Hosts Hannah Goodin and Jon Nelson check in with Justin Rogers, the head coach of the Colquitt County Packers. Coach Rogers breaks down the season to date, and he discusses all the challenges the Packers have had dealing with COVID-19 in southwest Georgia. They also face a big game this week against Northside Warner Robins.
Podcast: Colquitt County Off And Running
Jon Nelson: Welcome to another round of the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast here at Georgia Public Broadcasting and GPB Media. Thanks for accessing us however, you are doing so: GPB, GPB.org, the GPB Sports app, your favorite pod catcher, wherever the show can be found. That's where we are every single week during football season alongside Hannah Goodin, I am Jon Nelson. And Hannah, we had our first Football Fridays in Georgia game this past week.
Hannah Goodin: Yes, we did. I missed being on the field tremendously, but broadcasting from Studio A was different.
Jon Nelson: Yeah.
Hannah Goodin: Still getting to be a part of the show. Still getting to broadcast football on Fridays. But I certainly was jealous of you, Jon.
Jon Nelson: Well, I mean, it was — it was interesting to be out there at Milton at the Eagles Nest, it was a 30 percent capacity and you had to undergo a wellness check walking in the door and you had to wear a mask and you had to have social distancing as a part of the whole process. And you noticed that the Milton band was down in the corner. They were not in the stands in their traditional seats. And it's just something that we're going to have to look at on a case-by-case basis every single week. I know that we're gonna be heading to the Branch this weekend to go see Jefferson in Flowery Branch on Friday night. How is it going to look there in Hall County? That's going to be the question. But it was — it was unique and it was challenging on a lot of different fronts. But it was glad — I'm glad that we got our first game out — out there for folks to watch.
Hannah Goodin: Yeah. You're wearing your mask and being safe and healthy, right?
Jon Nelson: Have it right here with me as we're talking, as a matter of fact.
Hannah Goodin: Well, if listeners missed the game, it was Cedar Grove versus Milton at the Eagle's Nest. The Eagles were up 7 to nothing at the half. Quarterback Devin Farrell connected with Jordan McDonald for that score. But then the Saints turned it up after the break with two running scores from quarterback Austin Smith. He was lights out in that game. They won it 14-7. Saints moved to 1 and 0, on the year, Milton moved to 2 and 1 on the season. What did you see from the sidelines out of the Saints?
Jon Nelson: Well, you saw the adjustments that Coach Miguel Patrick made at the half, and you also saw someone in Austin Smith take control and wasn't afraid to tuck and run, had 108 yards rushing to go with 116 passing. So, you know, when your quarterback is responsible for almost 225 yards offensively, then a tremendous effort by them and, once again, the stand-up defense that you saw from Cedar Grove because Milton had a chance to go for the game tying score for the last play of the game. You can't ask for anything better when you're looking for TV, but the defense came up stout when they needed to right there at the end to keep Milton out of the endzone.
Hannah Goodin: We definitely picked a good one. I saw some comments on our Facebook Live broadcast and people were saying this is one of the best games they had watched in a long time. So we picked a good one.
Jon Nelson: Yeah, and hopefully it'll be just the same to see Jefferson in Flowery Branch go at it. Jefferson knocked off Rabun County already this year in Flowery Branch. We know how tough they've been and they're ranked in the top ten when it comes to GPB as well. So it'll be another funds contest up at the Branch, with the plot, with Coach Hall and his history and what you're seeing with Jefferson and Coach Cathcart and a lot of great storylines there as well. So it's going to be fun.
Hannah Goodin: Stick around on the podcast because at the end of the show, we will break down that game — our next football Friday in Georgia game — even further. So some other games I was watching this past Friday around the metro Atlanta area, 5A Cartersville versus 7A Cherokee. The number 30 — the number 3 ranked Purple Hurricanes held a state record of 62 consecutive regular season wins and that came to an end on Friday night when the Warriors beat them 14-12. Also in 7A, Archer got its first win of the season over a number 8 North Gwinnett. The Tigers led the entire game, barely squeaking it out, though. They won 14-13. And over at the Big Orange Jungle in Lilburn, Parkview hosted Marietta and a highly anticipated match-up. It was close all game, but the Panthers finally pulled it away. Late fourth quarter, final score: 50-28. Jon, what were your surprises around the state?
