Credit: Javy Lopez/GPB Sports
Football Fridays In Georgia: GHSA Championships Rapid Fire All-Stars Edition
In our final weekly episode of the Football Fridays In Georgia podcast for the year, GPB Sports' Jon Nelson recaps the entire GHSA Football Championships' lineup, including flag football, with our panel of media all-stars from across the state.
The Media All-Star lineup for this week's podcast includes:
Marvin James - WMAZ-TV Macon
John Koon - longtime play-by-play announcer for the Vidalia Indians
Christian Goeckel - ESPN Coastal
Jack Patterson - WRBL-TV Columbus
Paige Dauer - WALB-TV Albany
Wiley Ballard - GPB Flag Football play by play announcer and sideline reporter for the championships
Matt Stewart - GPB Sports' play-by-play reporter and host
Jon Nelson ; Welcome to the final Football Friday's In Georgia podcast here for the 2021 season. And as we are taping this for the full review of the Georgia High School Football Association Tommy Gilbert Football Championships from Center Parc. It is a fantastic day here at GPB Sports and for the GPB family as our Hannah and her and her husband John, are giving birth to their twins. So, we have Cardboard Hannah here as a part of the process and we have the Football Fridays In Georgia All-Stars here that will take us through the championships. All the games, all the winners, the 30,000 foot view from all of this. Cardboard Hannah there, Jon here. Batting lead- off with us is the man from 13 - WMAZ in Macon, Marvin James, one of the integral sources for us here on Football Fridays In Georgia and we're going to talk Warner Robins. So, I guess, Marvin, you would just want to go ahead and start us off.
Marvin James: WMAZ-TV Macon: Heeyyy owww!
Jon Nelson: Now let's get moving. All right, so Warner Robins did something and you, I know is the proud alum, so I guess we can meld this conversation to Marvin, the Alum, and Marvin, the sports anchor here.
Marvin James: WMAZ-TV Macon; Mm.
Jon Nelson; Doing something that Warner Robins had never done until this year. Going back-to- back, that's mind blowing to me.
Marvin James- WMAZ-TV Macon: Yeah, it's pretty impressive. I mean, they have this this whole class, this whole last little streak has been its chance to do it for a long time, and this is their fifth straight time going to State Championship. That is also something they've never done. But winning it back-to-back, you know, obviously a really huge deal because they were able to finish the drill and to win it twice. And that's, and no program, we haven't done it. The only time it's been done in Houston has been Northside. On the other school, the blue school. Thank you. Under Coach Dix back in 2006 and 07, but is a great accomplishment.
Jon Nelson: Do the numbers even surprise you at times as to how prolific they've been offensively and how well they've clamped down on folks defensively and going back to back?
Marvin James- WMAZ-TV Macon: Yeah. I mean, it's just so impressive. I mean, you bet. We got a chance to see this for the past five years, just this new scheme that we've been going. And yes, we play fast, and I think that's the best way that people when they always ask me something I was talking to Calhoun friends of mine before the game, Christian and Christopher Lewis's parents, they were asking me, You know, we went to the Georgia Southern together and they were like, Well, how is Warner Robins? Just don't know. I mean, we just play fast and and the same way we play on offense, we play on defense. It's just it's really weird and I don't try to. It's not a mask or anything that I try to hide about the way that they play. It's just, I mean, you've seen them. I mean, it's just a great description to see how they do. It is just really impressive. And yeah, and I think at the end of the day, when you look at the numbers, you just kind of say, Wow, you know, this is we're really watching something special
Jon Nelson: When it comes to football in the central Georgia footprint. I mean, have you put your thinking cap on here for the final couple of minutes? Who is your region MVP this year? Regardless of classification, it can be, you know, it can be someone like Fred Perry, or it could be someone else off the page who is your region MVP this year when it comes to high school football there in Central Georgia?
Marvin James- WMAZ-TV Macon: Oh, without a doubt, it’s JaFredick Perry, I mean, this kid has done it on both sides of the football. I mean, he literally from Game one against Valdosta in that classic over at Mercer, he set the stage. I mean, it was so impressive. People were literally asking, Now, wait a minute. Number six is that same kid from last year? I mean, he just literally had a totally different season this year than he did last year. Obviously, I don't think the demons really expected him to thrive as much as he had because we, you know, we lost Jalen Rutherford, who went to the Air Force Academy, and then we lost Malcolm Brown later on in the season to an injury. And and Fred Perry just continued to keep rolling. And I'm going to say something that's really huge around these parts because we have a kid last year, a graduate and he's playing for Liberty right now, four year starter named Ahmad Walker, who’s a bad boy, you know, so always from elementary school to high school. Fred Perry made you forget that we had a kid, Ahmad. Because he was just that dominant on both sides of the football. Now, Ahmad is still legendary and I mean, there's no disrespect, but it was just it just goes to show how much of an impact player that Fred was this season. And I'm just very excited and you don't really get that on both sides of the football. But he's one of those folklore guys that you'll be saying, Oh my God, you remember Fred Perry? Fred Perry! That's it. You're going to say both names. It's going to be that way when you see it down the line.
Jon Nelson: All right. So what are some of your other takeaways from the weekend now that we're on two minute warning?
