Football Fridays in Georgia: Championship Week 2022
It is Championship Week for GHSA Football. On this week's podcast, Hannah and Jon are joined by an all-star team of reporters from around the state to break down all of the games.
Hannah Goodin: Ah. Crap. Everyone was way too on time this year.
Jack Patterson, WRBL TV Columbus Sports Director: I said it last time. And I'll say it again. I did not want to be on the business end of him coming through the line.
Matt Stewart, Voice of FFIG and Host of Recruiting 2022: They're not the biggest team. They're not the most talented team. But by golly, they're—.
Jon Nelson: Leggo!
Hannah Goodin: Jon.
Marvin James, 13WMAZ Sports Anchor: Leggo!
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. It is the penultimate edition, which means one thing: We're leading into the championships and the Football Fridays in Georgia All-Stars join us. So, it is a jam-packed show. We are officially in a no-dilly, no-dally zone. Jon here, Hannah there. Wow.
Hannah Goodin: Wow.
Jon Nelson: This season went by so fast.
Hannah Goodin: I blinked. Blinked. And the girls are almost one. The season's almost over. Truly record timing with how fast the season has gone. Jon.
Jon Nelson: Mm.
Hannah Goodin: But coming up on today's show, we're also under the clock because we have a lot going on. We're going to recap our Football Fridays in Georgia semifinal doubleheader, preview all the GHSA Championship games with our All-Stars, and update you on what's to come in flag football. So, let's get right to some biggest takeaways from the semis. We have Mill Creek and Schley County that will be playing in their first-ever state championship games this week. Six teams are back from last season, and Warner Robins is making their sixth appearance, the third school to do it.
Jon Nelson: Unreal. I mean, just you looking at Region 5 will get into the Region 5 discussion with Todd Holcomb, GHSF Daily, and 3A. Fitzgerald and Thompson. You know, we talked to a couple of folks about that. It was Mary Alex Anders from WSWG TV down in South Georgia. We got her skinny on Region one Double-A, and they're going up against the Thomson Team. Bowdon and Schley caught up with Jack Patterson at WRBL in Columbus about Schley County in Bowden and Gainesville and Hughes, Phil Jones from ITG Next down in South Georgia. They've done some really special things with the Gainesville program this year. We've seen Langston Hughes a lot, so we know all about them. Carrollton and Mill Creek. Once again, we've seen them a lot this season and catch up with the voice of Football Friday's Matt Stewart and catch up with Marvin James. When we're talking about Ware County and Warner Robins, we have to have the alum on the show. And so, six folks are in a hurry to break everything down this week.
Hannah Goodin: We also talk to Matt about our first-ever double header semifinal coverage. So, let's take a look back at that. Jon, it was at Lakewood Stadium. Our 5:00 pm game was the 7A semifinal game between Mill Creek and Milton, and the Hawks scored touchdowns on its first five possessions. Things got out of hand, running clock in the fourth final score, 48 to 14, heading for the champs for the first time in 19 seasons.
Jon Nelson: Three words dom-in-ant.
Hannah Goodin: Yes.
Jon Nelson: And that was, and it was, the theme of the night on Football Fridays, really.
Hannah Goodin: It was.
Jon Nelson: I mean, Mill Creek is nationally ranked. And a lot of folks who hadn't had the chance to see Mill Creek on television, whether it was with us or anybody else across the board, got to see the kind of talent that Mill Creek has in 7A. It kicked things off last Friday night.
Hannah Goodin: Then our late game was the 6A semifinal matchup between Rome and Langston Hughes. Hughes was solid on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Air Nolan was 21 of 24, passing for 242 yards and three touchdowns. There were also three intercepted passes, one return in return for a touchdown, and a ton of sacks. I mean, what can't Hughes do?
Jon Nelson: That's the question. And remember, this was 14 - 3 in the second quarter. Halftime adjustments by Coach Boone, by Coach Boone Williams, and that Hughes staff just stifled Rome in the third and fourth quarters, and you end up winning by 39 by the time we're done.
Hannah Goodin: We had the GHSA Championship Media Day on Sunday.
Jon Nelson: Very early in the morning.
Hannah Goodin: To talk to all the winning coaches.
Jon Nelson: Yeah.
Hannah Goodin: Things started at 7:30 a.m.
Jon Nelson: Yes, they did.
Hannah Goodin: Walking with my coffee, there's already a line of coaches. I'm like, Oh crap, everyone was way too on time this year. So, I talked to Coach Boone, and he said he's so tired of hearing about Buford. We sat down in the chair, and he goes, "You're going to ask me about Buford?" And I said, "Well, Coach, we're going to start things off with Buford because it's the elephant in the room." And he said, "All right, I'll do one." So, I asked him one question about Buford, and he said it really did shape his season. Let's listen to hear what he had to say.
Boone Williams, Langston Hughes Head Coach: It motivated them a lot because they knew what it took to get not the loss so much. They knew what it was going to take to go to get back to win this game this time. They used. We rarely talk about it never it never comes up because this is a new team, and like I told you when we first started, the pace of the passes to create your own legacy. So, that's what we're on the quest to do this year.
Hannah Goodin: So, then I said, Okay, Coach. Buford is out, so we don't have to talk about them anymore. But, you know, of course, if you don't know what I'm talking about, they lost to Buford in the final seconds last year in the state title game. So, they are hungry, hungry for this championship game.
Jon Nelson: And that's going to be the 6A game is going to be the primetime game on Friday night. The other teams are going to be facing the red elephants of Gainesville. Gainesville comes back to the last game of the year, with first-year head coach Josh Niblett coming over from the state of Alabama. We mentioned we're catching up with Phil Jones to discuss ITG Next coverage. And here's what it's like for Josh Niblett to be a part of the Gainesville environment.
