There are just 25 days remaining until the kickoff of the 2020 high school football season. But make no mistake, despite the COVID-19 outbreak, swirling uncertainty since April, and the cancelation of spring practice, preparations for the upcoming campaign have been underway throughout the state since early June. 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 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 Raiders were inches away from another 5-5 season and a second consecutive playoff run in 2019 in a tough Region 8-6A. But things won’t get any easier as Buford and a pair of Class 7A teams in Central Gwinnett and Shiloh have now put down roots in the region.
Coach Benji Harrison and his staff have spent the offseason moving guys around to new positions like a chess master. They also have more than a dozen starters returning, including Duke-commit Joshua Pickett and one of the area’s most underrated players in running back Jackson Cloutre.
We asked Harrison how the changes are coming about as they get ready for one of their toughest schedules in recent memory.
QUESTION: Coach, you may have one of the best 1-2 punches in the area in the backfield with Jackson Clouatre and Joshua Pickett. How much more dangerous will your offense be with Pickett handling the bulk of the quarterback duties in 2020?
ANSWER: We feel like we've been pretty solid and able to score points over the last few years. I expect this group to be able to keep that rolling. We do have to replace three seniors up front from last year's offensive line. But, we do have Pierce Vickery at tackle back along with Butch Cassidy at guard. Also, returning from a season-ending injury is Ethan Tomlin. I feel like we have some weapons on offense coming back with Jackson Clouatre, Joshua Pickett, Austin Wood, and Grayson Taylor. I think we can be an explosive offense once we get rolling.
QUESTION: The defense was better than the numbers indicated in 2019. And it will probably need to be even better in a tougher Region 8-6A in 2020. However, you have moved some pieces around. What will be the key for that unit to have success?
ANSWER: We have to be more aggressive. Defensively, we should have more speed on the field this year. We have guys that are faster and stronger than last year. We have guys that have played extremely well back leading the way such as Patrick Tedder, Tanner Wade, Sutton Dover, Garrett Heaton, and Gage Hurt. We have some other guys that will be getting their first shot on Friday nights that we expect a lot out of as well.
- Previously in Two-a-Days: GAINESVILLE
- Up Next in Two-a-Days: JACKSON COUNTY