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Wednesday November 25th, 2020 2:30AM

Coaches Corner: Area teams excited to finally play a game Friday

By Bo Wilson Sports Editor

When the Georgia High School Association’s 2020 football season kicks off on Friday, there will be more than 350 of the 425 schools playing football across the state.

On the local front, all but two of the 22 area schools, with scheduled games on Friday, are set to go. East Jackson was forced to cancel the first two weeks because of COVID-19 quarantine protocols, and Riverside Military Academy shuttered fall sports in May.

Friday Game Night checked in with the area’s coaches to find out how preparation has been through the pandemic and to find out how many ingredients are needed to get their first win. 

You can track these games on the FGN twitter page at www.twitter.com/fridaygamenight or on the live scoreboard at www.accesswdun.com/fridaygamenightBelow are comments from the area’s coaches:

Banks County’s Jay Reid on the preseason prep and team’s overall feeling …

“We have had a great pre-season even with the difficulties that have arisen. These guys have gone through months of preparation with no competition, which is very difficult as a competitor.  I have experienced something similar to this only once in my coaching and playing career during my redshirt freshman year in college, where you practice every day and have no competition. As a player, that year was very difficult for me and I am astonished how well our guys have handled this. Our motto for this year has been "Enjoy the Journey" and I feel that our entire team has enjoyed every moment of it and we can't wait to get to play. In my two years here at Banks County, I can't remember a game that our guys were more excited about."

On playing Commerce …

"Coach Brown and his staff do a very good job over there and they have a good team and tradition. They play a physical brand of football, so I expect a very high energy, physical ball game. For us to be successful, we must control the "controllables," meaning we have to eliminate turnovers first and foremost and avoid mistakes that cost us field position. These are generally areas where games are won and lost, and they couldn't be more essential this week as we are both going into this game with no competitive play since last November.


Cherokee Bluff's Tommy Jones on his team's prepardness ...
 
"We are so dang excited to get our feet on the grass, under the lights, on a Friday night. Not sure that four months ago, anyone could’ve predicted that we would be able to play. Without spring practice or summer padded camps, this has been a very rushed and disjointed preparation. I don’t know if you ever feel fully prepared going into week 1 but it’s even more pronounced this year.  But on the positive, our kids have had more energy and enthusiasm than I can remember. Hopefully, the whole pandemic experience has made us all more appreciative and grateful for our opportunities."   
 
On what to expect from a new-look Johnson ...

"Coach (William) Harrell is an excellent coach. I have a ton of respect for the way he goes about his business. He will have his team motivated, prepared, and ready to play. Our focus has to be on us being the best we can be and controlling the things in our power. Especially with as little as we know about them. We need to play clean, fast, together and execute in all phases."    


Commerce's Michael Brown says his team has been resilient ...

"The kids have been very resilient through the quarantine and summer. If anything, I think most of them have a renewed sense of what a blessing it is to be a part of a team playing this great game."

On playing Banks County ...  

"As always, the game comes down to blocking, tackling, and running... the team that does those things the best puts themselves in a position to win on any Friday Night


Dawson County's Sid Maxwell on the challenges of preseason prep ... 

"It has been a long road with many challenges along the way. With COVID-19, we have had our many battles. We will continue to striving to get through it and keeping our players safe is our No. 1 priority. I am really happy for our players to finally have a game to play. The young men are ready to compete and adapt to the many challenges this season will bring. My staff is working hard to get depth at all positions as we approach our non-region schedule. "Expect the Unexpected' is our theme this season."

On playing a Cass team with a new coaching staff ... 

"Cass has a new staff, so we know very little about their team this year.  The challenge is to have the team fundamentally prepared and the ability to adjust to their schemes on all facets during the game. That's one of my primary concerns. All we know is they have the majority of their team returning this year including their kicking game. The primary key for us to win on the road is to execute and focus on our fundamentals and take care of the football."


Flowery Branch's Ben Hall on the Falcons' road to Game 1 ... 

"Everyone is appreciative to be here preparing for game one. There are many unknowns regarding our team, but at least we are preparing for Game 1."

On opening against a tough St. Pius X team ... 

" We need to find out where we are as a team. Playing tough teams that are used to making the postseason will challenge our players early. We must play assignment football on defense and be efficient with every possession on offense to have any chance to win."


 

Gainesville's Heath Webb on the team's excitement and preparation ...

"The players and coaches are excited to finally be at game week. The preseason seems like it has lasted forever. We haven't had much time to prepare for Stockbridge because they were a late addition to the schedule but everyone in the program has been focused in the short amount of time we've had." 

On traveling to Stockbridge ...

"It's Game 1 on the road against a great program with no scrimmages, so there's a lot of uncertainty. They're a triple-option team, so playing assignment defense is always the key. We have to be able to handle adversity and adjust on the fly if they give us something we're not quite prepared for. Offensively, we know that our possessions could be limited so we have to produce on each drive. A game-changing play on special teams could be the difference." 