Jon Nelson: Well, and Justin Rogers from Colquitt Counties is our guest this week, and he kind of gets into this one because his next opponent is Northside Warner Robins, and Richmond Hill and Matt LeZotte put up 52 on Northside Warner Robins, 152 to 12. That was one that I was keeping an eye on. You look at Carrollton knocking off Dalton 34-24. Warner Robins really put the pedal down, knocked off Houston County in that Central Georgia round robin that we're used to seeing this time of year. Warner Robins knocked off HoCo 44-10. Ware County knocked off Bainbridge 35-30. Veterans in Perry in that Central Georgia round robin, you know, Veterans got the Duke there. 24-14. Jefferson knocked off Hart County, 26-19. Well, we'll tell you who to keep an eye on for the Dragons coming up in just a little — a little bit. Benedictine knocked off Wayne County, 41-29. That one was a bit of a shootout as well. And then you get into Oconee County, this was pack a lunch, pack dinner because you're going from Watkinsville to Thomasville. The only thing they had in common was the “-ville.” So Watkinsville, 44-14 over Thomasville in that one. Peach County beats Mary Persons, GACB Burke County, Pierce County, Eagles Landing Christian. We talk about Eagles Landing Christian a lot and how they will play anybody, anyplace, anytime in twice on Tuesday. Pierce County, winners, 20-13. That's just a couple of folks that I had my eye on.
Hannah Goodin: That's a good recap. We will do a preview after Coach Rogers. I think we've kept him waiting long enough, Jon.
Jon Nelson: Yeah. Justin Rogers from Colquitt County, he’s our guest this week. And the first question that we asked you is, how much of a challenge has it been this season coaching down at Colquitt County in the era of COVID-19?
Justin Rogers: There's been the same issues as everybody else. And then we had to try to — you know, at Colquitt we have to warm up everybody, right? We've got to do it just a little bit more. So we've been dealing with the quarantine, the zoom meetings, the groups of 20 to groups of 50. And then when we get started August 1st, you know, we just had to one-up and shut us down for two weeks also and cancel a bunch of ball games. And so it has been unique, but it's — our entire nation and everybody's dealing with it. And so you just gotta you got to — got to understand and roll with the punches. But we're so happy to be back going now to what is the normal for this year. But it’s definitely a whole different set of circumstances that you have to account for. In the way that you travel to games, the way that you do pre-games, the way that you do practice, the way that you meet, I mean, just all the things you have to do to be safe so you can keep playing football.
Hannah Goodin: Coach it seems you're dealing with the adversity pretty well, off to a 3 and 0 start with winds over Banneker, Valdosta, Dothan. We'll get to that Valdosta game in just a minute. I want to talk about Dothan 63-27 win, your quarterback Xavier Williams lights out, four TD’s, wide receiver Lemeke Brockington, two TD’s himself one rushing, one receiving. Talk about those playmakers and recap that game for us.
Justin Rogers: Yeah I mean, our kids came back and rallied and played well. We really didn't play well at the start. You know, to be honest, we — we got out — we got there and threw a big six early on and kind of sputtered on — on offense and defense right there early in the first quarter. And I think it was a little lull coming off from the week before, our first road game. And it kinda took us a while to get going, but real proud of how we responded to it. You're right, Xavier continues to improve. He's got to continue to get better in some other areas, too. But we’re proud of his improvement through three games — I’ve been saying, this your first year starting as quarterback, this year is a tough year. And so you've got to take the first part of the season and really work on improving your game because you lost all the summer 7 on 7 and OTA’s. And so we’re proud of him there, and Lemeke, I mean, what do you say? He’s just such a dynamic player, been a great player here for the Packers for a long time. And so he's having a great senior year.
Jon Nelson: When, you know, Santana brought up the schedule — let’s — let's go back a little bit. And before the three of us were as deep in Georgia high school football as we are, it was always Moultrie and Valdosta. It was rivals that were 45 minutes apart. One road, one-way traffic, you know, depending on the rivalry. What's it been like for you to be a part of this rivalry now, and then with what happened this year?
