There are just 36 days remaining until the kickoff of the 2018 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 couple of weeks 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 two weeks, 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 Vikings are going through another coaching change -- their third in three seasons -- but new head man Michael Perry is no stranger to the area. Perry was the offensive coordinator for Gainesville during the Deshaun Watson years and helped the Red Elephants win a state title in 2012.
East Hall's biggest issue in 2018, however, was defensively where the Vikings yielded the most points in all of Class 3A. Perry said addressing the defense is priority No. 1 but he is also paying close attention to who will run his "Air Raid" attack on offense.
QUESTION: Coach, glad to see you back in Hall County. There are challenges aplenty for you in Valhalla. We know you’re an offensive-minded guy but the top priority may be in fixing a defense that allowed the most points in Class 3A last year. How is that coming along as you enter the fall?
ANSWER: Everyone on our team has a defensive position and will be considered a defensive player. There will be no player that only plays offense. Our best players will never come off the field. Now, in saying that, I’m also going to have to do some things on the offensive side of the ball in order to help the defense out as well by varying our tempos. We cannot just go pedal to the metal all of the time. Defensively we have to develop that nasty attitude. Tackling someone in the open field is equivalent to hitting a golf ball or hitting a baseball...it’s not easy to do. Those skills have to be constantly developed. We can’t take a day off from trying to teach the proper fundamentals that involve getting a ball carrier on the ground.
Q: So, for the offense, has either Clete Cooper or Luke England stepped forward, or is there a new name in the mix, in the quarterback battle in your “Air Raid” offense to this point?
A: We’ve done 7-on-7s and it’s just like everyone else, but that isn’t anything like getting game reps. Quarterbacks have to have the bullets flying at them in order to develop true pocket presence, and you get that in games. We are playing two very difficult scrimmage games against Veterans and Elbert County because (my QBs) have to go against good defensive lines and skilled defensive backs. I want both Luke and Clete to be tested and also experience failure. Do they just get worse and worse after a mistake or can they clear their mind to focus on the next given play? Honestly, right now, neither one can have the job yet because I have to see 1) how do they respond when adversity sets in and then, 2) can they make the accurate pass when we just have to have it on third-and-long. It’s going to be all about decision making, accuracy, mental toughness. Luke has proven to be a very tough kid and Clete has some definite arm talent. They are both great kids and have some talent. Ask me after our scrimmages.