Podcast: The Real Deal In Cordele
Hosts Hannah Goodin and Jon Nelson catch up with the head coach of the Crisp County Cougars, Brad Harber. They talk about having one of the toughest defenses in the state, what this season has been like for him, and just how many sodas he has in his fridge at any given time.
Jon Nelson: Welcome to another round of the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast here at Georgia Public Broadcasting. Thanks for accessing us however you are doing so, large device or small. It is another round of covering one of the best states in high school football in the United States alongside Hannah Goodin. I am Jon Nelson. Hannah, what's on your mind this week?
Hannah Goodin: Well, we just had to redo the open because Jon is so excited about the podcast, that he overmodulated and blew my ears out. So here we are. Happy week, everyone.
Jon Nelson: Welcome — welcome back. So — so maybe I should just do this occasionally to see if you can actually hear. [CLAPS] It’s like getting that ringing out of your ear. You sit there and go, it's like, okay, hey, can you hear this? [CLAPS] Do one of those things. But I think that when you look at what happened last week, it's a lot of big numbers to the left of the dash for a lot of the winners.
Hannah Goodin: I agree. We're going to get to that in just a little bit.
Jon Nelson: Eleventy billion teams had a lot of offense.
Hannah Goodin: “Blowouts” is my theme for my scores, Jon.
Jon Nelson: So what were some of the scores that came across your bow?
Hannah Goodin: Well, let's get right to the — right to some of those blowouts, then. In Region 8, 7A in Suwannee, North Gwinnett goes 6 and 2 with a 31 to nothing win over Mill Creek.
Jon Nelson: Right.
Hannah Goodin: Marist defeated Hapeville Charter 30 to nothing. So keep in mind, these were the top games on my list for the week. So these are some big-time wins. In the final non-region game for both Athens Academy and Wesleyan, the Spartans defeated Wesleyan 35 to nothing. The two crosstown rivals who’ve played each other since 1956, I love that. Cartersville defeated Cass 59 to nothing. Cartersville now leads that series 42 to 5. And Allatoona defeated Wheeler 23 to nothing, Jon.
Jon Nelson: Let me give you another couple of scores that are along that same vein. And I know that a lot of — a lot of folks this season, were looking at Gunner Stockton out of Rabun County and the national audience got to see them against Prince Avenue Christian. Last week against Pope, Gunner Stockton was 15 of 20 for 268 and six touchdowns. Ran for another 135 and two scores. And apparently and according to our friends at the GHSF Daily, the third straight game in which he's had eight passing or rushing touchdowns total for Rabun County.
Hannah Goodin: Why is he so good?
Jon Nelson: It's — I mean — we need to have Jaybo Shaw on to ask him this.
Hannah Goodin: Let's do that.
Jon Nelson: All right.
Hannah Goodin: That’s a good idea, write that down.
Jon Nelson: Jaybo — I'm writing it down. Jaybo Shaw on the show. All right. So we got that written down. Big win for Bleckley County. They put up a big number, put up 59 in their win over Monticello. Fitzgerald, now 6 and 0, they knocked off Berrien by a score of 48 to 7. Brooks County in single day, in the region of doom, put up 68 in their win against Atkinson County. And so I know that we'll have Maur — All right. I gotta write this. Maurice Freeman on the show.
Hannah Goodin: Taking notes during the show.
Jon Nelson: OK, so but — and if you're a fan of any of these teams, go ahead and tell your coach that they're on notice that they're going to get a phone call at some point during the weekend. Hey, we need you to have to be ready to go at noon on Monday when we can tape these things. Warner Robins put 43 on Camden County.
Hannah Goodin: Yes they did.
Jon Nelson: That was another one for me.
Hannah Goodin: Jahlen Rutherford rushed for 149 and two touchdowns on 18 carries in that one. Jalen Addie rushed for 86 yards and three touchdowns and passed for another 96 yards. Their next game will be Ware County, undefeated, 5 and 0, big test there. But Warner Robins, looking good. They moved to 5 and 1 on the season.
Jon Nelson: Yeah. And also on the board, Dublin, who dropped down from AA to single A. Your defending AA champ now in single A in Region 4. They played twice last week because of a schedule compression, because of region play. Put up 63 on Wheeler, put up 56 on Hawkinsville on Saturday afternoon. And so…. carry the one…. 119 points in less than a week by Dublin's offense.