Justin Rogers: Oh, man, it's — it's awesome. It's such a great game. It's such a unique same. And I always compare, when people ask me, to the Georgia-Auburn game, you know, it just happened. And, I mean, it’s just the oldest rivalry in the South! I mean, you've been playing it for 107 years, that Valdosta and Colquitt have played each other. And just the amount of people that have been involved in that game, been a part of that game, attended that game over the years. Just, I mean, it's truly humbling to be a part of something with that much tradition and prestige that comes with that game. So it’s an unbelievably important game every single year when those two teams play each other.
Hannah Goodin: It seems it was even more important this year, one of the most anticipated games across Georgia, former Colquitt Coach Rush Propst now on the Valdosta sideline. What was the atmosphere like? I know that there's less people because of the pandemic, but what was the atmosphere like and what was it like with a former coach on the — on the other sideline in that game?
Justin Rogers: Yeah, there's no doubt there was a lot of storylines that kind of marked that game and made this one circle for a lot of people throughout the state and into both communities, too. Because obviously you had, you know, Coach Propst. But then you also had Coach Rodemaker, you know, because Coach Rodemaker is our BC now, and he's doing a great job. And then we have some other outlying issues also. So it definitely has the make-up of a good soap opera, man. It could have been 12:30 after the news as far as the soap opera lines that went with it. So it was — it was much anticipated. So the fans, the crowd, it was great. I mean, they were — the pandemic took a break that night. And so we had a great night, had a lot of lot of fans there, a lot of fan support. And so it was an electric atmosphere. I didn't know — I didn't know if you get to experience that this year during a pandemic. But luckily for our kids, they did get to experience it. And I'm so proud of how they played and how much heart they play for. And they've just played for this community and for this team. And these are boys. They grew up together and they've been to seven-year-old birthday parties together, family reunions together. And you could see that bond and their commitment to one another throughout that game as it went, because that was only our second game. We'd been quarantined for a couple weeks and so super proud how they played in such a big-moment game early in the year.
Jon Nelson: Alright. So let me ask the next question this way. What's it like having a guy like Rod down there on the sideline with you this year? Wow, that hurt.
Justin Rogers: I’ll let him either record bedtime stories that I can play to my son from Rodemaker, you know.
Justin Rogers: Just — just so you know, my son gets to hear that Southern voice and he loves it. Well Imma tell this story here too, my little boy, he — he told me the other day, said, “hey, Daddy, I can do — I can do an impersonation of Coach Rod.” And he did this on his own. I said, oh yeah? He said, “Yeah, ribbit, ribbit, because I got a frog in my throat.”
Jon Nelson: Wow!
Justin Rogers: And that’s what he said, but nah, Rod’s awesome, man. He definitely has the best coaching voice of anybody I've ever been with. And he is undeniable — you can't mistake it, but the wisdom that he brings to our staff, the poise that he brings for our staff, and knowledge is unmeasurable. I mean, you just can't put a measure on it. And he's an unbelievable human being and a great man for our young people to be around. And so I think it's just a home run hire. And someone that we hope we can keep on staff for as long as we can. But he's gonna be a hot commodity because he is a very, very good coach and an unbelievable person.
Hannah Goodin: He's also juggling dad duties. You told us before we came on air that he had done — coached a game Friday, then headed down to Miami a few weeks ago to watch Tate’s first FSU game. I think you said he came in in the fourth quarter in that one.
Jon Nelson: Yeah it was 52 — 52-10 that’s what happened, yeah. Played last. Thanks for the reminder on that, Hannah.
Hannah Goodin: You're welcome, Jon. So that's a lot to juggle as well.
