Credit: GPB Sports
Football Fridays In Georgia: Jefferson's Gene Cathcart on the challenges of returning to the state championship
This week on the Football Fridays In Georgia podcast, GPB Sports' Jon Nelson and Hannah Goodin catch up with the always entertaining Gene Cathcart, head coach of the Jefferson Dragons. He talks about Georgia-bound, all-everything player Malaki Starks as well as the challenges of playing in one of the deepest classifications in Georgia in AAAA. Plus, a look ahead at a great week of region matchups.
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, your favorite podcatcher, on the YouTube channel and whatever other ways you get to hang out with us on a weekly basis. It is Jon here, Hannah, over there. And so, you're good to go now?
Hannah Goodin: I am good to go.
Jon Nelson: Okay.
Hannah Goodin: Cough drop in. Good to go.
Jon Nelson: Yeah, so with that, that's your, that's your continuity look for those of you who are looking on the YouTube channel when it comes to our interview. Great guests this week, Gene Cathcart. One of the great coaches here in the state of Georgia.
Hannah Goodin: He is hilarious. He is unfiltered. He has great answers. He was a really good interview.
Jon Nelson: Yeah. The head coach of the Jefferson Dragons right now, they are at the top of the ladder in class 4A made it to the last game of the year, losing to Marist. And you know, obviously when you think about Jefferson, obviously you're drawn to, you're drawn to Malaki Starks first and foremost, because he's been on Football Fridays in Georgia. We've seen him up close and personal playing at Flowery Branch in years past.
Hannah Goodin: I interviewed him one-on-one last week.
Jon Nelson: So what was that like for those who haven't had the chance to miss it and where can they see that?
Hannah Goodin: They can see it at gpb.org/sports. And it's all over our social media too. We have it out on, on Twitter and Instagram for the Recruiting 2021 show. He was an awesome kid. I was just talking to coach Cathcart about, he had it narrowed down to Alabama, Clemson, and Georgia. I mean, that is really what dreams are made of in the Southeast. I mean, unless you have your heart set on going to like your parents' Alma mater or something like that but getting offers and scholarships from those three schools and having to narrow it down, that's tough.
Jon Nelson: Yeah.
Hannah Goodin: And ultimately, he chose the dawgs. So we talked about why, and you know, the home feel 30 minutes, 30-minute drive over to Athens. And he said, obviously, relationships and all of that, but they're going to play him at safety.
Jon Nelson: Which I thought was the interesting element of the interview. You kind of bury the lead in this. It's like, yeah, we have Malaki Starks on it. But by the way, they say, he's going to play safety because we've seen him at quarterback.
Hannah Goodin: We've seen him at running back.
Jon Nelson: Yep, we've seen him at running back, seen him at linebacker, playing both ways for Jefferson and getting the chance to catch up with coach Cathcart about the recruiting process, what it was like to see this talented athlete being recruited by everybody who wanted him to be the bell of the ball. It was great to catch up with him and find out what that was like to, for him to look at it from a distance.
Hannah Goodin: Yeah. And he still has his hopes and dreams that on playing wide receiver at Georgia too, at some point, and apparently the coaches have said that they will play him on both sides.
Jon Nelson: But all you have to do is look at Champ Bailey. You look at a Champ Bailey And we've seen that before with athletes who are talented on both sides of the ball, offense, and defense. So, it wouldn't surprise me if they put him in that Champ Bailey role a little bit when he gets to Athens and gets acclimated.
Hannah Goodin: Yeah. We'll have to see what happens.
Jon Nelson: All right. So what else is on your mind before we catch up with coach Cathcart?
Hannah Goodin: Well, so we're at the point of the season now where all of these games are for region seeding, region implications.
Jon Nelson: Except for one, I think one and it's the Eagle's Landing region and they have only two region games, because there's three teams in the region.
Hannah Goodin: Well we are just not going to count them.
Jon Nelson: Not yet. We'll wait another week.
Hannah Goodin: Okay. The rest of the state is playing for region standings and seedings. We've got some regions in the blender already. We're going to preview those games in just a second, but, but what have you seen Jon?
Jon Nelson: I mean, it's been up close and personal and you're looking at five for four. You're looking at six for four. And when we come back from the other side of the interview with coach Cathcart, we'll get into that in a little more depth, but we've already shown games so far on Football Fridays in Georgia dating back to the Carrollton game, where Carrollton has had to win out. Because right now I think they're in a six, six teams for four regions, for four regions spots for the playoffs. That's a situation there. There's some teams on the coast that are chasing after it in five for four. We'll get into that as well involving a past guest on the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast as well. So you're really getting a lot of these regions where folks were thinking one thing and with one game in particular that we're going to talk about now you're looking at something else and it was a big win for the program that got the win. I'm not going to say upset in the sense of upset, upset, because it was two top five teams. And so how much of an upset is it really? But we'll talk about that particular game in five A, coming up in just a little bit.
Hannah Goodin: Let's just talk about it now and I'm going to call it an upset. I'm going to call it an upset.
Jon Nelson: Okay.
