There are just 32 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, sandpits 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 Dragons, much like Flowery Branch, suffered a plethora of late-season injuries to derail what was shaping up to be a promising season. But with adversity usually comes a positive reaction, and that should be the case for Jefferson.
The Dragons were able to develop some key depth at some key spots due to the injuries and coach Gene Cathcart is optimistic that that aspect could be a key factor in 2019.
QUESTION: Coach, injuries played a huge part in the team's quick exit from the playoffs last season. However, it also means a ton of younger guys got playing time in pressure situations. With 15 starters returning, how has that helped in getting ready for the 2019 campaign?
ANSWER: Injuries and adversity did play a big role in last season, but every team and program has to deal with adversity each and every year and at Jefferson the standard is very high and our own expectations are even higher. The one positive of any playing time lost to injury is that more players have to step up and get to gain valuable experience. This certainly was the case last year and with so many players returning who gained experience, it puts this team’s development further along in terms of being battle-tested and is also very good for morale. We are certainly very excited about the players we have returning but are very much counting on some to step up and contribute in certain places where depth is a concern.
Q: Early on it looks like the defensive line is being rebuilt. Who do you see stepping up for that unit?
A: Well, without question we have some good players upfront but I do not think Donte Wilson or Caleb Chandler will be coming back. One concern is that players we have upfront on our defensive line will also be playing on our offensive line and that is certainly not ideal. Offensive linemen Hurst Young, Mason Ware, Colton Steele, Colton Dufresne, Gage Swilling, Jake Holman, Cole Patterson and others will play a great deal on our defensive front. Jaheim Hardy has had a great summer and will play a great deal. We are counting on Nathan Collins, Carson Woodward, AJ Abbott, and hopefully Kellen Cook will perform well. Knox McKinney is a very talented sophomore defensive linemen we were counting on but was injured last season and had shoulder surgery this summer. We will also play some of our outside linebackers on our front depending on our look or the scheme of how we are playing. Also, some young players may work their way into our rotation.