Josh Niblett, Gainesville Head Coach: Well, it's just been awesome. I mean, our community, you know, our leadership, we have at the school, you know, our school, our students, just being able to kind of get the energy back to that level that we feel like it needs to be at. And I mean, last week, you know, we went on the road, and I mean, it's it was unbelievable the crowd that we took. And it'll be this crowd that will bring you to know this week will be unbelievable, too. But it's just been neat to watch our community and then everybody be excited about what's going on.
Jon Nelson: And he has put out the siren song on social media for everyone in Gainesville and Hall County to make their way down to Center Park. I anticipate that in those blue seats, there's going to be a lot of red as Gainesville takes on Hughes primetime on Friday night.
Hannah Goodin: So, clearly, we have the 6A matchups circled. I also want to take us down to Single-A Division 2, one of my favorite interviews with Schley County head coach Daren Alford. He was so excited just to be here, to be in this atmosphere. I mean, he's just so genuine about it all. So, I want to play a piece from his interview about what this means to the community.
Daren Alford, Schley County Head Coach: We're so excited. Our community is just up in arms. They're trying to do everything for us right now, and it's just been really, really fun. The kids were just it was watching them on Friday night when we won the game, and them chanting, "We're going to Atlanta. We're going to Atlanta." And it was just so much fun, you know, just thankful to be here and have the opportunity to do this. You know, we have a community of just great people. You know, everybody knows everybody, you know, and you have 380 kids in your school. You know, everybody knows the teachers, the families that know, everybody's just there. So, everybody has been texting, emailing, just telling me, you know, how excited they are, and everybody's going to be on the way up here, you know? And they're excited. We're really excited.
Hannah Goodin: We're going to Atlanta. We're going to Atlanta. I graduated with 380 people in my senior class, so...
Jon Nelson: Yeah. Well, here's school started in 2000, or the football team started in 2000. And initially, for those that may not know the history, it was Tri-County high school was Schley County, Marion County, and Webster County. They were all thrown together into one high school just because of the sheer numbers. And Coach Alford mentioned that Schley County broke away, and at the time that they started football, they were the smallest school in single-A to start a football program. And we followed them in the year 2000 for a piece that we did here at GPB at the time. And I'm trying to find that piece just, so we can have a piece of it to air. But to see them go from that to this has been really cool in 22 seasons-23 seasons.
Hannah Goodin: Yeah. And he said that there's, there's not even a restaurant in our town. So, everyone's calling me. You guys, these interviews are.
Jon Nelson: What I'm trying to remember is the town square in Ellisville, and see, I'm trying to remember if there is.
Hannah Goodin: I gave me such a weird look there.
Jon Nelson: No, it's because I was thinking.
Hannah Goodin: You said there is a little pizza restaurant.
Jon Nelson: Yeah, that. Okay.
Hannah Goodin: And there's nothing else.
Jon Nelson: And there's the, and I don't know if-.
Hannah Goodin: It's a gas station.
Jon Nelson: Yeah, there's that. And then there's the IGA that's around the count- around the corner. But I was trying to think, and it was the pizza restaurant.
Hannah Goodin: The pizza restaurant.
Jon Nelson: Yeah.
Hannah Goodin: I don't know the name of it. So, you can watch all of these interviews. Follow us on social media at GPB Sports to get all of the interviews.
Hannah Goodin: Okay, it's time to get to our All-Stars. And first up will be Todd Holcomb of the GHSF Daily. He's going to give us the big picture of what's coming up this week. Todd, one of my favorite storylines when it comes to the championships is first timers. You have communities that are so ecstatic to take in the sights, in the sounds for the first time. And that's going to be Schley County fans and Mill Creek fans. What do you think about those two programs making it to the state finals for the first time?
Todd Holcomb, GHSF Daily Founder, and Editor: Well, it's not really surprising that they're in there. Maybe it's surprising that it's taken them so long. I think both of them are about 20 years old.
Jon Nelson: Yeah.
Todd Holcomb, GHSF Daily Founder and Editor: Schley County was our number one team in the preseason and was the number one of the polls as well. I mean, they lost a game or two early and dropped them back, but they're really good and could easily win. I think people might have thought it coming. And then Mill Creek, man, they've been knocking on the door for a good while, always been a good team, you know, a good program. And now they're rolling. I think they've won four straight playoff games with a running clock. It's going to be hard to slow them down. It's great for those communities. One big school in Atlanta and one little school out in West Georgia.
Jon Nelson: All right. So then, let me go to the other side of things and talk about those that haven't been around in a while. Gainesville hasn't been around in a while. Thompson hasn't been around in a while. You know, we always think of like Bruce Miller, Luther Welsh, those kinds of guys. What's it like to see some of the old names come back in and be a part of the last game of the year?
Todd Holcomb, GHSF Daily Founder and Editor: Yeah, that's a good point. You know, about and you know, Bowdon they won it in 92. They have, you know, you mentioned the.
Jon Nelson: Dwight Hochstetler
Todd Holcomb, GHSF Daily Founder and Editor: Game winner, you know, and they're back in business for the first time since 2001. And yeah, some really good coaches like that. What was the other one you mentioned? Well, Luther Welch is with Wisconsin. You know, they won back-to-back in, I think, 2002, 2003. And but they've won back-to-back. They've never stopped being good, but it's just, you know, and they got in it. They were not ranked by us in preseason soccer.
Jon Nelson: By us. Yeah.
Todd Holcomb, GHSF Daily Founder and Editor: Yeah. And not because they weren't, they were good last year, but they lost a lot of people. But we underestimated, I think, some of the players, especially that that little running back is.
Jon Nelson: Oh yeah. John Davis.
Todd Holcomb, GHSF Daily Founder, and Editor: Yeah, yeah. Scored five touchdowns, getting.