Hannah Goodin: It’s the luck of the Shamrock Bowl.
Jon Nelson: Well, that and the Delaware Wing-T. And when you have Roger Holmes, who is one of the masters of the Delaware Wing-T, it is assignment football for any defense and putting up those kinds of yards and those kind of numbers …. we saw it last year when they were AA chasing after a title. It's just amazing at times the numbers that they can — that they can put if — if you're looking at a Dublin team. Cherokee — and we'll get into that — Cherokee put 41 on Woodstock, they're coming up later on in the show. So we can talk about that. But you know who our guest is this week?
Hannah Goodin: I can't wait. One of my favorite coaches in the state.
Jon Nelson: Brad Harber from Crisp, and Crisp has one of the best defenses in the state of Georgia. And so it's good to catch up with Brad. So my first question is, what's it been like for him so far this season?
Brad Harber: Well, I'm going tell you what. It's so I'm — I'm gonna admit something here, you know, like tough guys aren’t supposed to cry and stuff. But, you know, sometimes emotions just flow, you know, and prior to us walking out, you know, we’d already done our pregame warm up for that very first game. I think it just all kind of hits me because I'm sitting there thinking, man, I'm not living right, because I have 24 seniors and a lot of those guys play meaningful snaps, if that makes sense. And so I was talking to the group before and I don't know. You know, Big Ten’s just getting started up and they’re, you know, having to cancel week-to-week and stuff. I just don't think our high school guys really understood how big a deal it was to have this season and then to have as many returners as we have coming back. You know, I just got emotional, you know, and I don't know if that helped us win or not. If it did, I’ll cry before every game. [laughs] But no, it's — and we've — we've had to adjust to the new norm, laundering every day. Coaches are saying "Praise the Lord I have a wash schedule." So, you know, the unlucky coaches have the wash schedule for the week. It's all just — just your average day takes a little bit longer. On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday because you're washing everything. We’re actually spraying everything down with chemical stuff, I don’t know what that stuff is. But we spray everything down. So, you know, the workload has just gotten a little bit more. You know, I've said a lot of times, you know, if I was a baby coach, just got in, this is me my first day like, "Oh my God, I didn't realize that coaches work this hard." You know, but there is a lot of extra that you have to do to keep the players and the coaches safe. So if that's what needs to happen to have a season and to continue to play every Friday night, I'm all in.
Hannah Goodin: Well, you're certainly fortunate to have 24 seniors. For those who don't know, you’re last year's state runner up in Triple-A, you're now ranked No. 2 in your classification behind Cedar Grove, who you played in the finals last year. What's working again this season? I mean, take a look at your defense. You've only allowed 21 points to be scored on you in all five games. 5 and 0, like we just mentioned, what is clicking this year?
Brad Harber: Well I’ll tell you, as of late, Hannah, what’s clicking is our offense is finally starting to roll a little bit. And it's been an interesting process. AJ Lofton, that wears number one, that was our quarterback in the state championship game and who has been our starting quarterback for the last, I guess, three years, maybe two and a half, maybe. There's a sophomore that’s emerged. Believe it or not, he is an AJ as well. His name's AJ Brown. And you know, one thing that I love about AJ Lofton, our quarterback from the past, is he understood he’s like a slot receiver running back type, but team player that he is, he played quarterback for us. And now we've been — we've been afforded the luxury of putting AJ Brown at quarterback, which literally puts AJ Lofton in his rightful position and so far it’s worked out really well. So, for example, Friday night's game, AJ Brown, that's the new quarterback that’s a sophomore, was 13 for 19 passing for 235 yards, two TDs and rushed for 67 yards. And then AJ, in his quote unquote, like, “new position” was — he had 129 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. So — and then, you know, Hannah, it takes a while for those big boys up front to start jelling on the offensive line, and then our special teams coordinator, Pat Jordan, has done a wonderful job with our special teams. And so, you know, like, I think I told somebody this week, you know, here we are in the midseason and everything, offense, defense, special team, is starting to look like midseason form. And that, you know, that makes the head coach really happy. At least it does me.
