Etowah has been on the cusp of becoming an elite team, but despite years of winning seasons, the program’s last playoff victory came in 2006 against Parkview.
Enter new Etowah head coach Dave Svehla. Svehla has never coached in the state of Georgia before and arrives off his most recent coaching job in El Paso, Ill. As the Svehla era inaugurates, the Eagles are looking to improve upon a 6-5 from 2011.
There will be lot of pressure placed on Svehla in his first season, but he considers it a part of the job.
“Any head coach who’s worth anything is going to feel internal pressure, I put a lot of pressure on myself and I have my own expectations,” said Svehla.
Positioned right in the heart of a region with Walton, Lassiter and Milton, Svehla is working around the clock to install his system before he takes on these region giants in 2012.
When Svehla first arrived at Etowah, he immediately noticed one thing.
“These kids work hard, and they like to be challenged,” said Svehla.
Etowah has always played a disciplined and high-effort brand of football, but the trademark criticism surrounding the team in the past has been an overall shortage of athleticism.
“Athletically, we do have some work to do,” admits Svehla. “A lot of athleticism is going to be genetics, but we can always develop and work to improve our change of direction, and we always work to become a more explosive team.”
The Eagles abandoned their previous veer formation offense when Svehla arrived and will move into the I-formation in 2012. In stark contrast with the triple-option veer style, the I-formation will require the Eagles to line up and run square at the defense.
The position of quarterback for the Eagles in 2012 is still an open debate. Reeves Johnson was established to be the starter for 2011, but he was sidelined for the season with an injury. John Oliver accepted the starting job after Reeves went out and improved throughout the season, showing many valuable skills. With both quarterbacks healthy this season and a new playbook to manage in 2012, the battle between the two has been rigid. Johnson and Oliver both stand 6-feet-2, and without the need to run the ball in the option next season, the decision will ultimately come down to who fits Svehla’s new system the best.
“I cannot say we have two different styles of quarterback battling for the job, because we don’t,” said Svehla. “Both guys bring a lot of the same skills to the position. Reeves showed he was good enough to start last year when he won the job preseason, and Oliver showed he could be a starter when he filled in for Reeves.”
A scrimmage with Sequoyah the week before the season will provide Svehla and his Eagles with a final chance to make adjustments before kicking off the season with Lambert in Week 1. Svehla is looking forward to getting into region play, but Lambert remains at the priority of Svehla’s many emphases this offseason.
The biggest challenge in 2012 for Svehla and the Eagles may come in the final two weeks of the schedule when they face off against two of the state’s best teams. The Eagles will travel to Raider Valley to face the Walton Raiders before hosting the Lassiter Trojans in the following and final week of the regular season.
“I have definitely heard how great they are, and I am aware of the talent on these two teams,” said Svehla. “But I have given little thought to weeks 9 and 10 so far, and it’s all about Lambert Week 1.”
Svehla recognizes and accepts the challenges of 2012 and does not presume Georgia to be noticeably distinctive from the former states he coached in.
“I know how good football is here, and I have coached at small schools before and a big time school in Nebraska before, where they definitely take football seriously,” said Svehla. “We all like to think we play the best football, but in the end we are coaching high schoolers. You are going to have great players at some positions and not so great players at other positions. You just find the kids that can fit your system.”
The Eagles will try to make some noise in region 6-AAAAAA in 2012. A new playbook on both sides of the ball and an overall improvement of athleticism could give Svehla a dangerous Etowah squad next season. The season kicks off Aug. 31 against the visiting Lambert Longhorns.