Jon Nelson: 9000 yards in a game that he traditionally gets.
Todd Holcomb, GHSF Daily Founder and Editor: Yes.
Hannah Goodin: What are some of the biggest storylines that you'll be following during the championships this week?
Todd Holcomb, GHSF Daily Founder and Editor: I would say that you got Warner Robins trying to win for a third straight year, you know, and I sort of wrote them off as winning it, you know, which is kind of surprising for a team that's not as, you know, you know, five straight finals. But they started about one in four, you know, and they're playing. Ware County is a team that's never won but has so traditionally been good, you know. So that's a great storyline there. Whoever wins is going to be, you know, pretty remarkable. So that would probably be most interesting. I think the other one that's really interesting to me is Carrollton moving into high class for the first time and could win it. I just didn't see that coming. I mean, they're going to be pretty good, but I just never thought they'd be 14 and 0. And the same with Gainesville. For another team, we hired a new coach, thought it might take a year or two, but it did not. They're undefeated with Coach Niblett and the win from the first state title in ten years.
Hannah Goodin: We mentioned Schley, but what about the lower classifications, the single A's? What were your takeways through the playoffs?
Todd Holcomb, GHSF Daily Founder and Editor: Well, I think, you know, the best teams get through. I think the most entertaining finals might be Class A because, just in terms of just fun, because, you know, let me see. And you've got.
Jon Nelson: Bowdon and Schley, Swainsboro, and PAC. Yeah
Todd Holcomb, GHSF Daily Founder and Editor: Yeah. And they haven't, Bowdon and Schley, not won in a long time. Schley never won it, and then they've got these great offensive players, you know, their quarterback kind of.
Jon Nelson: Yeah, Jay Kanazawa is always they've got in for another year, too.
Todd Holcomb, GHSF Daily Founder and Editor: Two. Yeah. And they have a receiver who had 22 or 24 yards receiving last week and then great pair. I mean, Bowdon has two 1000-yard rushers, you know, McNeal and Harvison. So that's going to be a lot. And then the other one, the Division One, you've got Prince Avenue, Christian, who has thrown for 4000 yards, I think, three straight seasons.
Jon Nelson: Yeah. Five. Five blows back-to-back. Yeah.
Todd Holcomb, GHSF Daily Founder and Editor: And then Swainsboro did not complete a pass last week, and they're undefeated. So, what a great contrast in styles there.
Jon Nelson: Well, Todd, as always, it's great to have you a part of the Football Fridays in Georgia All-Stars. We will catch up with you next week to see if what we talked about this week happened. And we'll do it again, this time next week. Thanks for hanging out.
Todd Holcomb, GHSF Daily Founder and Editor: Sure. Thanks for having me on, guys.
Hannah Goodin: Joining us now is Mary Alex Anders, a sports reporter at WSWG South Georgia Television. And since you are covering South Georgia, we have a few teams we want to talk to you about. I'm going to get things started off with Colquitt County. They lost to Carrollton in Moultrie on Friday, a heartbreaker for the Packers. But Sean Calhoun, in his first season as head coach, went 13 and 1 outstanding season for them, in my opinion. What are your takeaways from their season in that semifinal loss?
Mary Alex Anders, WSWG 44: Oh, gosh. I mean, this Colquitt County Packer team, you really can't say enough about them. I mean, I just had such a pleasure covering them this season, and I got to give a lot of praise to Coach Calhoun. I mean, not only is he an extremely great coach, an extremely smart coach, here's just overall a great person. I mean, I don't think you can meet Coach Calhoun and not walk away with many good things to say about him. I mean, he has just brought so much love to that team, and that's what really brought them so far with him in his first season they are a very tight-knit, close team. I mean, you can feel the energy off them when you're with them, when you're covering them during the game, even when they were down. I mean, you can just tell that all of them care about each other so much. But I mean, talent-wise, the part of the team is completely stacked. I mean, they were they're unreal on both sides of the ball I mean, they have two UGA commit on offense, Ny Carr at wide receiver, who's a junior, and then only a sophomore, Landen Thomas, who at tight end. And then you have Charlie Pace, who led the team in rushing yards, and then on defense, you have players like Nick Pace and Jack Latrell, and Lyric Thomas, who were playmakers throughout the entire season. So that team is just overall extremely talented and every—position in every aspect of the game.
Jon Nelson: And they ran into a buzz saw in a freshman quarterback in Juju Lewis and a running back in Bryce Hicks. I know that you were there on the sidelines there in the hog pen. You got the chance to see one of the young, talented quarterbacks in the state of Georgia. What were your takeaways on that Carrollton side as they went up and snatched a victory down there in Colquitt County?
Mary Alex Anders, WSWG 44: I mean, this game was going to come down to execution because both Colquitt and Carrollton were like they kind of they're mirrors of each other statistically. They are very, very close in every single statistic where one leads. The other one is not too far behind. So, but watching Carrollton, one thing I noticed about them and their quarterback for a freshman is he knows how to just sit back and take control and just ride out the game, you know? I mean, for him to be so young and have so much control and be such a leader on that team, I mean, you can just tell that his team looks to him and they trust him as their quarterback. And so, but he played a phenomenal game. And for him to be so young, he has a cannon.
Hannah Goodin: He does.
Mary Alex Anders, WSWG 44: He has a cannon of an arm. I mean, I just was talking to people on the sideline.
Hannah Goodin: He is 15.
Mary Alex Anders, WSWG 44: Yeah, I was talking to people on the sidelines. I was like, that is a child. But you would never know.
Hannah Goodin: That's a literal child.
Mary Alex Anders, WSWG 44: Yeah, I was just like, I mean, he is, and he just looks like an Alabama quarterback, if we're going, to be honest. I mean, just what I was like, what you see in Tua? He kind of reminded me of Tua when Tua took over in what was the SEC championship game when he went in for Jalen Hurts.