Hannah Goodin: Well, we're still talking about your offense. You also have wide receiver Sirad Bryant, who I got to talk to a few weeks ago, committed to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. How good has he been for you this year?
Brad Harber: Well, I tell you, it's been interesting, Hannah, that he's been super dynamic. For example, we had a lot of penalties Friday night. First play from scrimmage, AJ Brown ... threw to Sirad Bryant, touchdown. First play of the game. It was an explosive play. But, you know, sometimes when you have a gifted athlete like Sirad, he's a good decoy as well. So it’s opened up the door for these other receivers that we have. So, for example, Friday night, Cortez Thomas is one of our other receivers. He had five receptions for 149 yards. And so not only does Sirad make really good plays on offense, but you know, the luxury is having a couple other tall, you know, playmakers on — on the perimeter out there that can make plays as well. So Sirad really helped us in that aspect. You know as long as you're running around full speed, we're in good shape.
Jon Nelson: You know, Brad, with the numbers that you're not allowing on defense, with the way that offenses are these days, everything for the most part — if you're — if you're not spread, if you're not five wide, if you're not out on the edges, you're you know, you're behind the times or whatever.
Brad Harber: Right. Right.
Jon Nelson: You know, but let me ask you this. How difficult is it to coach solid defense in this day and age, knowing what the offenses are bringing you these days?
Brad Harber: Man. It’s very difficult. And I think, you know, certainly the people in the profession, you guys understand that everything is you know, you could slow down your offense or speed it up. I think a lot of the rules base you know, just to be honest with you, favor the offenses of today. And so the great part — Will Conner is my defensive coordinator — and I'm fortunate enough to have great teachers over there. I don't know that a lot of people think coach and teacher in the same sentence. But you know, what I’ve been really, really pleased with is the defensive staff has gotten the game plan through to the defensive players because, it’s not what you know, it’s what they can do, you know, and all the stuff that they can take in. So, you know, Hannah mentioned having the 24 seniors, I did as well. What's been nice about that is not only can we put in a quote, unquote “game plan,” but we’re — you know, we’re veteran enough, I guess you could say, that we're able to, you know, install checks and all that. And crap, sometimes we gotta scrap that stuff. You know what I mean? Like. But — but the defensive staff has been so good in recognizing the players. So what will be successful on Friday night and is that, you know, Will’s done such a great job on Friday night, playing the defense. And, you know, sometimes when you're — you're put in the right spot, good — good things are going to happen. And that's what's been happening with our defense.
Jon Nelson: What has this season so far meant to everybody down there in Cordele with everything that we've all gone through?
Brad Harber: Well, I think that, you know, although it's not full capacity at the stadium and all that kind of stuff, the biggest thing that I could say, I mean, it's — it's more like normal. So, for example, you know, I have six daughters, believe it or not. Like, I pray a bunch, don’t — don’t get me wrong — six daughters — so they want to get shirts made up every year and they’re able to come to the games ... So everything’s kind of the same, so that’s — the normalcy I think is the main thing. And, man, the Cougar fans are so good this year. I think — I think they've got a little taste of things last year. And fortunately, this year we’re playing really, really good football. And, you know, it's — with the offense kind of, you know, quote unquote “catching up” it’s pretty exciting here Friday night, man. So I would say just getting — being able to do some normal stuff as we go into the Friday Night Football thing.
Hannah Goodin: Coach Harber, we got a circle back. Six. Daughters. My dad has three daughters and he barely gets through each day of his life. Six? Wow!
Brad Harber: Yeah, yeah. I'm the dumbest guy in the house. I promise you that. Heck, I’m the only guy in the house, you know. But I tell you what, I do have a really good recliner and I have two male dogs, they love me to death. So, you know, we hang out together and then believe it or not, I hang out with Pop, that's Maria’s dad. He actually taught me how to deer hunt and I love it. Man, I grew up in the city, my dad was a pilot in the Air Force, so I lived in the suburbs of the city, but, well, being a head coach — I think you guys know, probably y'all's does too, but my phone rings multiple times. Well, I can assure you, when I open the deer stand, I'm not answering anybody's phone call. So it’s pretty nice. Yeah, you gotta have some outside activities. But I can tell you, look you don't take six daughters clothes shopping, oh no! No sir!
Hannah Goodin: No, that’s got to be expensive.
