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Saturday December 5th, 2020 9:22AM

Coaches Corner: Area programs continue improvement as Week 3 is set to begin

By Bo Wilson Sports Editor

Given the environment more than a month ago around the state, many football fans, players and coaches had doubts about the 2020 high school football season. Now, it heads to Week 3 -- another huge accomplishment in this world of COVID-19.

Week 3 promises to bring some key contests, including the Branch-Gainesville rivalry, No. 1 Rabun County versus No. 2 Jefferson, The Battle of Oakwood -- Johnson-West Hall -- and many other intriguing games. 

Friday Game Night checked in with the area’s coaches to find out how Week 2 played out, what they learned and the keys to getting a win this week.

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

Banks County’s Jay Reid on playing East Jackson – the Eagles first game of the season …

“It's really hard to know what to expect seeing as though they have yet to play a game this season and we have no film.  I would expect to see a team come to Homer with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.  Coach Pettus and his staff do a great job over there and I would expect a dynamic approach full of RPO's and an aggressive defense.   While most of the area teams have had a chance to play, I would expect them to be very hungry for some competition.

On the keys to earning the first win of the season … 

“Our main goal is execution. With a lot of new wrinkles in our offense, I believe the best is yet to come as we begin to gel and execute our schemes.  We have gotten better over the last two weeks in many areas but getting our whole offensive unit together and executing is our primary goal.  For us to get our first win we need to settle in early and execute, in all three phases, staying ahead of the sticks and playing a physical brand of defensive football.”


Buford's Bryant Appling on the loss to top-10 ranked North Cobb ...

"I already knew all I needed to know about our team here. We are just like a lot of teams that will look very different in 3-4 weeks. If we cut out all our mistakes and play to our standard, we will improve every game from here on out."

 

On the keys to beating Carver-Atlanta ... 

"We need to play mistake free, disciplined football, improve on our effort to the end of all plays and have a sense of urgency from the start of the game."


Chestatee’s Shaun Conley on dropping the season opener to Cherokee Bluff last week … 
“We knew going in they were talented and they did a really good job against us. We found out several things about us... the main thing is - we are going to be OK.  Cherokee Bluff is a good team, and I felt like we did some good things against them we just have to be more consistent. That happens when you have the inexperience we currently have. I have discovered over the years, one of the times a team experiences the greatest improvement is between the first and second games.  Traditionally, the first game situation is a scrimmage - this year it was a real game.  

On playing Union County this week … 

“I fully expect our kids to be ready to go back to work and get those mistakes we made Friday fixed, and we will be better this Friday. Union County is a good football team. They have played two really good teams and have been in both ballgames. I think the key for us this week is to be able to make the improvements we need to make and play more consistent on both sides of the ball.” 


Commerce’s Michael Brown on last week’s win against Union County…
We made improvements in a lot of areas from Week 1 to Week 2 but are still busting way too many assignments -- cleaning up the busted assignments has to be a priority this week.”

On playing top-ranked Class A-private Athens Academy … 

“For us to have a chance to compete against Athens Academy, we will have to eliminate those mistakes.”


Dawson County’s Sid Maxwell on the areas of improvement after the Week 2 loss to Flowery Branch … 
“I was pleased with our overall team effort. We played hard and competed for 48 minutes which was a big improvement from the week before.  We still need to ingrain our fundamentals which could have made a difference in our last two games.  Playing good football teams allows you the opportunity to continue to work and fix your problems -- good teams will expose your weakness.

On the keys to beating Class 7A South Forsyth on Friday … 
We have to play with the same intensity as last week and sound football for 48 minutes. We must execute for 48 minutes on all phases to give us that opportunity.”


East Hall’s Michael Perry on beating West Hall in the season opener … 
“We were able to handle adversity. We lost two starters early in the game due to injuries and our captain and starting safety was quarantined so we had to have multiple guys step up and boy did they. I could not be prouder of my team.”

On the keys to beat Franklin County … 

“Franklin is a very physical and well-coached team. Coach Sutherland is a great coach. They play with great effort and run a very unique offense. Our defense is going to have to set the edge all night and let nothing outside of us. Franklin is going to try and eat up clock so when we have the ball on offense we must execute and score points.”


East Jackson’s Cameron Pettus on his team’s return to play after quarantine … 

“Our focus this week is to be fundamentally sound. Take care of the football on offense, tackle well on defense and transition smoothly with all our special teams. Since we have not played a game we have had some really physical and demanding practices to get us ready to play this week.”

On the keys to beating Banks County … 

“To get the win we have to execute our offense and take what the defense gives us. Must be methodical and persistent and good things will occur. Defensively since they line up in a lot of different formations, we have to get aligned properly and execute. With rain in the forecast ball security will be crucial in this game, the team who wins the turnover margin will win this battle.”


Gainesville’s Heath Webb says the off week was productive … 
“The off week was good. Our practices were spirited and fun. I think the enthusiasm from the win at Stockbridge carried over. It was also great to get to watch our JV team go on the road and win at South Forsyth. 

Webb says winning the turnover battle will be key against rival Flowery Branch …

“I think one of the biggest keys is to not get caught up in the rivalry. We've lost focus in the past simply because it was Flowery Branch. We're a much more mature team at this point so hopefully, that's not an issue. Then we've got to win the turnover battle. It should be a close game so that could be the difference.”


Jefferson’s Gene Cathcart says his team performed well in the season-opening 61-7 win over Central Gwinnett … 

“That is probably as well as we have ever had a team execute in a season opener -- especially without a scrimmage. I think we learned that even with the highlight reel type plays, Malaki Starks read and distributed the football extremely well in Game 1. We also learned that we have some real quality depth regarding our playmakers, and our offensive line played lights out. Defensively, we held a quality opponent to negative rushing yards and just over 100 yards of total offense, while forcing multiple turnovers. Our special teams played very well, but we did not have to punt and were not perfect on extra points which are both, along with getting off the field defensively on third downs, areas we will need to work on this week.”