Mary Alex Anders, WSWG 44: And came back and won.
Jon Nelson: More than 26?
Mary Alex Anders, WSWG 44: Yeah. That is what he reminds me of. I don't know. I really can't tell you why. I guess it's just the way that he plays the game, how calm he is when he plays, and it's just easy to trust him as a quarterback. I mean, he threw for 248 yards; that game against the Colquitt defense against Colquitt's defense, too, is unreal. I mean, everybody talked about Colquitt's offense all season, but their defense didn't get enough praise. I mean, Colquitt's defense is really good. But Carrollton was great, too. But they came, and they made the plays and pocket hours. They just made more errors in that game.
Hannah Goodin: We also want to talk to you about Fitzgerald in 2A. They'll be playing Thompson, who's back in the championships for the first time in a while. What are your takeaways on the Fitzgerald season and then that match-up in the finals?
Mary Alex Anders, WSWG 44: Oh, gosh. Fitzgerald, they are just such a powerhouse of a rushing offense. That is what they stuck to. Coach Pruitt is a phenomenal coach. I mean, the one state championship last year is very, very likely to go back to that state champion. But they have rushed for over 3000 total yards this season. But Thompson, too, is a predominantly rushing team with over 3600 rushing yards this season. They're 13 and 1. They've only lost a game. Fitzgerald's undefeated. I mean, it's going to be a really good matchup. But both defenders are going to have to come out and stop that rushing game on both sides of the ball because once you let that Fitzgerald offense take off, it's really, really hard to stop them.
Jon Nelson: So then, really quick, before you go, I've got a question for you. What folks may not know is that you are a coach's daughter.
Mary Alex Anders, WSWG 44: I am.
Jon Nelson: And you, your dad, as you know, he's been a head coach here in the state. He's been in the college game in South Georgia in Division two. He's an assistant right now in the state of Georgia. What are these coaches going through as we're getting ready for championships? What are playoff runs like in coach households?
Mary Alex Anders, WSWG 44: Oh, gosh. Well, what are they like? They're very quiet because they're not home. They're in the office. That's all that they do. I mean, at least with my dad growing up, I always saw him as my dad, you know? But once I've gotten older, I've realized how much he put into coaching and how much he cares about his job. And a lot of that. He spent multiple hours in the office, especially in college, very, very late hours of the night. But preparing in the playoffs, I mean, these are teams a lot of times you haven't faced a lot. So you have to really buckle down and figure out where they were their straight, where their strengths are, and where their weaknesses are. But it's very quiet in most households because they're not home.
Hannah Goodin: I love that. Yeah, I wouldn't think about that. Awe.
Mary Alex Anders, WSWG 44: There with their other kids, but. And then when they do get home, at least for my dad, he fell asleep watching football in the recliner.
Hannah Goodin: It never ends.
Mary Alex Anders, WSWG 44: You don't see much of them during the playoffs. But yeah, I mean, it's great being a coach's kid. I mean, it's a crazy, crazy life, but it's something that if, you know, you know, most kids who don't coach kids don't really understand it, but it's a great time. And yeah, it's very quiet during playoffs season, for sure.
Hannah Goodin: Yeah, for sure. Well, thank you so much for that perspective, and thanks for joining us on the podcast today. You had some really great things and some insight into South Georgia football. So, we really appreciate your time today.
Mary Alex Anders, WSWG 44: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for having me.
Hannah Goodin: Next up is WRBL TV, Columbus sports director Jack Patterson covering West Georgia. And Jack, great to have you on again as always, first of all.
Jack Patterson, WRBL TV Columbus Sports Director: Appreciate you guys having me back on.
Hannah Goodin: Love hearing your voice.
Jon Nelson: Oh, yeah.
Hannah Goodin: So, Schley's back in it for the well. Schley is in it for the first time ever after beating Johnson County 35 to 6 in the semis. Take me through that game.
Jack Patterson, WRBL TV Columbus Sports Director: I mean, I'm going to be honest. I think a lot of people were surprised by how big the margin of victory was. But it wasn't a surprise to me because Schley County's defense has been underrated all season long, especially after that slow start they had in the year, you know, losing to Early County and, you know, they had a slow start. A lot of people wrote them off because they were a preseason number one. And a lot of people keep saying, you know, maybe they're not as good as we think they are. But this team has been getting constantly better throughout the year. And, you know, I told you guys the last time I was on about Jalewis Solomon and Jay Kanazawa, and that dynamic duo was on full display against Johnson County. I think they connected two or three times for touchdowns. So that team goes so well. Oh, coach by coach Darren Alford to his guys, and there's so much talent all around the ball whether you're talking about Kanazawa or Solomon, or you talk about their great running back Malachi Banks, or you're talking about Zayden Walker, who’s once again, he is an absolute problem on both sides of the ball. He plays D-End just like his brother Zykeivous, who played at Auburn, and then he plays running back as well. And I said it last time, and I'll say it again. I do not want to be on the business end of him coming through the line.
Jon Nelson: What's it been like for you to keep an eye on the lower classifications this year what other matchups are in the Jack Patterson spot shadow as we come into this weekend?
Jack Patterson, WRBL TV Columbus Sports Director: Well, the classification, the lower classifications are always good around here knowing. I mean, you know that you know, whether it's, you know, a few years back when you have Marion County on their run or you know, in recent times where you've had Schley County and Chattahoochee County, and Manchester all putting out great teams year after year. We've always had to keep an eye on the 1A classification in our area just because there's always been good talent, you know, obviously a cycle from team to team. But, you know, the surprise isn't that Schley County is here. The surprise is how long it took them to get here.