Marvin James- WMAZ-TV Macon: Um, just watching just the I said, the big elephant in the room. It could take away was the weather conditions that were there at Center Parc Stadium. Center Parc did a great job, but very hospitable. It was great. I just of hate to see any time they're playing in the state championship arena in a game of that magnitude that you have to bat on some conditions. The fog bowl on Friday, right? The rains on Saturday. Oh, Thursday I wasn't there, but I was told it was one of the coldest days of the year in Georgia. So, I mean, you just have to go through so many things. The Sun bright Saturday for a minute, but that was in between rain delays and lightning delays. But I don't know what the answer is, and I don't pretend to think that money's not an issue when you're talking about renting out the Mercedes Benz. But I would like to see that there's some kind of happy medium that can get there with scheduling. And just to give these kids and these parents, you know, an opportunity to watch, watch these great young men and women with the cheerleaders to be able to participate in something without having to deal with the elements on that big stage.
Jon Nelson: Well, Marvin, as always, thanks for being a part of a Football Fridays in Georgia. Thanks for being a part of the podcast. Thanks for being a part of everything that we do up here in Atlanta, and thanks for being one of the great voices for the sport down there in Central Georgia with you and Frank and Ben and everybody there at 13- WMAZ. Thanks for helping us out all season long. Thanks for being the great part of the sport that you are growing into the sport, growing up in the sport and doing everything you guys do there in Macon. Thanks for hanging out with us and batting Lead-off this week on the All Stars.
Marvin James- WMAZ-TV Macon: Thanks, Jon. I love you, brother. Tell Hannah congratulations, Call me Uncle Marvin.
Jon Nelson: Batting second on the Football Fridays in Georgia all-stars long time play- by-play voice and friend of GPB John Koon hanging out with us. So, John, your assignment was Let me let me try to remember this. It was what Single A Public since you got to see Brooks, right? So, we'll start with that.
John Koon PBP Vidalia Indians; Private.
Jon Nelson; Well, you had private and public since you got to see Brooks.
John Koon PBP Vidalia Indians: Right. and then Double A.
Jon Nelson: Right, so then let's talk. Let's start off with Single-A public Brooks County. They scored a lot of points.
John Koon PBP Vidalia Indians: Doesn't surprise me. Not a bit in the world when when Omari Arnold started the way that he started. I mean, this kid is just unbelievable, and he's absolutely one of the one of the premiere backs that I've seen in a long time.
Jon Nelson ; When you look at Maurice Freeman having been to the last game of the year, winning the title back in the 90s and the long drought that was there and finally getting a championship, I did not see anyone sit there and, you know, say anything about Maurice other than fantastic. Glad that he finally got one.
John Koon PBP Vidalia Indians: Well, and that's the kind of guy he is because, you know, he makes great decisions with great kids. And, you know, he's not one of those coaches that typically is going to, you know, bounce around for a better job. He's, you know, he left for a little bit and came right back to his home. And that's that's the, you know, the tradition he established down there. So yeah, it was great to see him be able to get his state championship a second one. And, you know, you won't miss it. I mean, you want me to nicer guy. I promise you that.
Jon Nelson; And at the same time, seeing the Championship trophy being buckled into a seatbelt and you know, once again, following our lead sponsor, the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, making sure that trophies traveled safely in and around equipment, that thing made the tour this weekend.
John Koon PBP Vidalia Indians; Absolutely. And it'll make the tour all week long. And I promise you that, you know, those guys just work hard down there. And I'm not saying that Irwin or anybody else then work hard, but it's it's a special place down there. And as a football fan and the Georgia High School Association, you've got to like that win especially for Coach Freeman.
Jon Nelson; All right. Double A- Let's talk about Fitzgerald and Thomasville. We knew that region rivals, it was going to be one of those knockdown drag outs. It was 15-8 last time and it looked like Tucker Pruitt just wanted to sit there and say, I'm going to put my biggest guys in the line of scrimmage and we're just going to mash for forty-eight minutes.
John Koon PBP Vidalia Indians; And that's exactly what he did. I mean, he not only put the biggest on the line, he threw a couple extra bags back there and just let go, you know, and see what you can do. It's going to be us against, y'all. We're going to go mano a mano. And that's exactly what they did. And Fitzgerald comes up, holds Thomasville. This was the biggest shock of the day. I mean, three possessions, nine plays, six yards in the first half for Thomasville. That's unheard of.
Jon Nelson; Absolutely crazy. And you cannot. Once again, we talked about all these droughts. We mentioned the Brooks County drought and Morris Freeman 1948 Class C, and the trivia question was Fitzgerald beat who in the semifinal to get to the Championship game at in Albany and in Macon to win in 48. And it was Thomasville at Albany Municipal. They beat them 7-6 in the Semi in 48.
John Koon PBP Vidalia Indians; I know it's crazy. It is absolutely crazy how that works out. And, you know, after you get six final losses, including last year to Callaway, you were kind of, you know, just kind of thought that this might be their year, you know, and they got the 21 points they needed and then relied on their defense the rest of the day.
Jon Nelson; Single private. Let's talk about that really quickly. Once again, Trinity Christian put up massive numbers all season long. Didn't, you know, didn't shock anybody that they would do it again. Fantastic work by them knocking off PAC.
John Koon PBP Vidalia Indians; Yeah. David Dallas is something special. I mean, you know, you get a 65-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Gates first play from scrimmage. And you know, it's pretty much you're thinking, Oh, this really could get ugly. And it did. I mean, 35-0. Then Prince Avenue comes back, makes it a two score, you know, to score a game that's about as close as they got because Trinity Christian just went ahead and just walked away from it. From there, man. You talking about loaded with talent? That is a team that is loaded, loaded, loaded. I would not want to be on their schedule next year either, or Prince Avenue’s, because they return just about everything off of this final team.
Jon Nelson; And the Dallas family is going to be experiencing a lot of action next year because I think they're heading to one of the directional Michigan schools. I think it's Western next season.