Hannah Goodin: Week nine is in the books, everybody. And, and my theme, my theme for these first two is, is upset whether you like it or not, Jon. All right. So we'll start with that wild one in region one, 5A Ware County shocked Warner Robbins.
Jon Nelson: Talk to those folks in Waycross about the word shocked now.
Hannah Goodin: The Gators became the 12th team this season to be the number one ranked opponent. The region goes into the blender Ware County is now six in one and undefeated in a region play 2-0, the reason I say that is because they were up 22 to nothing.
Jon Nelson: That was the shocking part for me legitimately. It was a shocker to me because their first two drives, they score touchdowns. Then they get a field goal then a safety ball snapped out of the end of the end zone. So it's 19-nothing really, before you have the chance to look and Warner Robbins had to fight uphill for the rest of that game. So big win 29-21. Warner Robins scores a touchdown late. They get a two point, but they don't get the onside kick. And that was the wind 29-21 down there at Veterans Memorial stadium in Waycross.
Hannah Goodin: Talked to coach Jason Strickland in the post-game show. And he said that the team was just rocking
Jon Nelson: Well. And now that they have a biweek, which is just as important before they have their final games of the season. It's at Veterans and then at Wayne County, I think are their last two this year, it's going to be right now Ware County has the inside track to the number one seed coming out of region 1. So that means a lot of home games and could be a lot more home games if they win the coin flip coming out of region 1 down low, right in your bracket and 5A.
Hannah Goodin: Another upset on my list this time in region 2- 6A Effingham beat Glynn Academy, 20-14, the Red Terrors were a seven-point favorite. So big season for first year head coach Jon Ford, as they go 4-2 overall in 2-1 in region play, Jon.
Jon Nelson: And this is one that is five for four right now. You're looking at Brunswick at 4-0 and 8-0, they've got a 2-1. Two and one is three divided by two game and a half lead over Effingham County in Statesboro right now, both at 2-1. Then Glynn Academy and Richmond Hill are two back at 2-2 in regions. So it's going to be an interesting fight because one of those four teams, Effingham, Statesboro, Glynn Academy, Richmond Hill will not make the playoffs and because of a very tough non region schedules. I know you're looking at teams Effingham right now at 4-2, you mentioned that Statesboro is at 4-3. Glynn Academy with their non-region schedule. They are 3-4-1, same with coach Matt LeZotte at Richmond Hill. They're at 2-5 They were, 0-3 in non-region games leading into region play. So one of those four teams will not make the post-season out of region 2- 6A.
Hannah Goodin: I am not going to lie. I have kind of zeroed in on these coast teams this year, and I've really been really been paying attention, really been following what they've been doing. And it is impressive.
Jon Nelson: Yeah, well, I mean, there's a lot of great football down there. You look at what Jeff Herron has been doing at Camden County. Coming back, you look at what you're seeing out of Benedictine and catching up with coach Danny Britt. We've had him on the show in weeks past and seeing what. You're also now coming up I-16 and you're catching up with Effingham County coach John Ford and that very, very tough region. And the kicker this week on Countdown to Kickoffinvolves a team on the coast.
Hannah Goodin: Always love that. I think they've been most of our kickers this year, we have had quite a few.
Jon Nelson: Well, it is a first for a program. It is a very cool first. And so we'll show highlights of this particular team and their first ever that will be coming up soon. I think you can kind of guess what that first ever is going to be, but Countdown to Kickoff at the end of the show, that's going to be the end of Countdown to Kickoff on Thursday on the GPB Sports Facebook page.
Hannah Goodin: Alright. And haven't even seen the video. So looking forward to it. So, those are my two upsets, a more big games around the state I want to get to. There was a region 1 7A battle in Kingsland Colquitt County came back against Camden County to win 34-31 traveled from Moultrie. So got off to a little bit of a slow start. They now go 7-1on the year 2-1 in region play. And this one went to OT, Jon.
Jon Nelson: And this is what our dear friend, Tommy Palmer used to call a pack a lunch and a dinner trip because, or pack breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner, I think at lunch and dinner, by the time you get to Kingsland, but no you're going from Moultrie through the swamp to get to Kingsland, which is basically Jacksonville, Florida to play a game. And that's what this region is. It's Moultrie, it's Tifton. It is Valdosta with Lowndes and it's Camden and having to go from one end of the region to the other. That's always a tough test. So not necessarily a surprise that a team that has to make a long road trip takes a little while to kind of get into the rhythm of the game, because, you know, you're, you're feeling, you're feeling that travel. You're feeling the bus and you're having to get off the bus and stretch your legs and finally get into the rhythm of the game. And they finally did, and it went to overtime. Colquitt now at 7-1, Camden County in their first year back under coach Jeff Herron at 4-4.
Hannah Goodin: Not on the bus was head coach Justin Rogers. We had him on the post-game show. He was in the car with his wife and his five-year-old daughter following the bus. And he said, man, I wish I was on there. Cause I know that they're going wild, but he mainly talked about how tough this region is. And we've talked about it multiple times on the podcast, but man, you get through a game like that. And now you have Lowndes on the road again at the Concrete Palace.