Justin Rogers: I know, and that goes to just — just what a great man he is that — that he wants to be there for his son. And so he's really, we have to say in our program, “love equals sacrifice,” if if you love something you will sacrifice for it. And so we get to playing Valdosta. And, you know, once we get down with that game it was an eight o'clock gig, late game, and his wife, you know, they go to Tallahassee get a job as far as they can and get a hotel and then finish it up the next morning and— and watch Tate play on. And that was a night game on Saturday night, and watch — watch Tate play and then get up and Sunday morning come back all the way from Miami. And he said he's back in meetings at two o'clock on Sunday, ready to work again. And, again, it's just a testament to the man that he is the and the father that he is. Cause I know my man was running of fumes Sunday night, that's for sure.
Hannah Goodin: Well, Coach, you do an outstanding job as well. I'm sure you have your fair share of stories, dad duties, all of the above. But you're in your second season at Colquitt. What have you learned over the past two years in Moultrie?
Justin Rogers: Well, the first thing I've learned, I say this all the time, South Georgia football, it just means more. It isn’t the SEC but it just definitely means more to these communities. It just means more to these young men that play it. Just the passion that they play with. Then it's awesome to have the pageantry that comes with playing these games. Our fans are phenomenal and there's a lot of teams down here like that. And so, that's the biggest thing, first and foremost, is just how much pride these communities, all the communities down in South Georgia take in their program, how important football is. And that's what makes it such a special place to coach at and just so rewarding to be a part of something like that.
Jon Nelson: Under normal circumstances, you'd probably be at the midway point of your season, but because of COVID-19 and quarantine, you lose games. You're having to to pick up opponents on the fly and things like that. Where do you think you are right now as a team? Obviously ranked highly in 7A. But with the losing games and losing time and losing practice, and now you're — you're back into things. Where do you think Colquitt is right now?
Justin Rogers: Oh that's a great question. We're not where we need to be, I know that. We're just not as consistent as we need to be. We show signs of how good we are capable of being. But again, it gets down to muscle memory and reps. And so you've lost so much time to build that muscle memory and the things that come with being able to play at a high rate, at a fast level. And if you’re thinking you’re wrong, and right now we're still thinking. And so we've got to get it to where it's second nature on a lot of different areas from offense to defense to special teams and, with the lost time, we’re just not quite there yet. And we've got a lot of fundamental things. Our pad level being one. And that's the stuff where Georgia does a great job, with spring football and summer OTA’s, that they let us have our shoulder pads, to where you can get a lot of those things correctable and ready to go, and that's why the product in Georgia is unbelievably good. And I think a lot of teams are in the same boat right now. And the fact that you're still having a harp on a lot more fundamentals that, you know, getting some things done that — normally in the midway point, you're really just focusing on scheme. You know, those things have been addressed and taken care of. And you're just really working on your schemes and your schematics for each week to put your guys in good positions. But right now, with us having time off, you know, we’re having to still stay in camp-mode a little bit and do a lot more of that stuff, to harp on that until our muscle memories are ripe or our fundamentals. So we will do a lot of improvement to do before we hit region. The good thing is we've got a couple of games to continue to work on and improve that — that obviously means something because you want to win them all — but, you know, don't really affect your standing in regional playoffs. And so we've got to make the most of those that we have.
Hannah Goodin: Well, next up, you got to get past Northside Warner Robins on the road. There are 2 in 3. We've been to their facilities. They should have a pretty good home crowd. How are you preparing your team for that one?
Justin Rogers: Yeah, the biggest thing about that one is you can’t even get on MaxPreps and looking at those scores because they're deceiving as all get out, you know, let the film do their talking. They're a good football team and they've just been snake bit with some turnovers and some costly special teams play in these last two games that have hurt them, and things kind of snowballed on them. But it is no reflection whatsoever of the quality of team they have. They've got a real fast defense. I think you're O.C. from Mercer, Casey Vogt, who's running the defense, I think he does an excellent job. He just keeps you on your toes, keeps you guessing, and he throws a lot at you. And so I'm working on that now, in fact. Offensively, they're still working for their identity. But just like, you know, here in Moultrie, that program’s got pride, that program’s got tradition. I mean, those kids grew up wanting to be an Eagle and putting on that orange and blue at Northside and playing at night means something to them. So when you go in there Friday, we know we gotta earn that thing because they — they've got a mystique about then and they're a talented team. So we've got to have a good week of preparation if we’re gonna go in and leave with a win.
