2017 campaign. The Indians are coming off an 8-3 campaign and state playoff appearance, and Barden is set to embark on his fourth season at The Reservation.
QUESTION: Obviously our deepest sympathies go out to the entire Stephens County community after recent tragic events. How have y'all dealt with the situation as a coaching staff? How have the kids dealt with it?
ANSWER: It was a tough two weeks, and it continues to be a tough time. I really, really... don't know if the word is "proud," but I enjoyed watching our coaches work with our kids and enjoyed watching our kids work with each other. Everybody handles it differently. I guess the thing that's been really neat to watch is how people have been there for each other, whether it be coaches, players, community, teachers, pastors in our community, families. That and, obviously, you're around a lot of people that you wouldn't have been around, so there's been some relationships built that have been really good.
Q: I don't want to sound callous, but you still have to prepare for the season. How do you keep your kids focused on the task at hand in light of what happened?
A: There was an important so many days, time... Like I said, everybody handled it differently. Some handled it just that day, some took three days, some took 10 days. But I think I might have been at the hospital and the coaches were having community time with the players, parents and community, so it was really neat to watch the coaches. It brought our coaching staff together a lot. I think it gave them a lot of purpose, just by being there and allowing each kid to handle it his own way. And you continue being there and trying to move on. I don't know that we'll ever get over it or forget it, but I know that we'll certainly take a tough time and, hopefully -- your big thing is you hope people look in the mirror and say, "how can I make my life better?"