Jon Nelson: And the thing is, is that these two schools, they're 45 minutes apart and there is no love lost here. I mean, it is two cities in Moultrie and Valdosta that do not like each other. And you have this rivalry with Lowndes and you know, you've had it in the past with Valdosta high too. So I mean, it's, you know, right now and this one will be the one probably that turns the region champ and the number two, because these are the two teams that got through week one with the win. So Colquitt and Lowndes, both at 1-0, Tift and Camden, both at 0-1. So this one probably will determine the better part of the region title heading into that last week. And remember, this is three weeks in a row region 1-7A, a takes Bracketology Friday off, they're already in the barn. They've got everything laid out. So they they're looking at everybody else and seeing how things could, could work out. But it once again, low right in your brackets this year, okay. Region one plays region eight. So that means quarterfinals Thanksgiving weekend will be if you map things out Collins Hill coming through from region eight versus the top seed out of region one. So you could have a quarter final matchup involving the region champ of region one Colquitt, Lowndes, Tift, Camden, going up against Collins Hill, who should be the region champ out of region eight in 7A.
Hannah Goodin: Bleckley County is now the only remaining unbeaten team in region three 2A. after being Northeast Raiders 9-6, the Royals scored in the last minute of the game and had to hold on to that lead.
Jon Nelson: Game and a half lead in the region there as well, Dodge, Northeast, Washington County, all at 2-1. So there'll be fighting for the two to three in the four, unless something happens with Lamar and Southwest who are 1-3 in region play. So right now it looks like those are going to be the four teams, the orders what's going to be determined with Dodge, Northeast, and Washington County.
Hannah Goodin: And finally, on my list, it was a region 4-7A opener for Brookwood. The Broncos beat Newton 28-6. And the reason I want to bring in this game is because I talked to coach Philip Jones after the game. And we got to announce that Brookwood Grayson this Friday is our GPB game of the week. And he was really excited!
Jon Nelson: Yep. Grayson right now at 2-0 and Brookwood at 1-0 and Newton 1-1. South Gwinnett with coach Bryan Lamar who we've had on the post-game show also at 0-1. Parkview at 0-2 and 3-5. So once again, five teams for four spots, Parkview has some work to do at 0-2 and South Gwinnett right now at 0-1, but Grayson and Brookwood, once again, another one of these inside track games that you're looking at when it comes to region four and who gets to be the one seed coming out in 7A and eight games.
Hannah Goodin: Any games we missed Jon?
Jon Nelson: And if, if I miss them, I'm going to take the interview with coach Cathcart and look at them. And so that way we can talk about them on the other side.
Hannah Goodin: Talk about them coming out. Well, I have to give a shout out to Lassiter 4-4, overall.
Jon Nelson: Hey, Commander Sandy, what an absolute surprise that she gives a shout out to Lassiter.
Sandy Malcolm: Yeah, she was just saving that. It was like oh, and by the way.
Hannah Goodin: If you don't have any more games than I do. I can keep going. I've got 10 more over here.
Jon Nelson: Well, but that's what the other side of the interview is for. But no Commander Sandy. I mean, think about this. You have the right because your team is the only one of the three of ours that is ranked.
Sandy Malcolm: Ranked undefeated. Right?
Jon Nelson: She's her Decatur bulldogs. They're top 10.
Hannah Goodin: Lassiter is bottom 10.
Jon Nelson: So is Lakeside Dekalb. She above anyone has the right to sit here and interject at any given moment because the Decatur bulldogs have been top 10 and they have been putting up some large numbers.
Sandy Malcolm: Yes. Large numbers.
Hannah Goodin: She was already bragging about it.
Sandy Malcolm: Let's see they have beat Stone Mountain, 63-0. MLK 41-0. Lithonia 28-0. So those are the last few.
Jon Nelson: Yeah. And they beat MLK this past week. And now you're at Northview on Friday. Northview is at 2-5, Decatur is at 7-0. If anybody on this show deserves the right to talk about their team, it is Commander Sandy.
Hannah Goodin: I didn't even get to say the score, you didn't even, you didn't even let me finish the score Jon.
Jon Nelson: Lassiter won. Okay. Good for you.
Sandy Malcolm: What was the score, Hannah?
Hannah Goodin: No, no, no. I'll leave our listeners with some anticipation. They can look it up.
Jon Nelson: Okay. So I see how you're working here.
Hannah Goodin: Everyone rushes to their phone, to, to Google Lassiter's region win.
Jon Nelson: I'm looking it up right now, 16-3. So you beat Osborne. 16-3. There you go. So there I say, I saved you a click. Oh man. Isn't that the thing the kids do saved you a click. Yeah. No, it just saves you a click. It's like a function. It's like a hashtag. Hashtag yeah. Hashtag saved you a click. So that's what it is. Yeah. You want to toss to the interview now?