John Koon PBP Vidalia Indians; Western - going to be Broncos next year. Go up there and I don't know if they still row the boat up there or not, but they're going to be up there in western Michigan and be a Bronco, and they're getting two very good ballplayers, just not the quarterback. They're going to get the brother. And when you get that brother, you got some good hands on yourself.
Jon Nelson: John, as always, fantastic to hear your voice, my friend. Thanks for everything that you do for high school football here in the state of Georgia, and thanks for being a part of the Football Fridays in Georgia All Stars.
John Koon PBP Vidalia Indians ; Hey, it's always a pleasure, my friend. Thanks. Have a great holiday!
Jon Nelson ; Next up on the Football Fridays in Georgia All-stars batting third. Who is your number three? Who's your favorite number three hitter, Christian?
Christian Goeckel ESPN Coastal; Yeah, I got I got a bone to pick with you because last week you said it was Freddie Freeman, but its Chipper Jones. I just want Freddie Freeman money.
Jon Nelson ; Ah, OK, so there it is. All right. So Chipper Jones with Freddie Freeman money batting third. Christian Goeckel from ESPN Coastal and your homework assignment was Benedictine. And first and foremost, I saw the picture that was taken on your social media where you were in the broadcast booth at what used to be Turner Field now Center Parc Stadium. And you had your moment of cool, and I thought that was a really cool photo.
Christian Goeckel ESPN Coastal ; Yeah man, just to sit in the box had so many other legends that sat in for so long there. Turner Field people that I grew up listening to, riding in the car with my dad. Listen to all this great Braves teams. That was, yeah, it was pretty special.
Jon Nelson; So Benedictine comes north to Center Parc. And it was just once again what you've seen all season long. Not necessarily surprised by, but now the rest of the state got to see what Benedictine has been able to do all season against Carver, Columbus in the Championship game.
Christian Goeckel ESPN Coastal: Yeah, and it was the usual cast of characters. It was Holden Geriner or Justin Thomas and Za'Quan Bryan with a little sprinkling of Cam on the edge there. On offense, you had both those guys, Justin Thomas and Za'Quan Bryan go for over 100 yards receiving in that game, and you had Holden Geriner and just put on an unbelievable performance in the state title game. Eighty percent of his passes for almost 400 yards and four touchdowns, and you got to see the full complement. I know Coach Joyner talked about this how fast they can get in and out of formations. They may only run eight or nine plays, but they can get in and out of seven or eight different formations and hit you with those. So, I'm glad the whole state got to see it because it's been fun to watch all year.
Jon Nelson; What does this championship mean to the coast in general, do you think?
Christian Goeckel ESPN Coastal; I think it puts a little bit of a spotlight specifically from what Holden did at the quarterback position or just how good the quarterbacks are down here on the coast because you have guys like Barry Cline, Peter over at Calvary Day, he's headed to New Hampshire to play quarterback Jake Merklinger. That's a name to keep your eye on. He actually had a Notre Dame visit the Calvary Day quarterback. There's some really special quarterback talent going down here on the coast. I think a lot of that has to do with the seven-on-seven stuff that's going on in the different camps that these guys are starting to hit. But obviously it has to do with the coaching as well. So, some pretty special quarterback talent going on down here at the coast.
Jon Nelson ; What about Benedictine and repeating, what do you think the odds are of that?
Christian Goeckel ESPN Coastal ; I think they should be an odds on favorite. I look at this talent that's coming back. Luke Kromenhoek actually played strong safety and forced a fumble, a crucial fumble in that game. He's going to transition over now as the starting quarterback, and he already has offers from Coastal Carolina and Florida State as a starting quarterback is just a sophomore. And so he'll be back as a junior. He's a little bit more of a threat in the run game as well. But Za'Quan Bryan is back four, he's leading wide receiver. He'll be back. There's some guys to watch as well. Ashley Edwards, the running back, he got hurt actually broke his ankle the week before the season and they finally got him work back in into the playoffs and he got some touches and he's a really special back as well. And then there's a few other guys. I don't know if you remember Travis Blackshear. Yeah, from back in his days in BC. His cousin, Thomas Blackshear, is on the roster was a freshman this year. He had two touches this year. One of them was a handoff. It went for 70 yards and a touchdown, and the other one was a blocked punt. And he picked it out of the air and took that back for a touchdown. So, he was just a freshman. He's going to be pretty special next year as well. So they got the two inside linebackers were both just sophomores this year, so they got dudes all over the place. I would not be surprised if I'm hanging out with you again in December next year.
Jon Nelson; So then with a minute to go with you and I hear as you're batting third, Danny Britt, where does this championship put him in the pantheon of great high school football coaches in the state of Georgia? Surprisingly, he doesn't get a lot of ink, and he should.
Christian Goeckel ESPN Coastal; Yeah, I believe he's got I think he's close. Correct me if I'm wrong to a 150 career wins now three state championships, and I know he's not one who would ever want to think about legacy. He's already just focused on 2022. I think you got to start mentioning his name up there because prior to him getting to Benedictine and they were kind of an okay football team, nothing special. And his goal is to turn them into a Saint Thomas Aquinas, a modern day at St. John's Bosco. He wants to turn them into that level of a program, and I think what you saw this season was just the beginning. I mean, this is third state championship since 2014. So they're building a dynasty down here in South Georgia.
Jon Nelson ; Christian Goeckel, ESPN Coastal, my friend. Thanks for hanging out with us on the Football Fridays and Georgia podcast. Thanks for hanging out with us on the post-game show on Football Fridays and Georgia. You have dialing in from the coast. Thanks for being an integral part of our coverage all season long as you are. Have a great holiday. We'll catch up with you soon.
Christian Goeckel ESPN Coastal ; Thanks, Jon. I appreciate everything you guys do.
