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Football: Clack's return creates hype around West's region opener
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Adam Clack coached football at West Forsyth since it opened in 2007, including three season as head coach from 2014 to 2016, before leaving to take over Milton. - photo by Brian Paglia

It started in earnest on Sunday. 

The Gulo Gang, the West Forsyth's student section that takes its name from the scientific name for the Wolverine, posted an image on its Twitter account that previewed the upcoming Friday's football game against Milton, in a way. The image was of bold white font on a black background: "Cahill > Clack."

The first name is that of West's current head football coach, Shawn Cahill. The second is that of Adam Clack, who left the Wolverines for the Eagles over the offseason and whose return to Cumming this week has given West's Region 5-7A opener something of a personal twist.

"Obviously it's bigger because we want to show him (that) he made a bad decision," West senior quarterback Zach Burns said of Clack's return. "... To some of us, it's a little personal, because it's our senior year."

Clack, who had coached the Wolverines from 2014 to 2016 after helping Frank Hepler start up the program, did leave West in something of a lurch. Burns said he didn't know Clack was leaving until it was already a done deal, and Wolverines senior offensive lineman Blake Anderson said he was "upset" about the move. Both players accepted Clack's reasoning, though. 

"He said the same thing to me kind of briefly, just about how it was a good family decision for him," Burns said. "And at the end of the day it was his choice, so we couldn't really do anything but move on and accept it."

"I handled it the best way I know how," Clack said. "I was up front with everyone as soon as I knew, told everyone in person that I knew something so that they could get busy moving forward."

West did just that by the time spring ball started, hiring Cahill from Lanier and having him replace the coaches that Clack brought along to Milton. And the only remnants from Clack that Cahill has seen have been the positive kind: Players with good fundamentals and a program with high expectations and a strong following. Memories of Clack haven't been haunting the Wolverines' locker room. 

"There hasn't been any real hardcore animosity toward (Clack)," Cahill said. "It's all been kind of joking ... It's not like you hate this guy (and) we've got to go out there and shove it in his face or anything, which is good for us. We can't play a game off of that."

In fact, Cahill said that he's heard people talk more about Hepler and his impact on the program. 

"I've sat down with our (athletic director) and said, 'Man, Frank Hepler's got to go,'" Cahill said. "And I haven't met Frank yet – I've heard he's a great guy – but it's like dude, I don't want to hear about Frank anymore!"

And Clack's return isn't the only thing holding West's attention about this game. It's the Wolverines' region opener, a crucial test for a team that is 4-1 but is still, according to Cahill, trying to "find (its) way and (its) identity a little bit."

It also turns out that Milton is a serious contender for the region championship. The Eagles are 4-1, with their lone loss coming to 5-1 North Gwinnett. Last Friday, they went on the road to Roswell and beat the Hornets 40-7. South Forsyth, the region's lone undefeated team, had to go to overtime to beat Roswell in the Corky Kell Classic to open the season. Cahill said he didn't see any obvious shortfalls when he went to see the Eagles on Friday.

"We have to play perfect," Cahill said. "We're telling our kids that you've got to play a perfect game."

Burns and Anderson are just as eager to open the region schedule as they are to see Clack again. Much of the hype around their old coach's return, Burns said, has come from the rest of West's students, like the ones who run the Gulo Gang's Twitter account. 

He isn't complaining, though. 

"The student body's made it a little bigger (deal) than we've made it inside of the team," Burns said. "I know they're kind of blowing it up, and that's good. I want as many people to come out to the game as possible."