Hannah Goodin: Yes, I do. Fantastic interview. It's time. We had a great one. We had Jefferson head Coach Gene Cathcarton. Region 8-4A. They have been dominating undefeated. Let's hear what he has to say about this season. All right, coach. Well, I want to start off by letting you know that I wore my Jefferson. T-Shirt extra-large to fit over the baby bump on Friday. And it brought me luck in the studio. We had a great broadcast. Jon brought me back the t-shirt for when he was out there. And I had just been very thankful. Thank you for the t-shirt.
Coach Gene Cathcart: Well, we're honored. That's amazing. That's great. So anytime we have great people that are bringing us that kind of luck back, I'm glad that it's benefited you. That is super.
Hannah Goodin: It was very comfortable, very soft. It might be my new go-to. Just letting you know.
Jon Nelson: See now, you give Hannah a comfortable t-shirt to wear because she has to wear clothing for three right now.
Hannah Goodin: It is not fun.
Jon Nelson: And so, you know, she's, she's a gamer. I'll give her credit, but, but what I've tried to do is, and all the, all the road trips that I've gone on, I would always try to make sure that some there's a piece that I can bring back. So Hannah can represent as well. And so yeah, first and foremost, thanks for the helmet to add to the set and thanks for the t-shirt to make sure that Hannah's dressing well enough for three.
Coach Gene Cathcart: No, thank you. Like I said, for representing us that's awfully cool. It's nice to see the helmet and everything else when y'all are getting those nostril shots with coaches throughout the state of Georgia who are interviewing from their cell phone angles with you.
Hannah Goodin: That's hilarious. We've been talking about it and we're like, do we tell the coaches to tip their phone down and their computers down? And we're like, no, we're just going with the shot.
Coach Gene Cathcart: Well, you all do an incredible job. And it's great to be in a state where football is important and it's great that you guys do such a great job promoting our student athletes and the programs throughout the state.
Hannah Goodin: Well, thank you so much. I guess I haven't gotten to my first question yet.
Jon Nelson: No. What is your first question?
Hannah Goodin: That was a very long prelude. Well, my first question is you go 7-0 on the season, 3-0 region place. So undefeated, that's amazing coming off a biweek. How did you use that time to prepare for the backstretch of your season and get your team healthy?
Coach Gene Cathcart: Well, that's a great question. I think everybody this time of year is, is banged up or bruised up and we're no exception. No one's had injuries to some critical guy, some awfully good players and none too serious yet, but you know, it was great to be able to get them some extra rehab to go ahead and go back and work on the fundamentals on the field. We're blessed. We have a lot of and the reason those kids practice there is of course for their opportunity when they're times called. And David Bennett is an incredible example of that all high school players in this state. And you know, our guys have stepped up, but certainly depending on the level we want to be at Hannah, we've got to get some guys healthy and get them back where they're in the full flow is, like you said, as we kind of go down this regular season home stretch and hopefully on into the playoffs.
Jon Nelson: How difficult is it being a number one team, because everyone's looking at you, everyone's gunning for you. How do you handle that pressure? I guess internally, if you've voiced some secrets, if you like, but I mean, how, how do you handle that pressure internally knowing everyone's gunning for you every week as a top ranked team?
Coach Gene Cathcart: Well, you know, it used to probably be every coach cliche, whatever worked, you know of kind of, you know, I don't know, refusing to acknowledge it or what have you, but gosh, you know, you guys do such a great job. We're so well covered throughout this state. I mean, it's almost silly to, I mean, you're almost disrespecting your kids, if you assume that they don't know more about the teams you are playing then maybe we do from film and from social media and things like that. So you know, we embrace it you know, certainly you know you don't want to be the regular season, state champion too many years in a row. Cause we do have a tournament at the end of the season and we'll all sort itself out, you know, we try to impress hires and then be the number one team in our region, which would allow us to be the number one seed, which that would be more important than, you know, what the various rankings say in terms of you know, this poll or that poll or, or what have you. But that number one seed is vital, that home play wheel until you have to start flipping coins, you know, so we really do emphasize to our guys, probably the region win first and then, you know, just kind of wanting to play at a certain level when the expectations like that. We don't want to pull it from the expectation. If folks think we're that good a football team, then you know, we want to make sure that every time we go out there and we try to represent that standard and that level of excellence.
Hannah Goodin: Well, one of the playmakers on your team that has certainly raised expectations is senior quarterback slash safety, all around defensive guy slash running back athlete, Malaki Starks, he's committed to Georgia. What does he mean to your team?
Coach Gene Cathcart: You know, he's the face of our program without question you know the thing that you find right away about him is there's not anybody here who begrudges him, any success, there's no jealousy. He's such an outstanding leader. He's so well liked. So well-regarded you know, everybody kind of celebrate his successes. And then in turn, he celebrates the successes of his teammates. Sammy Browns, you know, puts a great player. Kadin Bailey, Perry, all the guys. Tre Reece, who's had an incredible year for us, all of those guys. You know, you're really fortunate when everybody talks about culture. That's the buzz word nowadays, but you know, one of the great things about culture in a locker room is when your best players are also your best people and leaders. I mean, you're destined to have a chance to do some awfully special things. And he is a special leader, and a special young man. He makes those around him better, and that's probably the greatest compliment you can pay a great player.
