The fifth annual Forsyth County News Football Media Day offered a glimpse into how teams are preparing for what will be anything but a normal high school football season. Here are four things we learned.
South Forsyth’s linebacking corps expected to get boost
South Forsyth head coach Jeff Arnette said the War Eagles are planning to incorporate some 3-5-5 looks on defense, which would put Devin McGlockton at outside linebacker.
McGlockton displayed his versatility late in the 2019 season, playing both offense and defense. He collected 28 total tackles in the final three games, with half coming in his first game at linebacker against Forsyth Central. He had two tackles for loss in that game, then added an interception the following week against West Forsyth.
“They were just making fun of me because I didn’t let Devin start playing defense until Week 9 last year,” Arnette said. “Then he played three games and was one of our most productive players on defense. The thing about Devin is, you can’t play certain kids every play. You’d like to, and there are several up here that you’d like to do that with. But it’s a challenge for us as coaches to figure out when we can play them, where we can play them, because if we could, we’d play them every play, everywhere.”
The War Eagles have a couple of holes to fill at linebacker. Jax Weaver led the team with 97 tackles and Keegan Toner had a team-high 11 tackles for loss.
But Arnette will look to Alec Stephens (80 tackles, 10 tackles for loss in 2019) to provide leadership at linebacker, as well as Gavin Morris, who enjoyed a productive sophomore season.
One of the biggest boosts, however, might come at middle linebacker from a player who missed much of the 2019 season.
“The guy that looks like will be there right now is (Julian) Bolanos,” Arnette said. “He’s just fought injuries the past couple years, but if he stays healthy, I think people are going to see what a special player he is.”
Forsyth Central feels depth is now a strength
Head coach Frank Hepler lost 23 seniors to graduation, but he doesn’t expect that to impact his team the way it might have a few years ago.
The Bulldogs currently boast 132 players on their roster, and Hepler said Central could add more as the team enters the GHSA-mandated acclimatization period, which is the first step toward regular practice.
Hepler believes Central has more quality players now than it did when he became head coach in 2016.
“We always talk about (the distance between) you have a bottom player sometimes to your top player. And we talk about how that distance has shrunk,” Hepler said. “That’s a good sign of a program, so we’re hoping that starts to show on the field. We feel like it has the last two years.”
Central owns 11 wins over the past two seasons, which is the most in a two-year stretch since the Bulldogs won 15 games from 2000-01. In fact, four of Central’s five losses last year came in one-score games.
Senior defensive end Canaan Clark committed earlier this month to play football at East Carolina. Hepler points to players such as Bronson Landreth, Brandyn McMahon, Noah Chol, Solomon Gates and Robby Watson among others who he believes will play in college.
“A couple years ago, I could go, ‘OK, player one, two and three.’ Well, now, we’ve got nine, 10, 11, 12 guys that have the possibility of getting some scholarship offers,” Hepler said.
New coaches bring renewed optimism
Forsyth County has four new head coaches compared to just three who coached in the county last football season.
Among those is head coach Tommy Watson, who inherited a Lambert team that did not win a game last season.
But this year’s group strikes Lambert senior Tre Drewery as a much different team than the one that finished the 2019 season winless.
“As soon as (Watson) came in, the dynamic and the culture, like he said before, last year and the past years before that, it’s just been not nearly as intense and not where it’s needed to be,” Drewery said. “So, him coming in and changing the culture, it’s really helped … for these past three years, sometimes I’d feel like we weren’t really a team, like we weren’t really together. But this year, I feel like we’re actually building something that’s going to change this year.”
There’s similar optimism surrounding a West Forsyth team that welcomed Dave Svehla as its new head coach back in February.
One of Svehla’s hires was Jacob Nichols, who will serve as West Forsyth’s offensive coordinator. Nichols coached Alpharetta for six seasons, compiling a 46-22 record and reaching the playoffs every year but one.
Much of the Wolverines’ defensive staff was left intact, which Nichols believes helps provide a unique mix of coaches.
“Credit to Coach Svehla, to our athletic director Brett Phipps and our principal Karl Mercer, they have done a phenomenal job of piecing together what I truly believe is one of the best coaching staffs in the state of Georgia,” Nichols said. “We’ve got five or six guys with head coaching experience. We’ve got a very healthy mix of guys who have been at West Forsyth, have relationships with the kids, and other coaches that have been at other successful programs around the county and around the state. I think that is going to pay dividends for us in the long run.”
Coaches, players prefer Chick-fil-A over Waffle House
Twenty-seven Forsyth County football coaches and players took aim at a debate involving a pair of iconic Georgia institutions on Saturday, choosing between Chick-fil-A and Waffle House.
Chick-fil-A emerged as the winner, collecting 63 percent of the votes (17 votes).
“I think my wife would kill me if I didn’t choose Chick-fil-A. I had it for breakfast this morning. I’m a big fan of both, though, but I’d go with Chick-fil-A.” – Robert Craft, North Forsyth head coach
“My kids would pick Chick-fil-A, probably. They like both, too, but I’m going to have to say Waffle House. Waffle House has got grits. Chick-fil-A doesn’t have grits. Listen, Chick-fil-A’s a great place, but when you can have grits and eggs and sausage, I’ve got to go that way.” – Jeff Arnette, South Forsyth head coach
“Chick-fil-A. It’s guaranteed. You know it’s always going to be good.” – Kobe Haynes, West Forsyth senior
“I have no patience for Chick-fil-A’s lines, so I’m going to go Waffle House. The lines are too long, so I’m more of a Waffle House guy.” – Mike Palmieri, Denmark head coach
“I’m going to have to go with Chick-fil-A. You have to be in the mood for Waffle House. I feel like with Chick-fil-A, you could always just pull up to Chick-fil-A and be like, ‘Hey, let me get a chicken sandwich.” – Tre Drewery, Lambert senior