Jon Nelson: All right. So. All right. As you're talking to us right now, are you in your office?
Brad Harber: I am.
Jon Nelson: Okay. How many Mountain Dews do you have in your office right now?
Brad Harber: All right, let me look, one second.
Hannah Goodin: Over under — over under ten?
Brad Harber: Oooooh, oooh I have nine. Well I have nine and a half. I'm drinking one.
Jon Nelson: NICE!
Hannah Goodin: Look at that, I was right on the money.
Brad Harber: Man, I'm telling you, you’d think I have a big fat gut in this stuff but I don’t. I’m the worst eater you’ve ever seen, like I love candy and Mountain Dew, like I am not the picture of health when you look at a plate of mine. Noooo. Uh-uh.
Jon Nelson: Oh, man, that — that’s tremendous ‘cause yeah we — before we came on, Hannah had a number down and we were trying to figure out whether or not you were going to be honest about the number of Mountain Dews you had in your office.
Brad Harber: Oh, yeah. I bought — so the head baseball coach saw me up at the store the other day, I bought a fifteen pack and he asked me a day later and said how many Mountain Dews do you have left?
Hannah Goodin: Oh man.
Brad Harber: And I was embarrassed to say I didn't even tell him. I wouldn't even tell them that. No. Uh-uh. Uh-uh. Well everybody has their vices, you know mine’s Mountain Dew, so be it.
Jon Nelson: Yeah. Right — right there with you brother.
Brad Harber: I know it, I know it.
Hannah Goodin: You’d be proud of Jon. He's cut back.
Jon Nelson: No, he wouldn't be proud of me because I’ve cut back!
Hannah Goodin: He cut — he only has one a day now.
Brad Harber: No see, Hannah, I got — I've got to side with Jon on this. I’m disappointed. It has to be, you know, four, five a day at least.
Jon Nelson: Yeah, well —
Brad Harber: Don’t cut back on the good stuff, man. I'm telling you — you know — you've gotta — don't cut back on the good stuff. Life’s short, man, you know?
Hannah Goodin: Life’s short, drink Mountain Dew.
Brad Harber: That sounds like a great commercial. I don’t know why those jokers won’t sponsor me, man.
Jon Nelson: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, where's the — where's the — where's the Pepsi bottlery? Is it — Is that down in Tifton? Or is it — because there's one there's a Coke bottlery in Tifton or in Cordele and then the other’s in the other city and I get them confused.
Brad Harber: It's probably — Mountain Dew’s probably in Tifton. I can’t be that lucky to have Mountain Dew right here in the hometown. There’s no way.
Jon Nelson: Cause there's a billboard that I always pass by on 75 South that mentions that Pepsi's in one place and Coke’s in the other. And I can't remember which one is like 75 North just north of the exit. And there's, there's a billboard there that says one's with the other.
Brad Harber: Yeah. I'm not sure. I mean I'm super excited y’all called me, I appreciate that. I love you guys the best, man. Y’all are great.
Hannah Goodin: Yeah, Coach, this has been a lot of fun.
Brad Harber: Absolutely. All right, y'all done with me?
Hannah Goodin: Let's do one quick preview question. So you're coming out of a big region 2 AAA, win over Mary Persons final score. And that one was 38-7. Looking ahead to Peach County. What you gotta do to go 6 and 0 in that one?
Jon Nelson: This one's tough.
Brad Harber: Man, it’s a — and I'll tell you what: that’ll be the game of the week, right? I think — I tell you — I tell you what. This is — this what we have to do to win that football game. We've — we've got to somewhat — when I watch them on film they start hot and they're gonna be very physical. So we're gonna have to match their physicality. But we've got to do a good job with our players this week. They need to understand, like, Peach County loves the game like we do, they’re just right down the road. The other thing is, is that this will be a physical game for four quarters, not just for one quarter and there's no rolling over and saying “Uncle” on this one. I mean, this one is most probably, you know, come right down to the wire and it's going to be as physical a game as you ever wanna see.
Jon Nelson: Well, Brad, good luck this weekend. Thanks for hanging out with us. Thanks for opening your fridge and taunting me as much as you do. I love you very much, my friend, we'll catch up with you soon.