Jon Nelson: Alright. So we — leading into Football Fridays in Georgia this year, we've got GPB Sports Recruiting 2020. And there's a segment that we have in the show toward the end — and this is where I want you to put your thinking cap on — it's a segment that we call “Make That Kid an Offer or You Can Make That Kid a Better Offer.” Is there someone on your roster right now that would fit as a senior where, hey: “Make That Kid an Offer or Make That Kid a Better Offer”? Who do you think could fall under that umbrella down there in Colquitt right now?
Justin Rogers: Man, I got a bunch, I really do. I mean, I've got a — I've got a slot receiver, Orion Bonner. I mean, you make him an offer. He — he touches the ball, he's a playmaker right now. And we're gonna get him an offer coming out of his three-game highlight and the kids are going to see it. We got a running back Jamaree Hill that just runs behind him. I've got some other guys, you know, really good offers that they have. But anybody can come in to get ‘em. Zy Brockington comes to mind. You know, he's two inches taller. He's — he's everywhere. And as you say, he's so good. Gamal Wallace, hey, make that kid an offer. He's an outside linebacker that is a playmaker and just doing great things for us. So we have quite a few here. We're blessed with a lot and as we get filmed and get things out, this recruiting thing’s so different this year. And with the way it is having to be done — so we've got to be unique as well to be able to advertise for our kids.
Hannah Goodin: Jon, Bonner was our Play of the Week on Countdown to Kickoff a few weeks ago, wasn't he?
Jon Nelson: I believe that is accurate, yes.
Justin Rogers: What? That is awesome! I didn’t know that! That’s a big deal! Great ball player, ain’t no doubt he's a great person.
Hannah Goodin: Well, Coach, this season is certainly different. What are you most looking forward to as we just keep going? You know, working through the weeks, getting Friday to Friday, making sure your team is healthy. What are you most looking forward to this season?
Justin Rogers: I'm looking forward to no more Corona-cations. That’s the biggest thing I’m looking forward to. I get nervous every time I get a phone call about someone random calling me about that. I mean, just, you look forward to every Friday night you get because, you know, we got quarantined and we had games have to get canceled. And so we know how that feels. And there's been a lot of teams on there. And so, you know, I tell our guys, until you hit that game pre-game, you know, it can be taken away from you. And so we just got to be smart. So I look forward to each Friday night. You know, this year, you know, you're not promised another one. And things could happen that are outside of your control. And so I think that's kind of got everybody to cherish these Friday nights even more this year because of the unknown.
Jon Nelson: Well, Justin, obviously, thanks for hanging out with us here on the Football Fridays in Georgia podcasts. Thanks for letting everybody know what's going on down there in Moultrie, which has been an eventful half-season as we get through the first five weeks of the year. But thanks for hanging out with us here on the show. Thanks for talking to me and Hannah. We’ll be keeping an eye on you this weekend as you guys head to the Mac to take on Northside, and we’ll be keeping an eye on you there in the region of doom and 7A. Thanks for being a part of the show.
Justin Rogers: Great, no problem. Thank y'all. And just to say, I just love what GPB does for high school sports and football in particular. I guess another feather in the hat of what makes Georgia football so good.
Hannah Goodin: Thank you, Coach. That was just — that just made Jon’s day.
Jon Nelson: Man, you nailed it. You nailed it. You absolutely nailed it.
Justin Rogers: See y’all, man. Thank you all again.
Jon Nelson: Alright, be good.
Hannah Goodin: Bye. Again, that is Colquitt versus Northside Warner Robins this Friday, 7:30 p.m. Our next Football Friday in Georgia broadcast is a huge region 8 4A showdown between number two, Jefferson and number six, Flowery Branch. The Dragons are 4 and 0, boast a high powered offense led by five star junior athlete Malaki Starks. The Falcons are 3 and 1, losing their season opener to St. Pius, but have won three games in a row with help from the state's leading passer in junior quarterback David Renard. Jon, I am so looking forward to this match-up.