Jon Nelson: Batting cleanup. It is a three-way dance and in about it it is about as virtual as it gets. Our tag team from Columbus and WRBL TV Jack Patterson, Rex Castillo. I know that Rex is planning to figure out how he can get to the Texas San Antonio Bowl game in bowl season, but we'll get to that in just a little bit. Guys, thanks for hanging out with us on the Football Fridays In Georgia All-Stars as we talk about Carver, Columbus on the western frontier.
Jack Patterson- WRBL-TV Columbus; Absolutely, Nelly, is a pleasure to be on with you, as always.
Rex Castillo- WRBL-TV Columbus; All right. Conference USA champion UGSA Roadrunners, by the way.
Jon Nelson; Yeah, I see. I see how this. Yeah There it is. All right. So, Jack, first and foremost, let's talk about Carver, Columbus. It was a buzzsaw. We had Christian Goeckel from ESPN Coastal. And just before you guys to talk about Benedictine and Jack, what about the season from Carver Columbus?
Jack Patterson- WRBL-TV Columbus; Man, I think I'll take the word Zachary Jordan told us after the game is that you see the 16th season as a success. You know, I mean, obviously in the way that they wanted it to. And you know, they honestly and, you know, they feel like they let one slip away against Benedictine on Friday. But man, what a season. And I think this goes a long way to bringing Carver back to the prominence that they've been working so hard to get into. I don't think this is the last time you'll see Carver, especially now that there is going to be moving down to 3A. I think that this sets up well for Carver to make a extended run at the top of football here in the state of Georgia.
Jon Nelson; All right Rex, So then let me ask you this Carver, Columbus, and I think it speaks a lot to what Coach Joyner has built. Carver, Columbus got to the last game of the year by doing it a bunch of different ways. You had to do it in a grinder. You had to do it in a blowout. You had to make sure that you had to do it the way that you did. And I think that winning grinders, winning, you know, games where you were in complete control, having to come back in some way after you got punched in the mouth. I think it speaks a lot to what Carver, Columbus has been building
Rex Castillo- WRBL-TV Columbus; Absolutely, to face adversity in every way and every shape form possible. This team know so much about grit, and that's what I think Carver has become as a team about Yes, you're talented, but you have to grind. You have to embrace at adversity. In that way, you can overcome it by leaning on each other and by winning it your way. Coach Corey Joyner went to Georgia Southern, and a lot of guys who are former Eagles are grind out tough it out guys and were like, ‘Look what we got. We're going to make the best of it, and we're going to excel because we're going to work harder than the other person across the line from us.’ And I think that's exactly what they showed from every level of the playoffs throughout the season and especially against an extremely talented BC team. I mean, afterall, Holden Geriner is heading to Auburn, he's heading the SEC. And yes, this is the SEC caliber talent on the Carver roster. But that defense rose up in so many different ways. And I think this team, as Jack mentioned, like the blueprint now is set in Carver. You know what to expect from a Carver program? And if you want to play for Coach Joyner, that's what it's going to take. So, I absolutely think that 3A is definitely set up better for them numbers wise with the help with the competition. But I'm so excited for the future Carver.
Jon Nelson; All right, Jack, let's talk about the western frontier. Who is your region? Most valuable player regardless of classification? Who made the most impact in your eyes this season in 2021?
Jack Patterson- WRBL-TV Columbus ; You saw them in Atlanta. I will say this. You saw both of them in L.A. and it's hard for me to just pick one. I will give it to D.J. Riles and Jaiden Credle like he saw them in Atlanta. You saw exactly why they were among the top players in the Chattahoochee Valley. Regardless, if you are in Georgia and Alabama like those two, you just got the will to win they are dogs. They fight, they fight; and they fight. And you saw all the way into the bitter end against Benedictine on Friday night. And you know, for me, like there is that duo is just incredible and they're going to go down in history in more ways than one, not just at Carver, but in our area.
Jon Nelson; All right, Rex, without having to steal Jack's answers. No repetition. And you can't go flip mode activated part two here,
Rex Castillo- WRBL-TV Columbus; but you're killing me here. You're killing me here.
Jon Nelson; Who else is on? Who else would be on your list? Let's put it that way
Rex Castillo- WRBL-TV Columbus; On my list. Oh man, put me on. Oh my gosh. I mean, I have to go to shoot. Guys are killing me with this one. This is what happens when Jack goes first, but I would be another name or two with K D. Hutchinson. He is on his way to on his way to Vanderbilt, so he's obviously smart. I'm going to have to say that, you know, he was an absolute similar to what Flip was for to Carver was that we need something to have it, find KD and give him the ball. And whether he's returning kicks or he's finding you give them an inch of daylight, which is your problem. I think KD did an absolutely wonderful job. And but golly, it's just Elijah Pritchett also another one, because to let D.J. & Flip do what they do, you can't forget about the guys up front and Elijah Pritchett is heading to Alabama. So, I think just the grind that he's done and Coach Joyner talked about how there was a lot of times where Elijah’s future was very much a question mark. The kid who disciplined himself grinded, grinded to a point where he can now take us down the FCC and play for coach David and to make him free as well.
Jon Nelson; OK, so Rex, it was big Pritch. And who was the first name on your list?
Rex Castillo- WRBL-TV Columbus; K.D. Hutchinson from Harris County, who's heading to Vanderbilt. A guy who was a play just waiting to happen. We thought if we went to Harris County and covered a game, it's going to be a K.D. Hutchinson highlight.
Jack Patterson- WRBL-TV Columbus; He was on the WRBL do not kick it to list because if you do it is view on you.