Brad Harber: Yes, I love you too, man. Love you too. Listen, y’all stay safe, man. I appreciate you all calling me. And any time you want another Mountain Dew number, you know, I'll be honest with it.
Jon Nelson: OK, good deal.
Brad Harber: Well, see y’all.
Jon Nelson: Bye.
Hannah Goodin: Thanks, Coach.
Brad Harber: Bye-bye.
Jon Nelson: I honestly wonder if Brad isn't being truthful with us as to really how many Mountain Dews he has in the office with him at any given time.
Hannah Goodin: It would probably match as many as you drink.
Jon Nelson: No, used to.
Hannah Goodin: Even though you cut back this year.
Jon Nelson: Yeah.
Hannah Goodin: Are you sneaking any?
Jon Nelson: No. But I will say this on game days because the day is so long, I usually will have another one with me in the car. But for those of — those of you that don't know. You see me around the state, usually you see me with Mountain Dew in the past. When my physician’s assistant basically said, “You like to eat, don't you?” And I said, "Well, no, actually I just drink sodas." And they're like, "No, you better cut some of that stuff out." And so I’m down to one Mountain Dew a day. I usually have it in the morning, but on game days I'll have more than one. Brad is another Mountain Dew disciple. And so to — to have that shared kindred spirit-ness with Brad over soda. But I just want to know how many he's got with him at any given time.
Hannah Goodin: I'm honestly proud of you. This is a PSA to everyone out there. Jon went from one liter a day to one 24-ounce a day? I'm proud of you.
Jon Nelson: So that's basically cutting it by two thirds of my intake. So, yeah, you'll see me with Diet Dr. Peppers or something like that during the day. But yeah, in the morning it’s the one Mountain Dew. And then the rest of the day it's diet sodas.
Hannah Goodin: I'm a Diet — I'm a Diet Coke girl. So I have one a day.
Jon Nelson: You have fun with that. Uh, the game this week on Football Fridays. It's going to be another fun one.
Hannah Goodin: It is. Let's take a look at last week's game. We were at the Big Orange Jungle in Lilburn for Newton at Parkview. The Panther offense and the two Browns were outstanding Friday night. Running back Cody Brown scored the first touchdown, but then wide receiver Jared Brown caught an 89-yard pass and a 68-yarder from QB Colin Houck to put it away in the first half. That was pretty much the theme the rest of the game. Brown had nearly 300 yards of receiving. The final score: 35-7. Parkview goes 5 and 1 on the year. They will play undefeated 6 and 0 Grayson on Friday, Oct. 30th. So that was a fun one, Jon. It was Homecoming, it was Pink Out for Breast Cancer Awareness. What did you see on the sidelines?
Jon Nelson: Cody Brown, your homecoming king, for one, and that the Grayson game will be on national television in a week and a half on the 30th. So it'll give Eric Godfree a chance to prepare and go up against Coach Carter. They're gonna be looking at each other, looking at a bunch of film. It's gonna be a fun one on the 30th, but yeah, eight catches for 240. And you got to see a lot of — a lot of chunk plays in the game for Parkview. And I think that — that the passing game when I talked to Eric Godfree after the game when he was — I told him, I said "If I'd said coming in that your passing yardage would be triple your rushing yardage, what would you have said?" He said, "I thought you — I would’ve thought you would've been crazy." But to show that kind of versatility, getting ready for this game against Grayson, I think is gonna be huge.
Hannah Goodin: Panthers defense looked good, too. I mean, they were — they — I feel like this game, they kind of came full circle. It was almost like they finally got things clicking on both sides.
Jon Nelson: Yeah. And this go-round, it's gonna be, you know, with Cherokee and Roswell, Cherokee beat Woodstock 41-7 last week, Roswell was in a tough one with Etowah it was 21-7. Got to 21-14 but Rosewell hung on so it's 6 and 0 and 5 and 0 this week for Football Fridays.
Hannah Goodin: Yeah. We'll be broadcasting from the Hornets Nest at Ray Manus Stadium.
Jon Nelson: Yep.
Hannah Goodin: For that region 5 AAAAAAA battle between Cherokee and Roswell. I'm really looking forward to that one. And Jon: Nugget for ya!
Jon Nelson: Nugget.