Jon Nelson: Yeah.
Jack Patterson, WRBL TV Columbus Sports Director: Because they've had great teams in the past and just were able to make it this far. But it's good to see that they finally were able to make the trip to Atlanta and play for at all.
Hannah Goodin: In head coach Darren Alford's words, it's just a dot on the map like Schley County is. And what have you seen and heard from that community just surrounding their state championship berth?
Jack Patterson, WRBL TV Columbus Sports Director: Well, I will say this. Hannah is my welcome to Ellisville every time. And I post on Twitter nearly every time I go there. It's a Dollar General and a Gas Station.
Jon Nelson: Yup.
Jack Patterson, WRBL TV Columbus Sports Director: I've never went anywhere else, but it is a Dollar General Brand. A gas station next to a Dollar General. That is my welcome to Ellisville every single time I go to Schley County. I love it. But honestly, everybody is excited. You know, it's something you know, when you talk Schley County athletics, the talk is always around a baseball team.
Jon Nelson: Yup.
Jack Patterson, WRBL TV Columbus Sports Director: The baseball is really-.
Jon Nelson: Chuck Cheek, and what have they done with baseball? Absolutely.
Jack Patterson, WRBL TV Columbus Sports Director: Exactly. So, the baseball team is fantastic. The see it with football is a different kind of you know, the excitement that everybody's hyped up down there. I'll be heading down there later this week, and I cannot wait to see what it is going to be like at Center Parc Stadium on Thursday.
Jon Nelson: So, when you look at the rest of the weekend, from your perspective, what other games are you sitting there and looking forward to seeing here as we come to the last regular season games of this season?
Jack Patterson, WRBL TV Columbus Sports Director: I'm going, to be honest, Millie, my eyes are on that 4A title game. Cedartown and Benedictine. Benedictine knocked off one of our teams Troup County and, you know, did it in a pretty convincing fashion, putting up 35 in the first half. You know, I've been I've talked to you all year about how good that Troup County team is and to see them, you know, you know, see, them go out and get off to a huge start like that. They really just kind of put them away and kind of put them away from there is it was really surprising to me, you know, that squad is really good and will be good for years to come. But to see BC do that, and then I got to see Cedartown up close and personal last year when they faced off with Carver and the Final Four. Yeah, I saw them. And quite honestly, if it wasn't for that Carver Team, I really think we would have had this matchup last year in the state championship game. But to see it this year, I think that it's going to be one of the best games of the weekend.
Jon Nelson: And we will be keeping an eye. Please be safe and enjoy the Dollar General and Dollar General Gas Station down there in Ellisville. It is the first family of Schley County athletics at the time. We know that they are all wrapped up in everything. Schley County Athletics, enjoy your time down there. Thanks for all your coverage this season. We'll catch up with you next week, my friend. We'll see you at Center Parc.
Jack Patterson, WRBL TV Columbus Sports Director: We'll see you at Center Parc can't wait.
Hannah Goodin: Next up, WMAZ sports anchor, Marvin James, covering central Georgia. And Marvin, as always.
Jon Nelson: Yeah.
Hannah Goodin: It's good to hear from you.
Jon Nelson: Leggo!
Hannah Goodin: Jon.
Marvin James, 13WMAZ Sports Anchor: Leggo!
Hannah Goodin: That's going to try to get through this one without doing it.
Jon Nelson: Oh, that's so not going to happen.
Hannah Goodin: Well.
Jon Nelson: Is it literally it's like now for folks that have to watch the highlights? I mean, legitimately, they have to go to the website and see you and Frank and Ben and everybody do the highlights on a football Friday night.
Hannah Goodin: You guys are so awesome, by the way.
Jon Nelson: And you know, Mr. Collins, worth getting the absolute shout-outs every single week.
Marvin James, 13WMAZ Sports Anchor: Oh, yeah.
Jon Nelson: But, you know, and it's like, show me what you got.
Marvin James, 13WMAZ Sports Anchor: Yeah, he gets the treatment everywhere he goes.
Jon Nelson: You see that. But that's, but that's part of the fabric of Football Friday, and that's why we love to have you on because you're a local guy. You grew up, Warner Robins. You grew up in Demon colors. You know what it means. And we have to have you as our link to central Georgia.
Hannah Goodin: There's going to be more of that during the championships in there, Jon.
Jon Nelson: Oh, I think so.
Hannah Goodin: Oh, one hundred percent.
Jon Nelson: Absolutely, absolutely. Look, if I'm doing highlights, and they happen to be about Warner Robins, you know how I'm starting those highlights.
Marvin James, 13WMAZ Sports Anchor: Oh, yeah.
Jon Nelson: Oh, that's absolutely.
Hannah Goodin: All right. Well, let's talk some football.
Jon Nelson: No, no, no, no, no, no.
Hannah Goodin: We are still not talking football.
Jon Nelson: No. But, you know, when you're discussing things with Marvin, you have to sit there and say, "Leggo," now you can start talking.
Marvin James, 13WMAZ Sports Anchor: Okay.
Hannah Goodin: Okay.
Jon Nelson: Now, Hannah.
Hannah Goodin: Thank you.
Jon Nelson: Please discuss.
Hannah Goodin: Thank you. Jon.
Marvin James, 13WMAZ Sports Anchor: Any time.
Hannah Goodin: For permission.
Jon Nelson: Yes.
Hannah Goodin: So now we only have, like, 3 minutes left with Marvin. Okay. Here we go. So, Warner Robins, that's all I'm going to say. Now, after all of this, I'm just going to say, Warner Robins, Marvin.
Jon Nelson: Marvin, Warner Robins.
Hannah Goodin: Marvin Warner Robins.