Johnson's William Harrell on his approach to his first season as coach ... 

"Our team is excited to finally be able to have an opportunity to play on Friday night and hit someone other than themselves. We are continuing to work daily on improving our level of play throughout the season, day by day and week by week."

On playing a talented Cherokee Bluff team ... 

"We are going to have our hands full. They are talented, physical and well-coached. Coach (Tommy) Jones and his staff have built the program the right way and have had some additions that will only make them that much tougher. We will have to bring our A-game to be able to compete."


Lakeview's Lee Shaw on the team's excitement for game day ... 

"We had our situational practice in our new stadium last Friday night, and the team was very excited to finally have our first game insight. It’s been a long pre-season in some ways but as a coach, you never feel “ready” for that first game."

On playing a stout Mt. Paran team to open the season ...

"The best way to win a game is to not lose the game by making costly mistakes. We will experience growing pains because of the lack of Friday night experience. I don’t make excuses for our team nor do I want them to fall back on excuses. That being said, we will strive to play with relentless effort and rely on what this program is being built on… TEMPO-COMPETE-FINISH. If we battle all night, good things will happen."


North Hall's David Bishop says the Trojans remain positive ... 

"The team feeling is one of excitement. When you spend five months wondering if you are even going to play, it does wear on you mentally. Once we received the “all clear” from the GHSA it was a shot of adrenaline for all the players and coaches. Prep has gone well. We have been healthy and that goes a long way. Prep is a bit different than in the past, but I am proud of the coaches and players in the handling of all the changes."
 
 On beating Paulding County (Game moved to Sept. 5 at North Hall, 11 a.m. kickoff)

"The keys to winning this game come down to fundamentals. We are dealing with 15 starters that have never played a snap at their positions on a Friday night. Execution on offense and no turnovers as well as tackling and no blown assignments in the secondary will go a long way to securing a victory."


Rabun County's Jaybo Shaw on the return to play ... 

"Our football team, our school, and our community are excited about getting back on the field this week to compete and start the 2020 season. I am so proud of our coaches and players on how we have handled everything over the past six months. We continue to tell our team to "control the controllables" and I have thought that we have done a great job of that. We have had great leadership from our upperclassmen and now we just need to go play. Our preparation practices have gone well. We have had great energy and effort up to this point, and now the challenge is taking it to another level. I know our football team will accept that challenge and represent Rabun County the way it should be represented. 

On playing disciplined against Ridgeland ... 

"We have to win the turnover battle, create and limit explosive plays and play as hard and as fast as we possibly can. Those are the things we hang our hat on every time we take the field. A huge point will be making sure we are playing disciplined football whether that is assignment, eyes and making sure we limit our penalties."


Towns County's Jason Roquemore on the energy of the Indians ... 

"Our kids are super excited. I love their energy and look forward to seeing them get the opportunity to perform this Friday night.

On playing Armuchee to open the season ...

"The biggest factor for us this week will be offensive and defensive line play. We have got to WIN the trenches."


Union County's Brian Allison on being prepared ...

"Our guys are ready to play a game. It has been a long haul since March, and we are excited to have a game."

On keys to beating an improved Fannin County ... 

"I think special teams will play a big factor, and conditioning is a concern because of not having a scrimmage. We also need to limit turnovers to be successful."  


West Hall's Krofton Montgomery on the team's optimism ... 

"Just getting the chance to play a real game is something I believe everyone is looking forward to. Our prep has been really good just way different than past years with no 7 on 7, no uppers camps, split rosters and locker rooms. We feel enthusiastic and full of optimism at this point in the season as I’m sure all teams are feeling."

On adjusting to new opponent Jackson County in four days ...

"Adjusting quickly to a team we just picked up Monday night will present its challenges. Turnovers, special teams and adjustments in-game will be crucial. Jackson County is well-coached and has a very good defense and a large offensive line. With that said, we will need to attack to have success."


White County's Tim Cokely on the team's overall feeling …

“The team is very antsy. It's the usual anticipation with some nerves mixed in. It's fun to see the smiles return.”

On playing Stephens County …

"This should be a great game year in and year out. They have a good program and are a tough opponent for us. Regardless of the opponent, our coaches and players just want to play. It seems as if the layoff has made us a little hungrier."

SEPT. 4 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
All games listed kick-off at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted

Armuchee at Towns County 
Commerce at Banks County
Dawson County at Cass
Jackson County at West Hall
Fannin at Union County
Franklin at Lumpkin County 
Gainesville at Stockbridge – 94.5 FM The Lake
Johnson at Cherokee Bluff – WDUN FM 102.9
Madison County at Habersham Central 
Mt. Paran Christian at Lakeview Academy 
Rabun County at Ridgeland
Stephens at White County 
St. Pius X at Flowery Branch – WDUN AM 550

SEPT 5 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Paulding at North Hall, 11 a.m.

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