Jon Nelson: Yep, Renard, last week in their win over Hiram 16 of 18 for 246 and a score, Myles Ivey rushed for 103 on 25 carries. And Jefferson, they've knocked off Rabun County already this year, coming in at 4 and 0. Malaki Starks threw a 33-yard touchdown pass with 26 seconds to go to break the 19-19 tie and, something a lot of folks aren't paying attention to — they're looking at the shiny stuff — defensively for Gene Cathcart and the Dragons, they held Hart CountyCade Berrong their three star tied-in who’s heading to Notre Dame held that Rance Gillespie offense to 261 total yards, completed only three passes on the night Jefferson. But all of them went to score. So Malaki Starks, throwing when you need to, not just because you want to.
Hannah Goodin: And the Branch is a fun place to broadcast from, right, John?
Jon Nelson: Yeah, it is. It's fun. It's right in the shadow of the — the pro facility down the road. But it's so it's going to be fun to catch up with our friends up there in Hall County, get to catch up with some friends too, John Thompson, who's a part of the staff there at Flowery Branch. And we go wayyyyy back. So it's good to catch up with old friends, too.
Hannah Goodin: We're recording this on a Monday, but we've got a lot coming up at GPB Sports this week.
Jon Nelson: We do?
Hannah Goodin: We do, John, I'm not sure if you're going to be here or not. Wednesday at noon! Don't miss Countdown to Kickoff on the GPB Sports Facebook Live. That is such a fun show. Recruiting 2020 also airs before our Football Friday in Georgia broadcast, Friday at 7. We had our first recruiting show last week. How do you think that went, Jon?
Jon Nelson: I thought it was great. It's fun. And we also get into one of our favorite segments on that show, “Make That Kid an Offer” with Coach Rogers, too. If you are listening to this podcast and you are a fan of Football Fridays in Georgia. If you're a coach, if you're a booster, if you're a fan and you know of someone who needs to have an offer made to them, if they're not being looked at by a lot of the schools that they should be, let us know on our social media platforms, send us as much information about these student athletes as possible, so we can put them into consideration for “Make That Kid an Offer or Make That Kid a Better Offer.” So reach out to us Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and…
Hannah Goodin: Instagram.
Jon Nelson: Thank you.
Hannah Goodin: But the best way to put in your nomination for “Make That Kid an Offer” is to send an email to GPBSports@GPB.org.
Jon Nelson: Yes. So send us that way. Email as much information as possible. And you know, GPAs, all the weights that they can handle. What they've done performance-wise, stuff in the community, all that kind of stuff. Let us know what's going on. GPBSports@GPB.org and our social media platforms.
Hannah Goodin: We've got quite a few nominations already for this Friday’s show, so we're going to pick the best ones, so make sure you get those in. And for even more football news, download the GPB Sports app. We have our rankings out first thing tomorrow morning. Look forward to seeing those.
Jon Nelson: Yes. So I've got to get my rankings in is basically what you're saying.
Hannah Goodin: Yes.
Jon Nelson: OK.
Hannah Goodin: That's hint, hint: Get your rankings in Jon we’re on you. Yeah, so, once again, thanks to Justin Rogers, the head coach of the Colquitt County Packers, for hanging out with us here to be our guest for the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast. What else is on your mind before we go?
Hannah Goodin: Just looking forward to another week. It was good to get through the first week. We were extremely busy, stressed out here at the GPB Sports Studios. But once we get through that first game, it is smooth sailing. Working out the broadcast kinks and looking forward to a really great matchup in Jefferson and Flowery Branch.
Jon Nelson: That's another round of the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast that is produced, preserved and kept on track every single week by the irreplaceable Sean Powers, for Hannah Goodin. I am Jon Nelson. Once again, download the GPB Football Fridays in Georgia podcast on your favorite pod catcher. Log on and find it also at GPB, GPB.org, and the GPB Sports app. We'll be back this time next week. Once again, Football Fridays is Jefferson and Flowery Branch, led by Recruiting 2020 seven o'clock on Friday night on GPB and all the platforms that you watch Georgia Public Broadcasting. Play it safe, everybody, enjoy the game.
Transcript by Eva Rothenberg