Marvin James, 13WMAZ Sports Anchor: I tell you; you know, the state of Georgia is definitely familiar with the town of Warner Robins just from the football that it's produced in the seventies and the eighties, with the national teams and state championship teams from 76', the mythical national championship in 81' and 88'. Then, Northside came along and said, "Hey, we're going to win a couple of national state championships in 06' and 07'. And then again, Warner Robins is telling them around, and they have a streak going now. And it's unbelievable that the streak is even, you know, debatably as impressive as it was before. So the town is just buzzing there. Everybody's just really excited right now, generations of kids and grandkids. Now, you've been playing from those earlier teams in the seventies and eighties, so it's just a great time for football here in the international city.
Jon Nelson: For those that haven't had the chance to follow the Warner Robins season in full, I mean, Marquis Westbrook in the off-season, lost coaches to Houston County, just trying to figure out who his starting quarterback was going to be, very tough non-region schedule in the number to the right of the dash was pretty big for the folks in Warner Robins to get used to with a non-region schedule that he had scheduled to this point.
Marvin James, 13WMAZ Sports Anchor: Absolutely. It was 1 and 4. To start with 1 and 4, and the only one win they got was cross-town rival North Side. So, that was a good move for Coach Westbrook for him not to have the hot seat even though he had won, you know, two prior state championships. But really, we know the climate of high school football and just football in general, right? I mean, coaches' jobs are never safe. But obviously, people say at this point. But it was just 1 and 4. It was that something happy to be around high school football here. And then they just turned things around. Obviously, they're 10 and 4 now, so they've been on a nine-game winning streak and placed second in the Region, which they also did last year, taking place in a Region to Ware County. So, it worked out for them, then.
Hannah Goodin: Yeah, things are clicking now. The defense is definitely working. They held Cartersville to just 29 yards rushing and led on the other side of the ball in total yards, 402 yards to their to 70 yards. So an outstanding game to win their 14th consecutive playoff game and six straight final appearances. That's third in school history joining Buford and ELCA to reach the sixth straight finals. What's the record? Do you know what the record is?
Jon Nelson: Eleventy billion?
Hannah Goodin: No.
Jon Nelson: And I'm fairly certain that it's Buford, right?
Marvin James, 13WMAZ Sports Anchor: I was about to say anytime that you're in the conversation with Buford.
Hannah Goodin: It's got to be right.
Marvin James, 13WMAZ Sports Anchor: You're doing good things. The University of Buford, I like to call it.
Hannah Goodin: Well, I am getting to a question. So, my question is, how does a team like that maintain this type of excellence and be able to drown out all the noise? I mean, going for three straight is so hard to do.
Marvin James, 13WMAZ Sports Anchor: And you know what? I give credit to that coaching staff, and I would give it especially to coach Marquis Westbrook because these kids haven't been around since the seventies and eighties. Of course, you hear about that stuff, but they can't relate to that.
Hannah Goodin: Yeah.
Marvin James, 13WMAZ Sports Anchor: And also, just from you know, I got to give credit to Coach Mike Chastain, who stated that all when he brought the team back, I think, was in 2015. I guess it was 16'. My mind might be opposites. When they started the streak of going to the state finals, they won against Rome. They, you know, pretty much got the butt-kicked in that state championship, but they went 14 and won that year. And then the next year, they lost to Bainbridge and then Buford, but they had to get those looking to keep on ticking if you will. And those guys just believe they know when they go in that locker room. You see the state championships. You see the titles, you see the articles, you see the trophy, the hardware, and the proof is in the pudding. I don't think I think they just don't want to be that class that didn't get it done.
Jon Nelson: Yeah.
Marvin James, 13WMAZ Sports Anchor: So just continue to keep on pushing. And like I said, they just have great support from the community, and it's been the annual tradition for the past half dozens of years, the Warner Robins Demons in the state finals. I had my parking space picked out.
Hannah Goodin: Nice!
Marvin James, 13WMAZ Sports Anchor: My place on the sideline, so we're just excited to be able to continue this tradition.
Jon Nelson: Spoken. Spoken like a true alumnus.
Hannah Goodin: Yeah. Is there a Marvin James plaque on the sidelines like he stands here?
Jon Nelson: Yes.
Marvin James, 13WMAZ Sports Anchor: That's right.
Hannah Goodin: No one else can stand here.
Marvin James, 13WMAZ Sports Anchor: Right quick.
Jon Nelson: This is my spot on the Warner Robins sideline. I'm an alum. I'm calling it This Is My Space.
Marvin James, 13WMAZ Sports Anchor: Yeah, it is a good impression.
Jon Nelson: But Marvin, as always, it's great to catch up with you, my friend. We will see you at Center Parc for that particular game. We always follow along here up here in Atlanta. Thanks for being a part of the Football Fridays in Georgia All-Stars. We'll catch up with you next week to get a bow on the season.
Marvin James, 13WMAZ Sports Anchor: No, thank you. And Hannah, I'm praying for you. This is just half the time of the year, so just kind of grin and bear it. Okay?
Hannah Goodin: Thank you. Thank you. I need it.
Hannah Goodin: Last but not least, the voice of GPB Sports Football Fridays in Georgia and co-host of Recruiting 2022. That's Matt Stewart. Welcome to the show, Matt. We had our first-ever doubleheader coverage of the semifinals last Friday. What were your biggest takeaways from all the action, Matt?
Matt Stewart, Voice of FFIG and Host of Recruiting 2022: Wow, well, Mill Creek and Langston Hughes are formidable opponents.
Jon Nelson: Yes, they are.
Matt Stewart, Voice of FFIG and Host of Recruiting 2022: Going into the finals this week that I took away from it. Just our coverage was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the opportunity, the call these semifinals, you know, from 7A and 6A. That was a lot of fun, you know. So, from that standpoint, a selfish standpoint, I had fun. You know, Mill Creek looks awesome as they're going into their first finals ever. Langston Hughes looks awesome-awesome going into-.
