The McEachern Indians chopped their way through Class AAAAA competition last fall. Victories over juggernauts like North Gwinnett and Lowndes propelled the Indians to a 10-2 overall record. McEachern's two defeats were by a combined five points. In the second round of the GHSA playoffs, the Indians ran out of time in a 20-17 loss to semifinalist Lassiter.
Before fifth-year coach Kyle Hockman arrived, McEachern hadn't produced a double digit-winning season since 1999. During the Indians' drought, Hockman was coaching on in places like Greenville, N.C., and Morgantown, W.V., for the East Carolina Pirates and the West Virginia Mountaineers, respectively.
Since his arrival following the 2007 season, Hockman has led the Indians to 35 victories during his time at McEachern. In 2009 the Indians finished with a 10-1 record and a 0.909 winning percentage, the program's best since 1999.
"I think everybody is the sum total of their experiences," Hockman said. "God has blessed me to bring me to McEachern. As the game evolves, we try to keep working and keep everything in perspective. Having been on that stage, you realize it is still high school football. There is not one million dollars on the line or a bowl bid. We are going to work hard, keep the focus on the kids. McEachern is a great place with great tradition; we are excited about the future."
The Indian chief will look for a young group to grow up come kickoff time in the fall.
"We're going to be extremely young," Hockman said. "The only experience coming back is four offensive linemen. We are going to rely on them early in the season for production and leadership."
JaJuan Dulaney, a recent Maryland pledge, should lead the line but Hockman said he will have plenty of help in the trenches.
"Sherrod Pittman, our starting center, is a fireplug that we are relying on," said Hockman.
After going with Trent Thompson as the lone quarterback last year McEachern will go back to rotating quaterbacks, something that Hockman did his first two years in Powder Springs.
"We are going to use two or three quarterbacks," admitted Hockman. "Ty Clemons and Ty Griffin will split some time at quarterback."
Hockman noted that the Indians' defense is brand new and that the only returning starter is defensive back Kell Parham. Hochman believes if the defense plays a bend-don't-break style of ball, they could do some special things come December.
McEachern has an 8-12 record when playing in the Georgia Dome. Recent McEachern victories in the Dome include North Gwinnett last season and Brookwood in 2009.
Right after the pads pop during two-a-days, two huge exams will be awaiting the Indians. The Indians get back in session against the defending Class AAAAA state champ Grayson in the Georgia Dome at the Corky Kell Classic, then Class AAAAA runner-up Walton six days later.
"We are just working hard, doing our normal summer routine with 7-on-7's, we try not to get to heavy into opponents stuff later on in the August time frame, " Hochman said. "We try to play the best teams possible the first couple of games. We talk about all the time, if you're not ready, you're going get embarrassed. We use that as motivation, and our kids are excited about it."