Hannah Goodin: This is the third week in a row we're broadcasting a brand new team on GPB Sports. So Cherokee has never been on. We're trying to do that this year. Where we are picking games with teams that have never gotten love on our network. So trying to spread that love out this year, I'm excited for this one.
Jon Nelson: To give you a rundown of some of the other games that are — that are in our spot shadow this week. And as much as we love all of our children equally, here's just a couple of the greatest hits. Norcross and Mill Creek is — is going this week. You've got the region of doom in 6A, taking the week off before their sprint. Valdosta had the week off. They get Westside Florida coming in for this week. You've got Lovejoy and Tucker, that is a Thursday game. So that's something to look at there as well. And Dacula and Hab Central is on the board, Carrollton and Paulding County’s on the board. Houston County, after their win over Veterans gets the week off. They've got Lee County in their region. Sprint. You've got Ware County and Coffee. This one in 5A, in the region of doom in 5A there's going to be a team that is not going to make the playoffs out of this region in 5A and that team, that fifth team, could make a run in the playoffs. If you just said, "OK, we're gonna just put everybody in, everybody in the pile," that fifth team that won't make the playoffs could make a deep playoff run if they were involved in the playoffs. That's how tough that region is down there in 5A.
Hannah Goodin: Don't forget my 1 and 6 Lassiter Trojans will play Sprayberry on Friday as well. Looking forward to that one.
Jon Nelson: BT’s at Calhoon, 2 and 0 and 5 and 1. Warner Robins gets the week off. Literally this is where we had four other regions start region play this last Friday. There's still a handful of regions that haven't started and are going to start the last — they’re going to start Halloween. How's that for irony? The beginning of your region’s schedule: Halloween for your four-game sprint.
Hannah Goodin: Doom. Jon, what have been your biggest surprises so far this season?
Jon Nelson: Wow. I mean, just how wide open things are. And you know, when — and I will say this, the — one of the biggest surprises, really — the more that I think about it, just the adaptability of coaches and kids in this season, because if you've got a game that shuts itself down, it's like you get two teams call off a game on Tuesday and then it's like, need a game, got a game. Then you go ahead and you pick up another game on Friday or Saturday after shutting something down three days ago. The preparedness that the coaches have in this state and the student-athletes have in this state to get ready to play to keep those schedules going into keep as close to a ten-game season as possible before you get into the playoffs. I think the adaptability overall has been a pleasant surprise. Doesn't really surprise me, per se, but it's been great to see all around the state coaches wanting to continue to play and keep their kids going the way that they are.
Hannah Goodin: Speaking of that….
Jon Nelson: Yes.
Hannah Goodin: Do you want to give us an update on what's going on down there in South Georgia?
Jon Nelson: Oh there’s — well, I mean, right now we're waiting on word from Valdosta about Jake Garcia, still waiting on that and various appeals and things of that nature.
Hannah Goodin: The quarantines.
Jon Nelson: Yeah, and the quarantines. Right now, you've got Lowndes who did not play this past week with their game against Alcovy. And Lowndes and Colquitt did not play last week. They're not going to play this week out of an abundance of caution. Jamey DuBose came out of the hospital, I want to say, over the weekend.
Hannah Goodin: Wow.
Jon Nelson: And so Lowndes isn't playing, they're 5 and 0, they canceled with Alcovy. They're anticipating their next game to be the region opener for them on the 30th against Tift. And the same for Colquitt. They are — they were off last week. They're not going to play Alcovy this week. And so their next game is going to be their region opener against Camden in Moultrie on the 30th.
Hannah Goodin: Well, we certainly hope everybody is being safe and healthy down there in South Georgia and all across the state, and the nation. So we're — we're thinking about them. And that's just part of this season.
Jon Nelson: Yeah, that's another round of the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast. Thanks for accessing us however, you are doing so. She’s Hannah Goodin. I'm Jon Nelson. Thanks as always to our guests who hop in on a weekly basis. This week it was Brad Harber, the head coach of Crisp. And I've written down all the other coaches that are on notice that are going to be — that are going to be on this show as we continue to do things every single week. This show is produced by the irreplaceable Sean Powers. It is a production of Georgia Public Broadcasting and GPB Media. Play it safe, everybody. Enjoy the games.
Transcript by Eva Rothenberg