Jon Nelson: Awesome, Squared.
Matt Stewart, Voice of FFIG and Host of Recruiting 2022: Second Straight year. But I think Carrollton and Mill Creek are going to be really good, and Gainesville and Langston Hughes are going to be really good. But they sure look powerful in their semifinal victories, no doubt about it.
Jon Nelson: All right. So, pulling back the curtain a little bit, how many games are you calling for GPB this weekend?
Matt Stewart, Voice of FFIG and Host of Recruiting 2022: I got five. On Thursday, I have the single-A Division One game, Prince Avenue and Swainsboro. And then, on Friday, I have the 4A and the 6A day games, and then on Saturday, the 5A and the 7A games.
Jon Nelson: Okay. So what is study hall like for you on a week like this? Because with five games in a very short period of time, it's a lot of Zoom calls. It's a lot of it's a lot of corkboards. I mean, what is a study hall like for Matt Stewart on a week like this?
Matt Stewart, Voice of FFIG and Host of Recruiting 2022: Well, as in any week, the Zoom calls are the most important thing that we do. That's kind of our lifeblood, our bread, and butter, where we spend an hour with the coaches and kind of go through the entire team, go through the season, and just get a lot of invaluable information from the coaches, their insights, their feelings, their opinions about things and what they tell us about the players. And then, you know, Wayne and I, or Rusty and I, depending on which game or don't, we do our best to try to convey that. We that message the coach conveyed us, try to convey it to our viewers. So, that is the biggest thing I also spent a lot of time on recruiting. I want to know where these players, you know, to the best of our ability, are going where they're rated. I think that's of great interest to viewers, especially, you know, viewers, you don't have a dog in the fight. You don't have a particular team playing for the state championship. They're just watching because they love high school football. They love football in general. They love college football. They want to know where these guys are going. So that's big. That's a big piece of the part of the puzzle, too. So, you know, obviously, you're doing five games in one week instead of just one. So, you got to edit, you got to figure out what's most important to you. Concentrate on those things in order to get ready for the game. But the zoom calls. The hour we spend with the coach is the most important thing.
Hannah Goodin: And the coaches tell you all about their players, too. And that's where we get a lot of information that you don't necessarily know. The public knows about certain players. But Matt, tell us what you've seen for the championship and the top players to watch. Even if you're not a fan of the team, whom do we need to be watching?
Matt Stewart, Voice of FFIG and Host of Recruiting 2022: Well, Caleb Downs. You know, he's at the top of the list.
Jon Nelson: Right, Caleb Downs from Mill Creek.
Matt Stewart, Voice of FFIG and Host of Recruiting 2022: You know, are GPB All-State teams going to come out this week? And with that, we'll be named in our Mr. Georgia football, which is the top player, the offensive player of the year, and the defensive player of the year. And my guess is Caleb Downes is going to win one of those awards.
Jon Nelson: Yeah, I'm thinking.
Hannah Goodin: Maybe both.
Matt Stewart, Voice of FFIG and Host of Recruiting 2022: I mean, yeah, maybe, maybe both. Well, I mean, he's just a phenomenal talent, as I've said on the air. You know he is in that category with, like, Eric Berry and all, you know, and some of the other great players that I have seen in my career that are just a cut above everybody else. I mean, he is. And he is a college-ready player. But the beautiful thing about Caleb Downes, when you talk to Josh Lovelady, the Mill Creek coach, is that he is totally focused on being a high school player, finishing this off, and winning the state championship. He's not looking ahead to his career in Alabama. And, you know, he's the number one player to watch Vic Burley at Warner Robins, trying to lead them to a third consecutive state championship. As Warner Robins takes on Ware County in the 5A final, phenomenally demons are in their sixth straight state final. And Jon, you got a little nugget for us. During the semifinal coverage on Friday, there was only a handful of teams that have ever been able to accomplish six consecutive state finals. So, you've got him. And then. And then you got the Langston Hughes tidal wave of talent.
Jon Nelson: That's the way to describe it, man.
Matt Stewart, Voice of FFIG and Host of Recruiting 2022: Bo Hughley, Terrance Love, C.J. Lockhart, Air. Noland, they're just amazing. And you just saw how what they have done had really good teams, what they did to a Rome team that was 12 and 1 and played in the semifinals for the first time since 2018. And how badly they beat those guys. And then Cedar Grove, too, at the 3A level. I won't be calling that game, but they're stacked up with talent, too. Two guys that are that'll be in the top ten prospects. You'll be able to see it in the finals this week. You know, Kayin Lee, cornerback, committed to Ohio State. Adonijah Green, Head Rusher, who's committed to Louisville, and I'll be putting out a blog it'll come out on Thursday. It'll list all the top prospects to watch, you know, the top senior prospects, also the top underclassmen prospects. I know somebody will get bent out of shape because everybody always feels like I'll leave somebody off, but you got to stop somewhere. So, this will be as comprehensive as I can give you going into the finals as far as just kind of you can sit there and have it out there on your phone. Oh, this game's coming up. This is the guy we want to watch.
Jon Nelson: It's Matt Stewart writing The Iliad of the Odyssey of Recruiting in 2022. So, let me see Kromenhoek and Bryan from Benedictine and from Philo from Prince Avenue. You mentioned Warner Robins. Ware County got some great offensive talent, too. Juju Lewis and Bryce Hicks from Carrollton are going up against Mill Creek. See, I'm going off of my checklist to see if that's there with it. And you mentioned, basically, I have the entire roster of Hughes, and Jay Kanazawa from Schley County with the match-up we saw there. Fitzgerald, well, their talent. Thompson with their speed, and Jontavis. Sandy Creek and Cedar Grove, you're going to. You're not going to be able to stop typing until you're on the air, dude.
