Georgia’s high school football season officially begins Saturday with the Corky Kell Classic – five back-to-back games at the Georgia Dome. It’s a tough time for several communities where football players have died in recent weeks. Jon Nelson from GPB Sports talks about those teams and looks at season ahead.
JOSHUA STEWART: Just last Friday, Creekside High in Fairburn lost Deantre Turman. What are you hearing from folks there?
JON NELSON: It’s just devastating, and understandably so. It was a normal tackle, and the medical examiner and all of the medical staff, they hadn’t seen anything like it. You know, he had an offer from Kentucky and I think he was being looked at by Auburn, so he was a Division I prospect as a junior, so the sky was the limit for him. But you really feel for the Creekside community. Next Friday is their home-opener against Hughes, and it will be interesting to see how the community wraps themselves around the football team.
STEWART: An emotional game, I suspect.
NELSON: No question. Yep.
STEWART: So not necessarily anything that needs to change here, just a fluke accident, it sounds like.
NELSON: Yeah, that’s the way it sounds. And they’ll probably do some more physical investigation. But from all indications, it was just one of those fluke things.
STEWART: I want to check in on another school that lost some players. Earlier this summer, three Brooks County players died in a car accident. Another was hurt pretty badly in that accident. How is the team doing as they get ready for this season?
NELSON: I spent some time down in Brooks a couple weeks ago, and it’s amazing to see the resilience of young men. We talked to a couple of the players, and they voted that they were going to play this season...
STEWART: Oh, so they considered, we’ll just shut it down...
NELSON: Yeah, there was talk. But they wanted to play on in their friends’ memories, and you just look at how they’re responding on the field. They don’t go anywhere without remembering those three that passed and how valuable they were, not to just the football team, but to the high school, to Quitman and to Brooks County. And when you catch up with head coach Maurice Freeman, you really get to see just how everyone’s doing.
MAURICE FREEMAN: I think it’s tougher on the coaches than the young people. Young people, you know, they work pretty hard, they kinda can get going. The coaches, especially me, I coach the inside linebackers, all three of those guys were inside linebackers, so that’s kinda tough on me. Every day I look in that locker room, I expect them to walk out of there, and they don’t. So that’s kinda tough.
STEWART: Now there was a fourth player who was injured.
NELSON: They had to LifeFlight him to Shands [Jacksonville] for observation and for rehabilitation, but De'Vron Whitfield is back with the team.
STEWART: Is he playing this year?
NELSON: Uh, that’s going to be the big question, whether or not he’s going to get medically cleared to play.
STEWART: Well let’s look ahead to the fall and have a little fun here for a second...
STEWART: What are the storylines you’re going to be most closely watching this year?
NELSON: All of the programs that won last year, how many of them can repeat? I think a lot of them are favorites because a lot of those programs – Norcross is coming back with 60 seniors, and that, to me, is just unheard of.
STEWART: That’s a whole team of seniors.
NELSON: It is. A three-deep. A three-deep roster of almost seniors. That’s unheard of, and they’ve got Lorenzo Carter, one of the most-sought-after defensive players in the entire country. Miles Autry, a great running back who’s being looked at by a bunch of schools out west. In Quad-A, Sandy Creek, along with Norcross, they’re ranked in the top 15 nationally in some polls. Sandy Creek and Carrollton will be going at it in Quad-A. In Double-A, can Calhoun repeat? Can Brooks County rally around their fallen teammates and friends and make it past Calhoun once and for all and get to a championship game? You have a lot of the same storylines that are just a year older. It’ll be a really interesting season.
STEWART: GPB’s Jon Nelson, thanks very much. Enjoy the season.
NELSON: We will.