Rex Castillo- WRBL-TV Columbus; The consequences are your problem. That's how coaches lose jobs. No, don't kick it to KD.
Jon Nelson; Don’t kick it to KD. Well, guys, thanks for hanging out with us here on the Football Fridays in Georgia All-Stars giving us all the information from the Chattahoochee Valley all season long. Thanks for being the integral parts for everything here at GPB that you guys are rex both hands on the wheel. Jack, I know that you're heading toward basketball season and keeping an eye on your shore raiders. Thanks for hanging out with us guys here on the podcast. We'll catch up with you soon.
Rex Castillo- WRBL-TV Columbus ; Local authorities look, I listened.
Jack Patterson- WRBL-TV Columbus; Thanks, Nelly, and it's great to be a Shaw Raider.
Jon Nelson; Batting fifth in our lineup is Paige Dauer, the sports director, WALB-TV, down in Albany. And Paige, what was your what was your homework assignment last week? It was in Double-A. Was part of it, wasn't it?
Paige Dauer- WALB-TV Albany; Double A, and Single A.
Jon Nelson; Double A, and Single A. So that's where I go. Where do you want to start first? Do you want to go with a first title since 1948 or Single-A with Brooks County and a fantastic dude getting a title? A good dealer's choice with you.
Paige Dauer- WALB-TV Albany; You know what? Both of these games were phenomenal, but let's go ahead and just start with Double-A with Fitzgerald and Thomasville that had a lot of exciting facets to it. Let’s start there.
Jon Nelson; Region Rivals. It was 15-8 last time for Thomasville, but Tucker Pruitt and we had John Koon, the long-time play-by-play voice of the Vidalia Indians on a little earlier here in the show. And in looking at this game, it literally was Fitzgerald's going to put their biggest dudes out there and they're just going to act like a bunch of road graders and bulldozers and just kind of clear the way. And that was how they kept Thomasville offense from being off the field.
Paige Dauer- WALB-TV Albany; Definitely. Fitzgerald came in there and they played the game they wanted to play. They set the tone from the opening possession, the opening drive of the game. I think it took almost seven minutes that first drive, obviously ending in that touchdown and taking six seven minutes off the clock. Thomasville was immediately on their heels and that game they didn't find their first first out until the third quarter. And, you know, as well as the Hurricanes offense played, it really was the defense, which is really no surprise, as that's been their strength all season that really kept Thomasville out of this game and maybe even made time to play a little desperate, which is why we saw those two interceptions that Shannon White threw and the second half. But it was a phenomenal game. It was exactly the way Fitzgerald wanted to play. They ran the ball down Thomasville throat, and Thomasville just didn't have an answer. And you know, maybe part of that was because Fitzgerald been there for the last seven years, though they know that state championship football is different than the regular season. It's different than the postseason and they just came ready. They were excited, I think, to be the underdogs and be counted out early and they just did not let up on Thomasville. That entire game really was a phenomenal performance by Tucker Pruitt, you know, winning his first title as their head coach. And like you mentioned, finally ending that long, decade long drought, it was a really exciting game to follow.
Jon Nelson;] What was it like for you postgame to catch up with folks from Fitzgerald knowing what this title meant to Ben Hill County?
Paige Dauer- WALB-TV Albany; Yeah, thankfully I had my sports anchor with me, Kyle, so he had to do the tough job and talk to Coach right. Here you go. But yes, I was able to catch up with Tucker and, you know, just talk about what this championship game meant to him and getting to finally bring it home in front of all of his loyal fans. I think the really special part is I also talked to his dad, Robbie Pruitt, who was also a longtime coach at Fitzgerald before he left to go over to Coffee. And you could just see the tears welling up in his eyes and just how proud he was of his son to finally be the coach that brings home that second elusive state title for the program and to see them embrace after the game and give them, you know, that father -son hug really was just so special, and you could tell that this championship really meant so much to them and for their players to finally have that gratitude and for it to finally pay off. You can just see how much they really are invested in this team and in this community. And it was it was great to see it pay off
Jon Nelson; Before we get into Single-A. Let me talk about Thomasville here a little bit. Fantastic season for Zach Grage and the Bulldogs. Obviously, it ends up a game short, one in the win column, but I would anticipate Thomasville once again next year is going to be chasing the last game of the year.
Paige Dauer- WALB-TV Albany; Oh, I think so. I mean, that's what was surprising about this game. No one manhandled Thomasville all year long. I mean, maybe Oconee County, but they have some injuries on the Thomasville side. But other than that, Thomasville dominated everybody they faced this whole season with a dominant four for them, from playing Brooks County to Bainbridge, Thomas County Central. And they have the right guys on this team. They are a relatively young team, so I think they found the secret sauce to get them to the title game, and I would very much expect them to be in the conversation next year.
Jon Nelson ; All right, Brooks and Irwin, a lot of folks knew that it was going to or they thought it was going to be Brooks and Irwin when they looked at their brackets and ended up being Brooks and Irwin. And this time Maurice Freeman gets the title.