Jon Nelson: How has his game improved going into his senior season and coming through his senior season? Because I know he's been battling injuries and he hasn't been at full song coming out of the blocks, but how has his game gotten him ready for the next level? And what else do you think he needs to work on?
Coach Gene Cathcart: Well, you know, certainly I made minimum wage and Kirby is one of the top paid coaches in the country. Yeah, I'm hoping to be scratching other things are a minute for diet Coke. So I'm not, I'm not going to speak on that. Those guys are incredible what they do. And, you know, I think the thing, the question there would be exactly what they had planned to do with him. And, you know, we've tried, like you said, that linebacker, that slash, that safety, that strong safety roll down guy he's just got so much ability and versatility that, you know, they're certainly going to use an incredibly well, just like they do all their players. But you know, I think probably the thing that we've tried to do this year is having more talent around him in certain places. And maybe being able to take some of the pressure off him. You know, he's been banged up. You know, with a foot injury and a thumb injury. And we've tried to, and I think him just letting the game, come to him a little bit you know, last year we needed him to, you know to be in some instances, the car and the driver and the pit crew, and, you know, right now, you know, we don't necessarily need him to have those, all those roles. We just need him to go out and be there. You know, when the time comes, the brightest stars in the sky are the ones that shine. Certainly when that time comes, he is going to be one of those guys. But you know, if there is any attribute, any, you know, coaching rhetoric that you could say to imply a great young man. He is all that and more.
Hannah Goodin: One more question on Starks. I know you have a hands-off approach when it comes to recruiting, but he had it narrowed down to some heavyweights. I mean, Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, that is what dreams are made of, while for players in the Southeast, at least. Right. What did you see? How did he handle the recruiting process and what did you observe?
Coach Gene Cathcart: Well, that's a really good question because it can be overwhelming. And you know, when you said a hands-off process, I appreciate you pointing that out. A Hands-off approach because you know that the decision for the young man, you know, I had, I grew up in Clemson, South Carolina. I lost all kinds of friends over him going to Athens.
Hannah Goodin: Whoopsies.
Coach Gene Cathcart: I mean, I went to high school and ended up graduating and getting my teaching degree from Clemson. So, you know, after a short time playing in the Citadel. So, you know, trust me, I felt, you know, I heard from people I had not heard from in a while, but, you know, he's got an incredible family structure. I mean, incredible mom and dad in support structure in place that we are here as a resource for him. You know, and that's all we were, he was as best as you can during this COVID time, he did his due diligence. You know, obviously visits were shut down. Things were, you know, were different. But you know, those guys don't make those, that amount of money without identifying not only great players, but the kind of kids they wanted, those kinds of programs. And, you know, so once they got to know him and he got to know those guys, you know, he was able to make an informed decision where he felt comfortable, where his parents felt comfortable. And, you know, I will say I do, I do kind of support, you know, the fact getting that decision off you and trying to enjoy your senior year. There's a lot to be said for that. And now certain kids can't handle being out of the spotlight. They can't handle, you know, once they ask somebody to the prom, not being the pretty girl that's being chased you know, and Malaki can, because he's, you know, he's still confident about himself and he can kind of help recruit some other people that way. But, you know, I've been so proud that he's just made 12th grade, his priority and 13th grade will take care of itself when he gets here.
Jon Nelson: When it comes to your roster. And this is a question that we like to ask because of the Recruiting 2021 show that we have. We always have the segment at the end of the show where Matt and I are talking about, make that kid an offer. Is there, is there a player, are there a couple of players on your roster this year? That for whatever reason, they are overlooked underappreciated under starred, if you believe in the star system, because we all know about J.J. Watt being a two-star and we saw how that turned out, right. Is there anybody that would fit from your roster that really could benefit from make this kid an offer or make this kid a better offer who would fit in that category for you this year? That's done yeoman work for you.
Coach Gene Cathcart: Well, it's, you know, certainly the poster child for that Kadin Bailey. Kadin Bailey just has kind of gotten lost in the Malaki, Sammy Brown, you know and all he does is just playing unbelievable football every week. And you know, he has some offers, but maybe not the ones that we had hoped he would have by now, but outstanding young man. Great, great student at the game as well. I don't think your boss's son and champ’s nephew, and you don't have the great mom he's got without just being an incredible person. He's one Jordan Perry of course, committed to Kansas state for us. He would have been in that category before his commitment. Tre Reece is a junior who is just playing lights out for us this year. And we knew it was a great player, but he's really stepped up for us as a running back and there are others. Spencer Neese is a guy who's we think as a potential senior wide receiver, outside linebacker, to be a big-time player. He's being recruited just maybe not the level that we'd love for him to get them all flowing his way. and Dawson Crawley is a receiver who fits that boat. You know we feel like we got a bunch of kids. Sometimes, I think college coaches show up and, you know, with 5, 6, 7 names and they're like, well, you know, I did the same thing and I was recruiting in college. And I, you know, I sit there and say, well, how do you have that many good players at one place? Well, here they let an overrated coach go 31-3. So that's, that's what it does. And you know, that's what we've been since this senior class were sophomores and then 31 or 32 and 3. One regular season loss in three years. And you know, so, that to us is evidence of those, but you guys know, because you covered so closely under such a difference and being a great prospect and a great player, you know, there are great prospects who have all those measurables and they don't really dominate on Friday nights, but they're good players. And they end up going to big time programs and you got those just really great high school players that you know, we've got a couple of them played for us and they're at Harding University right now. And my son actually went to a division two program. And you got those guys and when you have them, those two things line up, you get them out of time, you get a Malaki and a Sammy Brown, and you get, you know, when the prospect and the player both merge, that's pretty special. And we think like I was taking a long-winded answer to your question. But he is just such an outstanding player in so many ways for us.
