There are just 24 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)...
The Lions suffered through a rough 2021 campaign that saw multiple injuries to key players contribute to a disappointing 1-8 record after their first-ever playoff run the year before. The bright side is that several underclassmen got some needed varsity time and in 2022 they dropped out of the Georgia High School Association and joined the Georgia Independent Athletic Association.
The numbers are up and coach Lee Shaw is expecting some of the younger players to have impact years. They also will be breaking in a new quarterback for their spread offense. We caught up with Shaw to discuss how the spring and summer has gone.
QUESTION: Coach, a plethora of injuries derailed the 2021 season. But the numbers are up in 2022 with the move to GIAA. The younger players got crucial playing time last season. How is the progress of the underclassmen coming along heading into fall practice?
ANSWER: "Last year was very frustrating for everyone involved in the program. We had a great off season/preseason and felt really good after our preseason scrimmage with Lumpkin County. Our new quarterback then, Harrison Cooper, was gaining confidence in his ability to play the position. We had a lot pieces of the puzzle to be competitive. Then injuries hit us hard. It just became an out of control snowball effect. By the last game we had lost 8 starters, including Harrison. In my coaching career I had never seen that many injuries plague a team.
"With all that adversity, we had several young players thrown into the fire of Friday nights. Since I have been at Lakeview Academy we have averaged 25-30 players. That number will stay the same this season as well."
Q: You will have to break in a new quarterback this season in Logan Stanley. How has his progress been so far and who are some guys that are ready to step up on offense as the season approaches?
A: "Logan has the ability to be a dual threat quarterback for us. He has the tools, he just needs Friday night live reps. He has increased his speed, throwing accuracy and arm strength through our Summer Sacrifice training program. I look forward to helping him develop into the player he can be as well as the player we need him to be.
"I’ve seen great improvement from Jacob Davenport as a defensive back; Evan Yaskulka is a returning lineman; Stuart Daniel has increased his size and strength. We've gotten some great leadership from three-year starter Landon Hanes at the linebacker/running back positions. Kastian Haynes has become a multi-purpose player and TJ Blackwell is an athlete on both sides of the ball. Also, Robert Lawson on both sides of the line could be starting by the first game.
"New players whom could be difference makers are Antonio Cantrell as a talented running back, Armand Long at receiver/defensive back, Junior Thompson at linebacker/running back, Clyde Jones at receiver/defensive back, and Tristan Buffington receiver/linebacker could have a real break out year."