Paige Dauer- WALB-TV Albany; Yeah. What a game this one was for our Southwest Georgia teams to open up with this one in the final score be 56-28. I mean, what was going on in that game? I was laughing with Maurice afterwards. I was like, All right. Omari Arnold had five rushing touchdowns at over 300 yards was the last time anyone put up five rushing touchdowns. Oh, it only took a quick Google search to see that Arnold had two other games where he had five rushing touchdowns this season. I mean, that man is a menace to his to his opponents. That's insane. But you know, they the whole season it was all about breaking the curse. A team really felt that they had a curse on them and they just could not get that second state title. And to always be losing to Irwin County, whether it was the regular season or the postseason, they were just tired of it. They didn't want to lose another time. And I think, you know, having Omari Arnold in the backfield gave them all the dynamic energy that they needed on offense. They had a great defense that made some really good plays. I think Irwin and Brooks exchanged a couple of picks. This pick sixes throughout the game, but no was really exciting and coach Maurice Freeman all season long. He's been walking around with the second place token, and that really gave them the chip on the shoulder that they needed. And they went in there. They played the brand of football that they wanted to play, and Irwin kept pace for a little bit. It was close in that second quarter, but come third quarter, Irwin just did not have the answers, and Maurice Freeman was able to get his second ever state title, which was also the program's second ever state title. So you could just see how elated they were after the game to finally be able to bring one back to Quitman
Jon Nelson ; and at the same time, Irwin County quickly next year. This was a rebuilding year for Irwin. At least a lot of folks thought this was going to be a rebuilding year. You rebuild, you make it to the last game of the year expectations, obviously very high for next season down in Ocilla.
Paige Dauer- WALB-TV Albany; Yeah, I think if most most teams could say they’re rebuilding and still play in the title game and be competitive for at least, you know, two or three quarters. I think that's a pretty good position to be in. But yeah, again, this is a really young team. They've got great leadership in that program, and I very much expect them to still be in the conversation. I think they're going to be a dominant force for the next two or three years with all the young guys they've got coming up.
Jon Nelson ; Page Dauer sports director, WALB-TV down there in Albany. Thanks for being a part of the Football Fridays in Georgia All Stars. Thanks for being the integral part of our coverage that you have been all season long. We'll be catching up with you soon. Have a great holiday.
Paige Dauer- WALB-TV Albany; All right. Thanks, Jon. Happy to be a part of it.
Jon Nelson; Next up, our voice of flag football, the voice of flag football here on Georgia Public Broadcasting in GPB Sports. Wiley Ballard, who got to patrol the sidelines. You, sir. I think we're the busiest man in the entire building on the weekend. Thanks for coming on for the all-stars.
Wiley Ballard- GPB Sports; Oh, I can't tell you how much fun I have this weekend, Jon. I mean, I was talking to somebody yesterday after the championships were over and just discussing how special high school football is in the state of Georgia and just so special and eagerly excited to see about the history and the way the history of flag football develops. First two years have been a great success.
Jon Nelson ;So we go from two Championship games to three this year, and I thought that that was, you know, once again, it's part of the cool dynamic of it all. Because of COVID 19, participation was limited. You now had three championships and you and David were on top of all of it this year.
Wiley Ballard- GPB Sports: We were there was a lot going on. I mean, you look at the way it has grown, you went from around 90 teams in 2020 to nearly 190 teams in 2021, and we got the Crown three champions this year. There were a couple of returners from last year's state championships and on the flip side, we even saw a team win a state championship in their first year of having a flag football team. So, it was a ton of fun from top to bottom.
Jon Nelson ; So let's say it was Southeast Bullock in an all Bullock County final, it was Southeast Bullock knocking off the Portal Panthers, who made their second straight appearance in the championships, and you had Hillgrove getting revenge from last year, losing to West Forsyth. They beat Marietta for the third time this year, and the other one escapes me. What was the middle game?
Wiley Ballard- GPB Sports; Oh, we had Dodge County and Lithia Springs.
Jon Nelson ; There you go. . Yes, yes, yes, yes. Yes, the multiple overtime game. You can't have flag football without an overtime game here on GPB, but you know, once again, great performances across the board. Great to see Eastman get a championship. Great to see the folks in Brooklyn get a championship at SEB and Lauren Render. Lauren Render for me has been one of the best finds and flag football, not just this year, but for the last two for Hillgrove.
Wiley Ballard- GPB Sports ; Well, Hillgrove, as you mentioned, you can't have a state of flag football state championship on GPB without overtime. Hillgrove is on the short end of the stick last year. What was the six eight seven eight final. They lost in double overtime to West Forsyth, but a lot more vendors felt she had two touchdowns, one interception in that game and then this year looking to pick up a state championship in her senior year try number two, she outdoes herself. She gets two touchdowns again, three interceptions and one of those touchdowns with a pick six that gave Hillgrove the lead early on in the first half. So you're talking about a really special athlete. She's committed to Virginia Tech to go play women's lacrosse up in Blacksburg. She's an all-American in lacrosse. And, you know, I love what we heard from Coach Daniel Pinckney, who, by the way, coached tackle football for close to 20 years here in the state he has launched Hillgrove Flag Football State Championship, and he mentioned that Lauren is going to be a cornerstone for the foundation of Hillgrove flag football for many, many years to come and you know, Coach Pinckney told me after the first season, her junior year, he kind of assumed she wasn't going to come back and play her senior year. You know, you got a lot to focus on with lacrosse or a futures kind of set and the flag football was that was a fun activity for one year. Well, Lauren crossed him in the hallway back in May of this past spring and said, Rumor has it, you don't think I'm coming back and let me tell you, I am playing football. We're going to win state. And lo and behold, seven months later, they pull it off with an exciting win over their local rival, Marietta.
Jon Nelson; Two minute warning with you. Let's talk about tackle football for two minutes. What are some of your highlights from the weekend patrolling the sidelines and calling games on the radio?