Matt Stewart, Voice of FFIG and Host of Recruiting 2022: Yeah. Well, you know, I put it together. I just got to get it in a more palatable form for people to look at. But, you know, you forgot to mention when you talk about Benedictine and obviously Kromenhoek, who's committed to Florida State junior quarterback, you'll be one of the top underclassmen. But Za'Quan Bryan, who is his target place corner plays wide receiver for Benedictine, committed to Minnesota. He's going to be one of the top ten seniors playing in the finals this weekend.
Jon Nelson: So, Matt, we'll be there with you the entire time, and it's going to be great. Thanks for hanging out with us and bringing it home here on the football. Friday's All-Stars will catch up same time next week to put a bowl in the season. How about that? And we got signing day coming up, too.
Matt Stewart, Voice of FFIG and Host of Recruiting 2022: We got Signing Day coming up, too. And the transfer portal opened up today.
Hannah Goodin: Oh boy.
Matt Stewart, Voice of FFIG and Host of Recruiting 2022: Guys are jumping in. The guys who started their champions.
Jon Nelson: We got Matt started all over again.
Matt Stewart, Voice of FFIG and Host of Recruiting 2022: Guys who started their conference championship game, the Clemson quarterback.
Jon Nelson: Yeah. D.J. Uiagalelei, yeah.
Matt Stewart, Voice of FFIG and Host of Recruiting 2022: Is going into the portal today, isn't it? It's just crazy. I mean, literally, he started.
Hannah Goodin: Christmas early for Matt.
Jon Nelson: It is.
Matt Stewart, Voice of FFIG and Host of Recruiting 2022: He's in the transfer portal. It is reported will be.
Jon Nelson: It's the holiday season for Matt Stewart. And by that, we mean the transfer portal.
Hannah Goodin: Santa came today.
Jon Nelson: Santa game today with DJ Uiagalelei and Matt. Matt, we'll catch up with you at Center Parc, my friend.
Matt Stewart, Voice of FFIG and Host of Recruiting 2022: Look forward to it.
Hannah Goodin: So great to hear.
Jon Nelson: We made it.
Hannah Goodin: All of our GPB All-Stars.
Jon Nelson: We survived.
Hannah Goodin: Wow. Last podcast before the championships.
Jon Nelson: I know. And we got one more of the All-Stars next week, and then it's then it is recruiting. It's signing day just before Christmas. But yeah.
Hannah Goodin: This is, I think that's a little exciting.
Matt Stewart, Voice of FFIG and Host of Recruiting 2022: I think so.
Hannah Goodin: Just a just a tiny bit. So, here's what's coming up this week. We have all of the GHSA State championships kicking off on Thursday. We'll start things off with Girls' Flag Football, followed by boys, single-A Division 1 and 2. That will be 5:00 pm and 8:00 pm. Then, the evens will play Friday to 2A, starting things off at noon, followed by 4A at 3:30 pm and 6A at 7:00 pm. Then the odds turn on Saturday, 3A, at 12:00 pm. 5A at 3:30 pm, and the grand finale of them all, 7A, kicks us off at 7:00 pm. And you and I probably will not have voices left by then.
Jon Nelson: Oh, no, no. This is where you take care of your voice. This is where you-.
Hannah Goodin: Oh, the hot tea. Excuse me.
Jon Nelson: Yes, absolutely.
Hannah Goodin: I'm not a tea person.
Jon Nelson: Doesn't matter. This time of year. You do things to sacrifice to make sure that you make it through the weekend, and then you talk to no one on Sunday.
Hannah Goodin: So, I'll be in the studio.
Jon Nelson: Yes, you will.
Hannah Goodin: And you will be there.
Jon Nelson: Yes, I will.
Hannah Goodin: Matt and Wayne and everybody else.
Jon Nelson: And everybody else.
Hannah Goodin: Calling the games.
Jon Nelson: Yep.
Hannah Goodin: So, hopefully, you guys have some good weather.
Jon Nelson: Yes. But and from what I've seen, it's supposed to be pretty decent. The temperature might be a little wonky, but I think there's like a 20% chance of rain one of the nights. But honestly, before we go, there's going to be a lot of folks in a credit role that you'll see at the end of the championship weekend. And it is digital. It is radio. It is television. It is the web. It is an app, it is stats.
Hannah Goodin: social media.
Jon Nelson: It is social media. It is everybody. And there are like nine gazillion people behind the scenes that make this work every single year here at GPB. And we could not do it without them. And they are the folks that you'll see in a credit role, but they get as they should get as much credit as the rest of us that you see on a weekly basis here at Football Fridays and GPB Sports. They do tremendous work every single week that we start on August 1st, and we end in the middle of December. And it's a great group of folks that we work with here.
Hannah Goodin: Full Speed Ahead.
Jon Nelson: Yeah, and its full speed ahead, but it's a great group of folks, and it's like trying to catch a comet by the tail when it comes to high school football. And they do it here really well.
Hannah Goodin: Well, speaking of credit, why don't you give everyone a shout-out behind the glass and wrap this thing up, Jon?
Jon Nelson: Yeah, because you have to edit, and that's why because.
Hannah Goodin: I have to edit the video version of this thing, so let's go.
Hannah Goodin & Jon Nelson: Leggo!
Jon Nelson: So, I got it out of you. There we go. There's your salute to Marvin. So, let's see. It's King James. It's Commander Sandy. It's Ambassador Jeremy. It's Jake the Snake for everybody here at GPB. I'm just Jon for Hannah as she tries to do her Marvin James impression. I'm going to turn the microphone off now and play it safe. Everybody enjoys the championships—all 11 in three days here at GPB. We'll talk to you again next week.