Spring Football (capitalization intentional) is one of four seasons here in the state – the second one I use…Football, Spring Football, ‘cruitin’ and National Signing Day…And it can happen to you in a two different ways…it can come in front of a large crowd, on an atypical day of the week, or in front of an audience of a few. The impact can be had in what you search for and the hunt to find that information.
For Chad Cheatham and the Fannin County Rebels, it was one that was, by design, one that was self-sufficient.
“It was good for us,” Cheatham says. “We don’t normally. But we’re so…young…”
And you can tell how young the Fannin County roster is when Cheatham takes his time with those last two words…”so…young…”
There are 16 freshmen and 14 sophomores who are part of the equation. And those 30 students needed that time to learn before the 7x7s and padded camps are coming on the schedule.
“We wanted them to develop some understanding before they were thrown into the fire. We’ll be playing 45-60 this season and some of them will be these sophomores and freshmen. We went into shells for four days, so we were focused on setting up and assessing everything. We filmed everything and we’re going to watch everything that happened,” Cheatham said.
“We know what juniors and seniors can do and they can adapt quickly to pressure. We will assess our leadership with the older guys and adapt this year like that.”
And they can do it in what Cheatham calls “AA’s SEC.”
Region 7 includes Haralson County, Murray County, North Murray, Model, Rockmart, and Gordon Central facing the Rebels for this round. With a young team it can be difficult to get out of the blocks, but it should pay off when they are a bit older.
Then it could be your first time as head coach…
That’s what Jonathan DeLay faces as the new head coach in Thomasville with the Bulldogs. After Zach Grage left to head to Lowndes, the job with the terrific pedigree and history was available. And for someone who has seen all the work that goes into for a few seasons and has a stepfather who worked in the same sideline two decades ago (Tommy Welch from 2000 to 2004, by the way ), Coach DeLay knows the seriousness and importance of being “the head coach of the Thomasville Bulldogs.”
“It’s one of those traditions in all of high school football,” he tells me. “When you watch college football, and I’m a Georgia fan, you like the uniforms of teams like Penn State, Alabama, and Georgia. You know what Thomasville High School is going to wear on a home date at Veterans Memorial Stadium. You know what Thomasville will wear on the road. It’s a tradition unmatched.
DeLay was at Disney World for Spring Break ready to be the Offensive Coordinator for 2022. Then Zach Grage told him he was leaving and DeLay thought “maybe it’s my time.”
“It sank in the presser,” he said. “When they announced my name in front of parents, in-laws and players, I was like, ‘Man, this is real.’ It’s an emotional time and I’m starting to do something I love to do. “
The best time for him is when he can get out on the pitch and be there with his players in training. All that time spent creating schedules and scripts translates into rewarding time in the field. “It’s a chance to show that we all love each other, that we compete and win as a group.”
The Bulldogs were able to put together a spring ball schedule for two weeks that ended in the “Red and Gold Scrimmage” – a 16-14 final that was decided on the final drive. “Winning is SO important to these kids,” Coach DeLay says, “and the losing team just went so crazy. They’re all super competitive and they learn when they win. You learn how to stay ahead of a game like scrimmage and us also found a lot of guys who could play in other positions, whether it’s attacking guys who can play defense or defensive guys who can play attack.
Approach number three is more of a “Welcome back…”
Sean Calhoun is Colquitt County’s new head coach after a year at Alabama, five at Carrollton before that and a two-year stint as the Packers OC in 2014 and 2015. When you call Calhoun, there’s a voicemail which he kept for nearly a decade which is on his laptop. This is his Cade, now 11 years old, when he was 2 years old.
“I don’t know if I will ever get rid of it,” he admits. Nor should he, frankly… Calhoun and his wife Kellie have three children, son Cade, 11; daughter Cora Mae, 10; and daughter Cambry Jo, 7.
They’ve been back for a few months now.
“Colquitt is one of those jobs in Georgia or in the States, really, when they call you, you listen,” admits Calhoun. “Having been here before helps to know the landscape and the potential of the program, football and family. We were adopted in Alabama and I had replaced a coach who had been at Vestavia Hills for 43 years. But coming back here you are also resource and community conscious. This is the best competition in the state, if not the country, and it ticked all the boxes.
Since he took over, it’s been busy… but “busy fun”. When you are an assistant, you have a different lens through which you look day to day. As Calhoun says, “you don’t know what you don’t know” and he had to learn the landscape of southern Georgia.
“Your philosophy and your heart as to who you are remains the same,” he says. “But every community is different and you have to accept that to thrive as a coach. We’ve been able to rekindle some old relationships since we came back, but the new relationships we’ve established have been great.”
Believe it or not, last week was Calhoun’s first-ever spring game and it was going to be interesting to see how the whole experience plays out in their game in Cairo. Eventually, the Packers came back to win the game after trailing at halftime. The starters only played the first three quarters, so it was a different vibe on every level.
The 12-minute fourth quarter was given to the JV and the third quarter lasted only 8 minutes. The game did not feature a live kickoff, kickoff return, punt, or punt return.
“It’s exciting to be back,” admits Calhoun. “It’s a different level of excitement when you go up against someone else and see how you’re doing against their attack and defense. Obviously you’re hoping to come out of a scrum like this without any injuries. The odds are the same if you don’t play a game like this either.”
“One of the downsides of a scrum is that you have to plan and take the time to do it. But we’re delighted. It’s a legitimate game day and you hope it goes well.”
It’s good to see how Spring Football (intentional capitalization) gives you the opportunity to learn in different ways. But it also gives you a chance to spread names in ways we never imagined…
Like a little “oh, by the way” this time around, I came across something that I KNOW Matt and Rusty Mansell didn’t let pass their offices… In Cartersville, that’s a really cool way from getting your athlete information to college recruiters. I saw this and thought this would be the start of the next wave of staying in touch 24-7-365…
This is absolute genius and when other schools see this they will jump on this idea to spread the word…
I look forward to empirical evidence on this…
Play it safe, everyone…I’ll talk to you soon…