Wiley Ballard- GPB Sports; Well, I'd first say Omari Arnold, and I'm sure that's been the answer for almost anyone, you ask. His performance over 300 yards rushing, breaking Herschel Walker's single game state championship record for Brooks County to do it for a school that had won one in nearly 30 years and you know, to get it done for Coach Maurice Freeman and so on and so forth. That was an emotional night on Thursday night and in a one, a public final. Don't forget about Jamal Graham to Cedar Grove five passing touchdowns. He was a ton of fun to watch, had a chance to call it on radio and then sort of wrapping up see the way that Travis Hunter and Sam Horn closed out their careers as the seven eight championships. I spoke with Coach Gregory and he just discussed what they have meant to that program. They've changed the entire culture of Collinsville, so that was a team that went 2-8 in 2016, hadn't advanced past the first round up until last year. In 2020, under coach Gregory, once the finals in a Sam Horn and Travis Hunter complete that dream finished. So few get to experience that had to be the highlight. I'm not just saying that, because that meant I got to go to bed after that last game.
Jon Nelson; You going to bed, me going to Waffle House. Wiley, thanks for being a great part of everything here at Georgia Public Broadcasting all season long. Thanks for thanks for putting up with me. Thanks for putting up with everything with Football Friday's postgame shows and being a part of the championships that you are my friend. Thank you for everything this season will catch up with you soon.
Wiley Ballard- GPB Sports; Nelly it's always a dream come true to cover Georgia high school football. As a local native, I can't you how much I enjoyed it to talk to you soon.
Jon Nelson ; And we finish up the Football Fridays In Georgia All-Stars by bringing in our all-star The voice of Football Fridays In Georgia and the GPB Championships. It is Matt Stewart, Matt. I guess you want to go from 30000 feet and just kind of give your overall observations from the weekend.
Matt Stewart- GPB Sports; Yeah, I mean, I thought it was a fabulous state championship weekend. I thought, you know, by and large, all the games were competitive. Although final scores on some of the games might not have seem that way at the end, if you just picked up, you know, the old newspaper, if anybody does that anymore and looked at the scores, but they were all very competitive games. They all were compelling stories and had a lot of fun doing it. You know, it seems like. Six ages, there's something about that 6A game and the back-to-back years, it’s crazy nuts Langston Hughes pushing Buford to the brink and, you know, the Wolves for the third consecutive state championship that they've won. Winning it at the end, although they didn't need overtime this time.
Jon Nelson; From a TV production perspective, I don't think a lot of folks understand the difficulty of calling a game like that, and you and Wayne did a tremendous job of doing our version of Bears Eagles from Soldier Field. That's your YouTube search for today. Kids look for that one, and I have to give a shout out to our crew at GPB at Central Parc to give you guys the best pictures they possibly could and some really trying situations.
Matt Stewart- GPB Sports; There’s no doubt, I mean, it was a challenge with the fog. I would say it was more of a challenge from a technical standpoint than it was. You know, from my standpoint, I appreciate the compliment and everything, but I got to give a shout out to our producer, Glen Diamond Man. They kept looking for the best shot and sometimes we were happy to take, you know, behind the quarterback in zone shots because that was the best shot that we had because of the fog. The, you know, the the the traditional look from, you know, mid-deck there at the stadium looking down on the field just wasn't working for us. So we were having to do and improvise and do some things there to get the best shot of the of the game. They really did a great job. They did.
Jon Nelson; 7A was a coronation for Collins Hill and I think coming out of the blocks, Milton did it right. They wanted to take the air out of the ball and they brought in running back L.T. Overton from his from his underclassmen years to try to help things out. They chucked the ball as best they could and kept it away from Collins Hill in that first quarter, but they couldn't get any points out of it.
Matt Stewart- GPB Sports; There’s still one principle that always applies You got to score, so you got it. If your ball control, you still have to score at the end of the ball control. Otherwise you're inflicting wounds to yourself because you just, you know, they open the game with an eight and a half minute drive. That was great, but they didn't score so. You run out of time. You got it. I mean, if you ball control, you got to be able to score. So, Collins Hill comes out scores and four plays. You have to be able to counter that now. You don't have to score in four plays. You can score in 15 plays. But ultimately, you have to score. So while yes, Milton did have a sound game plan, the failure was getting points out of those long time consuming drives. So yeah, ultimately you still have to score whether you're scoring quick or scoring the long route. You got to score and they and they weren't able to do that. And I think one of the big stories and I'm not saying this is Milton. I think this is everybody. Yeah, everybody underestimated Collins Hill's defense the entire year. And I think I think in a lot of ways and again, this is not Milton. This is everybody looked at Collins Hill and said it's Travis Conner and Sam born and never gave that team the dew. It was due until at the end when they completed a, you know, a dominating season. They just went through 7A the best and best classification in Georgia, one of the highest brands of high school football in the nation and did not win a game by less than two touchdowns the whole year, playing some of the best teams in the country. And I think in the end they were still and I think that was reflected in Lenny Gregory's comments to you down on the field in the trophy presentation that you know, all the way up until the end, people were doubting this Collins Hill team and they left no doubt. They left no doubt their defense was dominating. They proved they were much more than just Sam Horn and Travis Hunter.
Jon Nelson; And then in Triple-A before we head on to silly season in recruiting really quickly. Cedar Grove once again putting up big numbers, but a fantastic season for Coach Miles and Carver, Atlanta.
Matt Stewart- GPB Sports; Well, I've joked. I mean, that Cedar Grove program is amazing. It doesn't miss a beat. Next year, I'm going to coach the team to a state championship.
Jon Nelson; So are you going to you're going to wear an IFB on the sidelines and a head set and kind of do it like arena football?