On playing Class 2A top-ranked Rabun County on the road this week … 

“First off, we need to get past the fact that this will be Rabun County's third ball game, and our guys, for the most part, have played one half of football so far. Rabun is extremely well-coached, not only on offense -- where Coach Jaybo Shaw and his staff do an awesome job and Gunner Stockton, who is a first-class player and young man, -- but are as tough to defend as anyone we will play all year. But also, defensively, where coach (Rob) Stockton does an outstanding job schematically, and they are coached up, very multiple, athletic and play very hard and tackle well. They tend to score a bunch of points offensively, so the Rabun defense defends a lot of plays. But you don't have the success they have had without playing tremendous defense and special teams, and they are no exception. Anytime you play a team ranked No. 1 in the state, and a program we have great respect for, getting our players motivated should not be a problem and it should be a great, playoff-type atmosphere. We are excited about the opportunity to get better and continue to grow and progress as a football team together.” 


Johnson’s William Harrell says his program learned a lot in the Week 1 loss to Cherokee Bluff and has been working to get better during the off week… 

“We stayed relatively healthy but was overmatched versus a really good Cherokee Bluff team. We learned a lot about where we are and what we need to do to grow. We have a long way to go before we can truly be competitive week-in and week-out.”

On playing West Hall in the annual Battle of Oakwood … 

“We will need to play mistake-free football and hope for some miscues by West Hall to have a chance to compete. They have some players that athletically we just don’t match up with right now. To offset that, we must bring our full effort every play and not beat ourselves. With our youth and low numbers, getting as much game experience as possible while pushing ourselves in the weight room will be the key to success in the long run.”


Lumpkin County’s Caleb Sorrells on what his team learned in Week 1 … 

“We learned that we are young.  Not any new information, just confirmed after watching our film and seeing some of the mistakes.  We are excited about a lot of the young guys that are going to be starting or playing a lot of snaps for us, but you just can't practice game experience.  That's got to be earned the hard way.  We had 10 kids who started or played a significant time Friday night that didn't have any meaningful varsity experience coming into the game.  4 more played less than 5 games last year.  So, we just have a lot of growing pains still to go through”

On the keys to beating Towns County on the road …   
We’ve got to win the line of scrimmage. Also, execute offensively and establish a run game. On defense, we’ve got to tackle and defend screenplays well.” 


North Hall’s David Bishop on making improvements after an 0-2 start … 
“Right now, we have to strive for consistency and excellence in the little things and it is my job to make sure that happens.”

On the keys to beating a tough 0-2 Hart County team … 

“When it comes to winning, we have to do the little things that we discuss every day to win, and it starts with fundamentals.”


Rabun County’s Jaybo Shaw on what he learned from the 38-31 win over Prince Avenue in Week 2 … 

“It was really encouraging to see our football team take Prince Avenue's best punch in the third quarter and find a way to win the football game in the fourth quarter. Our guys delivered when we needed it the most. We have a bunch of guys that have played a ton of football for us, so to see them respond to some adversity was very encouraging. We grew a lot as a football team from Friday night, whether that was from the game being on a national stage, beating a highly ranked opponent in Prince Avenue, or facing some adversity as we did in the third quarter. That game made us better in a lot of ways. I love everything about my football team and what we stand for as a program."

On playing Class 4A No. 2-ranked Jefferson … 

“I have a ton of respect for coach (Gene) Cathcart and the Jefferson football program. It is very evident that they are very well-coached and have a very talented team. The keys for us will always start with us playing with relentless effort. Obviously, you have to take care of the football when you are playing a team like Jefferson who can control the clock with their run game. We have to make sure we play our brand of football and come out of the gate fast. When playing against an option-based offense, you have to be very disciplined on every snap. When we are on offense, we have to avoid the long down and distance situations because they do a great job on defense."


Towns County’s Jason Roquemore on picking up the team’s first win in Week 2 … 
“I believe kids are starting to play with confidence and consistency. That was huge for us this past Friday. Hopefully, we will see those two things continue to grow from week to week.” 

On playing Lumpkin County … 

"We need execution in all three phases. We are going to have to take advantage of every opportunity and be GREAT with our execution.”


Union County’s Brian Allison on last week’s loss to Commerce … 

“I think we played better against Commerce on defense and special teams. I felt we took a step back on offense. We have a lot of new faces on offense, so it is going to be a process and we need to be patient.”

On the keys to beating Chestatee … 

“We must tackle well and eliminate big plays. Big plays have killed us in the past two weeks. We also must be more consistent on offense.”


West Hall’s Krofton Montgomery says they are improving … 

“We are an improved team in all areas when you watch the film and see the progress players have made. With that being said we got to eliminate turnovers and mistakes by seniors. The players with the most experience need to play with more urgency and consistency throughout a four-quarter game. We’ve put our defense too many times from turnovers through these first two games.”

On the keys to beating Johnson in the annual Battle of Oakwood …  
 
The biggest key to getting a win is for every player to do theirs on every play. We’ve got to get more hats to the football on defense, sustain drives and finish plays and play with an edge at all times.”


White County’s Tim Cokely on his team’s 2-0 start … 

“We have continued to improve and that is the sign of an unselfish team. Pickens’ size presents a big challenge for us. We played a really close game with them last year, and I am sure this year will not be any different.

On the keys to winning their third straight game on Friday … 

“To win, we will have to prevent costly mistakes and turnovers.  We will also need to play well in the kicking game.”

 

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