Hannah Goodin: Well, I'm writing these names down so we can keep an eye out for them. So, I can get another shirt, I guess.
Coach Gene Cathcart: There you go.
Hannah Goodin: All right, coach, let's talk about the rest of your schedule. So three region games down, three more to go. You play Chestatee on the road. This Friday, they are 3-4. Then you've got North Oconee and Madison County, I guess, talk about those three games and what's it going to take to get through?
Coach Gene Cathcart: Well, Chestatee, you know, Chestatee is one of the most and probably the most improved team in our region coach Shaun Conley and his staff, coach Corley, all those guys, they do an incredible job. You know they were struggling last year to scratch for wins. And this year they're playing with a lot more confidence, scoring a lot of points. And you know, this is the one that, of course you guys don't do this, you guys are good at what you do but all our local media, they find your trap in the more and more time I'm going to throw up. But you know, a trap game is who's winning. If we weren't anything last few years, we ought to value every opportunity to play with COVID, everything like that. So trap games only when a team are spending to value that chance to play, or the young men don't look down and see where their feet are. So they start looking and things like that. And so with Chestatee, poses escalated problems. They're still alive in the play-off hunt and that's a testament to the incredible job they've done. So at their place this week, and then next week, you know, probably did the defacto region championship game. North Oconee is undefeated in our region. Their only losses are to, you know, outstanding football teams you know, Oconee County, I believe they've lost to Benedictine and Cambridge. And so, you know, I don't think anybody is going to shut the program down for losing close games to those teams. And Tyler and his guys do an incredible job. So that'll be a big game. And then Madison County has kind of become over the years that we've been in this region and a third rivalry, Chris and those guys do a great job, actually run a similar outs in style offense to what we're doing right now. So it'll be a good match up and the just the region has just really improved. So you still have, you know, all the one team mathematically alive for the playoffs. So it'll be, it'll be a great challenge.
Jon Nelson: Gene Cathcart, head coach of Jefferson, hanging out with us for another couple of minutes here on the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast. When you look at quad A what do you see in the teams that are hanging out there with you at the top of the rankings? It's Marist, it's Benedictine and Carver Columbus, Cedartown, Spalding Perry, TCC, Baldwin, and North Oconee at 5-3. When you look at the rest of the class, what do you see?
Coach Gene Cathcart: You know, whereas in most of it, you know, if we were all taking our chance here, if we were to talk about all the other classifications, we can admit that there are probably there's five teams, it would have you know, unless somebody just pulls up Villanova beats Georgetown basketball, kind of rolling, there's about five teams in each classification that have, you know, the heavy favorites too, to one of those five would win it. I would say you could go 9, 10, 11, deep in 4A and nobody would be, who knows football, like y'all do, who knows high school football well, would be shocked if any of those teams were to get high at the right time. Stay healthy. Had some breaks and win those games. So, those teams you mentioned, and there's a few others that are just really talented, really well coached. And, you know, so for 4A football, it just seems to be right now, there's, a whole lot of lions trying to get at that meat. And you know, that makes for a great exciting playoff for everybody. And it makes having that home field advantage that we talked about earlier, so important.
Hannah Goodin: Speaking of getting at the meat, I don't know why I said that you lost in the title game last year to Marist the 4A championship game. Of course, now you guys are both ranked one and two again. So coach, my last question for you is how would you feel about a rematch?
Coach Gene Cathcart: Well, I think earlier this year, they told me that I had one my 150th game, which just means you've had good players in, and are getting older. I think Chad was one like 4,000. I think if I were to coach until I was Moses’ age, wouldn't touch the island, but just the class program, well run well coached. It was an honor to compete against those guys last year. I think I see what Benedictine is doing to, like, you know, and then Carver Columbus and all those things, whoever wins is going to, you know, whether it's facing a Marist or one of those other guys, or us, or whoever is going to earn that raring, that's not going to be cheap jewelry. That's going to be somebody who really, really earned it, fought through some, some awfully tough battles to get that. So but no, if that was an opportunity for us to play them, you know, now that the GHSA has the multiplier, I think instead of the 4A championship we would combine to be in like 28 A state championship. But, you know, just think the world because Coach Chadwick really were impressed with just how his kids competed, and the class they showed in winning last year.
Jon Nelson: And the reclassification question will be one that we will save for another version of the Football Fridays in Georgia.
