There are just 22 days remaining until the kickoff of the 2022 high school football season. But make no mistake, preparations for the upcoming campaign got underway months ago. And teams throughout northeast Georgia already 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. Our "Two-a-Days" series honors 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)...
Despite a third straight winning season, the Raiders missed the playoffs for a second straight season in Class 7A in 2021. Now, they are moving down to Class 6A and immediately have become a favorite to win Region 8-6A.
They return a slew of talent on the defensive side, including one of the best linebacking groups in North Georgia, but will have to find replacements at quarterback, running back, and along the offensive line.
We asked coach Robert Craft who is ready to take over the reins of the offense and just how good his linebacking group can be.
QUESTION: Coach, y’all have two big holes to fill after the graduations of your leading passer and leading rusher. How have the battles gone at those two spots as fall practice approaches?
ANSWER: "Losing Drew Aucoin and Patrick Corrigan are definitely big shoes to fill. They were great players for us, but even more, they were incredible leaders. Both were team captains, and led our team in every way imaginable. However, we have been really pleased with the progress of rising senior quarterback West Roberts. West played significantly in our last two games last year against South Forsyth and the win over Gainesville due to Drew being injured. West has great command of our football team, he has gained a great amount of respect from his teammates and is really ready to lead our team in 2022. At running back, we expect to have a loaded backfield. Two seniors, Mason Lawson and Caleb Bowen, both return and played significantly in 2021 and we are really excited about sophomore Karson McBrayer. Karson has the vision, speed, and toughness that you always like to see in the backfield. He has a chance to have a great career as a Raider."
Q: On defense, y’all may have one of the better linebacker groups in the area, led by All-Access first-teamer Collin Miller. How fun is that group to watch and how much better can they get?
A: "The linebacker position group starts with our defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Chris Wagner. Coach Wagner year-in and year-out has the group playing at a high level. Collin burst onto the scene last year. Without a doubt, Collin benefited from playing next to (Region 6-7A Defensive Player of the Year) Patrick Corrigan. Collin will lead that group this year and we are expecting big things from him again in 2022. But, I am excited to see who the next linebacker is, who like Collin last year, will benefit from playing alongside him, and behind a defensive line that we feel like is a strength of our team. Senior Cole Leroy, senior William Verdirame, senior Mason Lawson, and junior Jacob Shirley are a few who will be big contributors to that group."