Matt Stewart- GPB Sports; Yeah. So no, I don't want to take anything away from what Coach Adam did. Yeah, I mean, they've got a great program going there, and all those coaches have come up through it, like the players they've come up through and they and they just keep to keep churning out victories and they were dominating. And Fitzgerald was a great story, winning it since nineteen, the first time since 1948 and the Benedictine and Carver, Columbus game was just a spectacular shootout. And, you know, Warner Robins. And Dr. Hines set it right when he spoke to Marquise Westbrook during the trophy presentation and said you brought him back to the glory days and he has. In fact, he's done something that no Warner Robins team had ever done. And that's when back-to-back. Yeah, they've now won back-to-back. So, he has reestablished the glory days and that won a Robins program. They are the preeminent and dominant team in middle Georgia. Well, they are in the state and 5a. But as far as geographically and regionally in the state of Georgia, they are the team to beat a middle Georgia
Jon Nelson; Silly season is already gone up and running and we've had some big names come and change places. Josh Niblett comes over from Hoover to take over at Gainesville. Justin Rogers moves from Colquitt to go to Thomas County Central. I mean, silly season is already off and running because, yeah, because of course, 2021 has just ended, which means we got to start talking about 2022
Matt Stewart- GPB Sports; and Bobby May goes to Kell, right? There's going to be and there's going to be more. I mean, every year, what's the what's the right? Is it like a third of the jobs or at least twenty five percent of the job turnover?
Jon Nelson; Yeah. Twenty five percent is high. Usually it's eighteen to twenty two percent.
Matt Stewart- GPB Sports; Yeah, yeah. So how many programs do we have in the state.
Jon Nelson ; 400 plus. So, you're looking in the mid 80s?
Matt Stewart- GPB Sports ; Yeah, yeah. So we look at anywhere from 80 to 100 job changes every year and you know, a lot of that. Is there just so many different reasons? It's not just one reason, you know, sometimes a coach is looking for, you know, something different. You know, a program is looking for that bump up. It's not necessarily because anybody's done anything wrong that the job has opened up with. Sometimes it's, you know, it's the old, you know, it's the old are you mean you don't win, you don't keep your job. But yeah, I mean, I expect we're going to see some more. It'll be interesting to see, you know, but we already had some pretty big shoes to drop the Niblett to Gainesville, Gainesville trying to, you know, I think if I'm not mistaken, you know, well, Gainesville is already back up in 7A. So that is correct. So they're swimming in deep waters. And so they're trying to get themselves a shark to help them swim in those deep waters. And Niblett certainly has the resume from Hoover. And in Shark I mean, in a good way, not a bad way. And Bobby, Bobby Mayes goes to Kell and that's, you know, it's a Kell program that opened up because, you know, they just never quite lived up to the what I'm guessing the people and they look around, they're like, we probably could be better than this in that job opened up and. And Bobby Mayes had done a spectacular job at Westlake. It'll be interesting to see what he does at Kell and Justin Rogers going to TCC. You know, cross down team Thomasville gets back to the state finals. That means pressure's on, right? Yeah, yeah. The team that the team here in the county with us has gone to the state finals. We got to pick it up. So TCC goes and makes a big hire, so it'll be interesting to see what happens.
Jon Nelson ; And our season's not done. We've got Recruiting 2021. We have early signing day mid-week. So like I said, it's already 2022 for us, isn't it?
Matt Stewart- GPB Sports; It is it is National Signing Day show on Facebook Live on Wednesday at five o'clock. You know? Like I said in an email today where, you know, we start talking about the show. Our number one story on Wednesday, unless something extraordinary happens, will be what did Traver Hunter do today? So did he complete the. Did he complete the Florida State commitment that he said he was going to complete? Or is there a massive flip that will be the number one story I think he's signing with Florida State and there'll be other stories, and we're hoping to do a lot of Zoom interviews with players and coaches, and that should be fun.
Jon Nelson; Well, as always, Matt, thanks for hanging out with us, says being a part of the Football Fridays In GeorgiaAll-Stars. Thanks for being the part of GPB Sports that you are my friend and I will see you soon, sooner than soon because we got recruiting to talk about. Big thanks as always, to Matt Stewart for helping us bring our coverage home here at Football Fridays and at GPB Sports. Big shout out to everybody here at Georgia Public Broadcasting that makes this show what it is all season long specifically. Jake the Snake, King James, the Outlaw Jesse and obviously we could not have done this show without Commander Sandy. Helping us all the way through is everyone's mic open. Can everyone open their mikes simultaneously here to close things up?
Sandy Malcolm [; Can you hear? you can probably hear us most of us? if James shouts.
Jon Nelson [00:45:46] There you go. But no, I just I just wanted to thank each and every one of you guys for everything that you guys have done this season in putting up with me and cardboard Hannah all season long, at least Cardboard Hannah in this episode. But Hannah and me all season long with all of our schedules and getting everything done, I just want to give a shout out to you guys for everything that you guys do. And next,.
Sandy Malcolm; It’s been a blast.
Jon Nelson ; Next, next meal is on me, by the way, at Waffle House is on me now that the season is over. And it's really not over because recruiting is just around the corner. You've got early signing day and then we're back at it. We're not done done we'll be back in 2022 with some things, with some great topics and some deeper dives as to what's been going on here in the state of Georgia. But once again, thanks to Commander Sandy, to the outlaw Jesse to King James and Jake the snake for making this show what it is every single week thanks to the Football Fridays In Georgia All-stars for hanging out with us again. Marvin James is at 13 WMAZ- TV Macon, John Koon the play by play voice of Vidalia. Christian Goeckel ESPN Coastal, Rex and Jack tag teaming on a three way dance from our friends at WRBL-TV in Columbus. Paige Dauer, the sports director, WALB-TV, Albany, Wiley Ballard and Matt Stewart. From those of us here at GPB and so humbly submitted that is a football season done. I'm just Jon. Play it safe. Everybody, enjoy your holidays and we'll be back before you know it.