Hannah Goodin: We do not have enough time to get into that.
Jon Nelson I mean, that would, that's a, that's definitely another topic that we can talk about little later on in the year when things get more finalized and all that as you chase a 28A state championship as well.
Hannah Goodin: I'm excited for that one coach.
Coach Gene Cathcart: I just probably should say less. As my mom once told me, you've never missed an opportunity to open your mouth. And so, unfortunately, I simply listen to my mom and my wife.
Hannah Goodin: I've never heard that before. I'm going to use that.
Jon Nelson: Well, coach, thanks for hanging out with us here on the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast, we will be keeping an eye on everything going up there with the Jefferson Dragons. One of the great venues, one of the great towns when it comes to high school football here in the state. Thanks for hanging out with me and Hannah we will be catching up with you down on the road.
Coach Gene Cathcart: Well, thank you all. Thanks Jon. Thanks Hannah. Take care of yourself and those soon-to- be’s, ok?
Hannah Goodin: I will. Thank you.
Coach Gene Cathcart: Alright, thanks.
Hannah Goodin: How many weeks of coverage would we need to open up for a 28A championship?
Jon Nelson: Well, let's see. So if we do, if it's three days and we do eight championships, plus a flag football.
Hannah Goodin: And by that time we can consider flag football all 28 A as well.
Jon Nelson: True. All right. So then you're probably looking at another three or four championships there. So you're looking at probably adding another 18 championships. So that's another, that's another week, maybe another week of broadcasting.
Hannah Goodin: I was going to say two.
Jon Nelson: No, because I mean, if it's three championship games, if it's eight days, if it's eight championships in three days. So now, you're looking to add another 20 because of flag football being the first day. So, you're probably looking at another week of broadcasting.
Hannah Goodin: We could do it.
Jon Nelson: I think so.
Hannah Goodin: You know what? Bring it on. Why not people who say 7A is too many we can add, we can keep adding.
Jon Nelson: You just wait.
Hannah Goodin: You just wait and see.
Jon Nelson: But no, it was, it was fun to catch up with coach Cathcart on a bunch of different topics. He really is one of the great characters. And I mean that in the sense of very self-deprecating and you know, you ask him a question, he'll let you know what's on his mind. And I know that a lot of folks last year when we had the, the game against Flowery Branch on the air on Football Fridays, and he wears, he wears glasses and he had the face covering on last season. And when it was like, it was raining and it was pretty nasty conditions. His glasses fogged up on the air during the interview.
Hannah Goodin: Yeah, I remember that.
Jon Nelson: So now, it's great to catch up with him because he's a great personality here in the state of Georgia. One of the great coaches came over from the state of South Carolina, and he's been a coach at Jefferson for a little while now, but it's one of the cool guys that we have here in the state.
Hannah Goodin: I got so excited talking about their gem, Malaki Starks, and our interview with Cathcart and everything that happened last Friday, we forgot to recap our game of the week.
Jon Nelson: You got four and a half hours?
Hannah Goodin: So, I think it's time to do that.
Jon Nelson: Four and a half broadcast hours.
Hannah Goodin: Unbelievable.
Jon Nelson: It's one of the wildest, one of the wildest nights I think we've had on Georgia Public Broadcasting.
Hannah Goodin: I think Matt said that on air. He said it was one of the best games he's ever covered.
Jon Nelson: 48-47 final on overtime between Cambridge and Johns Creek. Cambridge had the lead.
Hannah Goodin: At the Coliseum.
Jon Nelson: Like the Roman Colosseum. You have Cambridge with a lead Johns Creek storms back then Cambridge storms back. And you go to overtime with the late score from Cambridge, great comeback by them. And one of their signatures wins and in their tenure history, they have not won a region title, and this could go a long way in giving that for that side for the Cambridge bears, great game, 48-47. And with the post-game show, we were on the air for four and a half hours.
Hannah Goodin: No, we didn't get off the air the air until 11:55?
Jon Nelson: About 11:50. And then I stormed into my late-night scoreboard shows and it's, I literally, I'm calling the late-night scoreboard shows that I check in with every single week. And they're like, oh, so you're finally over. Yeah, we're finally over.
Hannah Goodin: I know by the end of the post-game show, my brain was so mush, I couldn't even remember what our next game was.
Jon Nelson: So, what is our next game?
Hannah Goodin: I couldn't tell you. I'm just joking.
Jon Nelson: Brookwood and Grayson. Hello?
Hannah Goodin: Yeah, Brookwood and Grayson.
Jon Nelson: It's going to be a fun one to determine the inside track for region championships as well. When you look at other games that folks are going to be keeping an eye on. You've got, once again, we talked about Colquitt at Lowndes on Friday, that one's going to be big. Walton. How do they rebound with the lost to North Cobb there at North Paulding. 4-2 versus 4-3. Pebblebrook right now they're at 7- 1, can they keep things going up against Newnan? 6A Lee County has North side Warner Robins visiting Leesburg. 7-1 versus 6-2. You know, let's see, I'm buzzing through all of the games that I have here. You got Northside right in Northside and Lee County. We talked about that one. You know, Ware gets the week off before they get ready for Veterans. Warner Robins has a chance to rebound against Wayne County and 5A Coffee is at Veterans because you've got five teams. Somebody's got to have the biweek. So this week it's Ware County. Decatur, once again, we will mention Commander Sandy and the Decatur bulldogs. They have the 2-5 Northview team Friday, and it's a road trip. It is a road trip for you. So I'm guessing, because of rush hour traffic on a Friday, having to go to Northview, you probably have to leave, what, about Thursday afternoon at some point?
