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Mitchell County Arrives Ahead of Schedule

Photo - Albany Herald
Deshon Brock came from Ludowici to be the head coach at Mitchell County High School, going from one end of the state to the other -- to the total of 174 miles from one place to the other. He had been a coordinator and a basketball coach for the Blue Tide at Long County High, but wanted to prove that he could be the guy in charge. 
 
His observations of the Mitchell County student-athletes were given in a unique way. He broke them down on tape before he walked in for his interview ... scouting via Hudl.
 
“I wanted to see what the kids looked like on film,” he admits, “and it amazed me about the quality of athlete. I jumped on the opportunity when it came available here.
 
“I interviewed for a few other jobs and a lot of other schools wanted me for head basketball coach since I was successful at Long County. Some schools wanted coordinators and a head hoops coach. When Mitchell gave me the head coaching job in football, I jumped at the chance.
 
“It really is a dream come true, and I couldn’t wait for it to happen. It happened so fast. The biggest thing this entire time has been to stay cool, calm and relaxed -- just stay to the game plan. They all got to see my passion and enthusiasm starting in the interview process. I admit I wear things on my sleeve, and I don’t have a good poker face. Everyone sees how I feel about things. In the interview, they could all see I was passionate. I wanted the job and opportunity and I knew if they took a chance on me they wouldn’t be sorry. We’ve all worked hard to see where the program is one of the premier programs in the state.”
 
Brock thinks, when you ask him, that Mitchell County is a little ahead of schedule. He didn’t expect to come out the gate Year One and win the region title in 2017. In their second year, he thought they could contend for a state title, and then again this year with the seniors -- maybe the same. He thought they could make a push with kids that were sophomores in their first year there this time around.
 
He’s had years of 10-2 and 8-3 before losing in the Class A Public playoffs each time. This year, it’s been a run of 10-1 so far (the only loss was in a 63-50 shootout to Brooks County in the opener) that includes a region title and the win over county rival Pelham to do it. I wanted to ask, for those who have never been to see that game in particular, what it means to one of the most crowded counties for talent per capita in the state.
 
“It’s unreal,” Brock says. “It’s the high school version of Georgia-Florida, FSU-Miami, and it has that magnitude in Single-A football. Wherever we play, the place is packed. Both towns shut down. You see it in the movies about small town football- everyone goes to the game. When I was interviewed, they said that I could lose every game, but just don’t lose that one. That set the tone. These are kids that played as far back as Rec league to Pop Warner to middle school. Some were on the same teams. Now, they’re at different schools. It’s real big and it’s good football in southwest Georgia.”
 
Anyone, frankly, that looked at the Class A bracket at the beginning of the playoffs this year saw that these two teams could hook back up in this round. And they have. It’s traditionally difficult to knock off a team twice in a season, but Brock has a plan.
 
“You don’t let the moment get too big for you,” he says. “I tell my guys to stay off social media if you can, and there’s no getting away from hype and the noise. You have to be locked in and laser-focused. We had to limit our mistakes then in the regular season, and the same is true now. We had too many turnovers and were lucky to win with the three we gave up. They’re too good of a team to make those mistakes against any week.
 
“Their quarterback is dangerous, and they have tremendous athletes on the perimeter. You have to limit the big play, and contain (quarterback Kendrick) Patterson and (athlete Darrell) Starling. You have to make sure you know where they are on routes, and do your job or they will expose you.”
 
On game day, his plan is to dive in and get ready for the Pelham rematch: he may have his players get in a little early, get them off their feet, hydrate, maybe watch a little film, feed them and do “our things” as he says. It’s not a game they’ll take lightly, since by Brock’s admission, Pelham scores fast and in bunches. 
 
“It’s been surprisingly quiet, so far,” he admits about any kind of talk between the two towns -- Camilla and Pelham. “It’s a lot like the first time we played at the end of the regular season. Our guys are locked in and focused because of what’s at stake. I think the talk may pick up as the week goes on.”
 
But the one thing I wanted to ask before I left our conversation is: There’s usually a group of students that personify the success you have in any given year. It may not be the stars you get recruited or the shiniest of objects you see game in and game out. Who was that for Brock and his Eagles? 
 
It was an easy answer.
 
“My offensive linemen,” he says. “They get overlooked as athletes. The skill guys get attention, but the linemen work hard, they never give excuses, and don’t ask for the limelight. They come to work every single day. They fit that mold and grind every single day. In this town, you see folks grind for a living every single day and those guys are the personification of all that we see.”
 
Off that, here’s your homework if you’re at the game Friday night.
 
See what Coach Brock is talking about as two heavyweights go at it in Class A.
 
Play it safe, everyone… I’ll talk to you soon.
 

Jon Nelson has been a television journalist for twenty-five years based in Atlanta. He graduated from Lakeside High School in Atlanta and Florida State University with a Bachelor's of Science degree in Political Science. His television career has... more