Stephenson is entering is 17th year of existence as a program. Like any child developing into a young adult, there will be growing pains.
Coach Ron Gartrell has not let his Jaguars stray. According to ghsfha.org, Gartrell has posted an 135-50 overall record in 16 years with Stephenson. Gartrell has had countless successful seasons, but his deepest run came in 2005, highlighted by a trip to the Georgia Dome for the Class AAAAA semifinals. He will continue to mold his 2012 Jaguars into men of character on and off the field.
"Our season actually starts in January," said Gartrell. "We start the Tuesday after the Martin Luther King Jr., holiday. We have been doing that for about 15 years."
This was an important year after so much talent graduated from both sides of the ball.
"We had a great offseason workout," said Gartrell. "There were 90 players there. We kept those numbers throughout the offseason workout."
The Jaguars lost 18 starters from last season's 9-2 team. Gartrell noted that the offense and the defense each return two starters per unit.
"We have a lot to rebuild, but we are looking forward to it," admitted Gartrell.
Despite so much turnover due to graduation each year, Stephenson has been able to remain a threat because of the tight-knit coaching staff. Gartrell gave high marks to his staff at the 2012 DeKalb County football media day.
"I feel like I have one of the best coaching staffs in the state; not only in the state but in the country," Gartrell said. " There are about five of us who have been together for about 16 years. We do a great job complementing each other."
Gartrell believes this current crop of players, from grades 9-12, will be the best group of young men he has had at Stephenson. Gartrell was very proud in how they have all shown up and worked hard at workouts, the classroom and the other endeavors that face a high school student-athlete today.
Gartrell took time during the media session to single out some of the players who will make a resounding impact on the field this season.
"Rashad Payne, a linebacker who has committed to Howard, has done a great job for us," Gartrell said. "Quarterback No. 10 Justin Holman, who has committed to UCF. Justin has done a great job and is a great leader. Jordan Dunning, he plays center and defensive tackle. I don't know if we had a bad snap last year. He does everything the right way."
The Corky Kell Classic marks the official kickoff for Georgia high school football, and many teams will suit up for the first time one week later. Gartrell said he always gives his players a special message before the season.
"Speaking about the moment, you guys don't get this opportunity very often," Gartrell said. "Enjoy the moment, enjoy yourself at practice, work hard in the classroom. Do all the things you are going to have to do to be successful."