Sandy Malcolm: That's about right.
Jon Nelson: Sean Mitchell, by the way, 13 and 16 passing in the 41, win over MK. 241 yards touchdowns to four different receivers. Tre'vyon Webb and Nahshon Smith returned fumbles for scores. So, they're getting it. So you had two defensive scores, you had four offensive scores. Your quarterback sounds pretty solid.
Sandy Malcolm: He is. They're really good. Just well-rounded team. They play well as a team. So you know, big tests Southwest Dekalb and St. Pius the last two games of the season.
Jon Nelson: Yeah. And St. Pius is ranked above them. You know, St. Pius is at 5-2. And so once again, these region tests, you know, she's this close to a region championship. She's this close.
Hannah Goodin: So close to another title. Another one.
Jon Nelson: Marist gets at the Marist is at Stephenson on Friday in 4A Benedictine and New Hampstead, 6-2 and 7-1, that's a big one on the coast, since you like the coast. Spalding and Baldwin. That's another one in 4A, but we need to pay attention to AAA. You're looking at Oconee County and Monroe area, that region Oconee County, Hart County Monroe area, your one, two and three in that round Robin is taking care of itself to figure out who's going to be the seeds there. Sandy Creek at 7-0 has Carver Atlanta on Friday. You've got Pierce County and Long County 5-2 and 4-4. They're going to go at it, Hart and Stephens. That's that region that we were just talking about. Hart County has spun off after the loss to Oconee County and they are going to play Stephens County. Who's also at 6-1 in Hart County. I believe if I'm not mistaken, so that one's going to be in Hartwell. Coach Rance Gillespie, and the Hart County bulldogs, both at 6-1 on both of those, a Rabun County takes on Elbert County, 7-1 and 3-3. Fitzgerald and Thomasville in region one AA, that one, two teams, 7-1, that's going to determine region seedings versus 1-2 Bleckley in Washington County. We talked about that region and what Washington County can do as part of that two, three and four, Jeff Davis at 8-0 takes on Swainsboro, that one's going to be big in AA as well. So we'll keep an eye on that. You're looking at a single A, private Trinity Christian is at Brookstone on Friday. So there's a lot of great games that is the bottom line.
Hannah Goodin: Can you tell that Jon is so ready for Bracketology, so ready? This is just the beginning, just the prep work. Hey, one more thing about Brookwood before we just kind of blow through our game of the week. Yeah. They've won three straight games. Their defense has not allowed a point in the last two games. So that is going to be a storyline for that game. Region 4, 7A sole possession of first place in that region will be on the line on Friday, kickoff set for 7:30.
Jon Nelson: So for those that are always wondering why Hannah is having to clear her throat. It's because of allergies.
Hannah Goodin: I have, I seriously have the worst allergies of anyone on earth and I've been battling them now for a month and a half.
Jon Nelson: Yeah.
Hannah Goodin: And we've been talking about it every podcast, nobody wants to hear about it anymore.
Jon Nelson: Well, so then, you know, she goes to Arizona that the air there is fantastic. And then she comes back here.
Hannah Goodin: Didn't sneeze or cough or clear my throat once in three days in Arizona and come back here and right back to where we started.
Jon Nelson: Alright, since you don't want to talk about it anymore, you want to say goodbye?
Hannah Goodin: Sure.
Jon Nelson: Okay. So for Commander Sandy and her incredibly successful, so far, Decatur bulldogs and for J three, is that what we're calling?
Hannah Goodin: We're calling them the J three. Cause everyone that comes in to work on the podcast, besides Sandy and myself, every male, every single male name, it starts with a J. I think it's part of the job requirement.
Jon Nelson: Yeah. We've got a Jake, the Snake, the Outlaw Jesse, and King James that are a part of it here every single week and the commander Sandy. So yes, every male on the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast has to have, it is now mandatory that you have to have a letter J as a part of things, because before Jake, the Snake, it was giant. It was Jahi the magnificent. So see, this is, we stumbled onto something here. I see how this works. So once again, thanks to Head Coach Gene Cathcart of the Jefferson Dragons for being a part of the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast. Thanks to you for watching and whatever form and listening in whatever form you do. And once again, reminder Brookwood and Grayson game of the week. Football Fridays in Georgia, that is at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. Your Recruiting 2021 starts everything off at 7:00 o'clock with Hannah interviewer of the stars Goodin. And Matt Stewart and myself, another big night of high school football coming up here in the state of Georgia. For everybody here at Georgia Public Broadcasting and GPB Sports play it safe everybody. Enjoy your games!