The world has learned in recent months that plans and preparations can change at the drop of the hat thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When it comes to high school football, there are multiple factors that can alter how a team prepares for a game.
For the GMC Prep Bulldogs in their upcoming season opener against Creekside Christian Academy, that factor is transfers. Much of GMC’s gameplanning had been done based on what the Creekside Cougars had returning from last year’s 1-9 campaign, but a trip to Eatonton made by GMC Prep head coach Lee Coleman to watch them scrimmage Gatewood last Friday revealed that there’s a bit more to the Hampton, Ga. private school than initially thought.
Coleman discovered through a discussion with Creekside’s head coach that the team picked up seven transfers this offseason, including one that reminded Coleman of one of his own standouts from last year.
“Creekside has a transfer quarterback who is a really good football player,” the GMC Prep head coach said. “He reminds me every bit of Armanius White. He is electrifying and the catalyst of that group. He’s got a strong arm that can throw the ball down the field. He becomes dangerous when he gets out of the pocket.”
Creekside Christian Academy is a Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) member that actually joined John Milledge Academy’s region for this year (JMA is scheduled to host Creekside Nov. 13). The school has two campuses according to its website, one in McDonough (grades K-6) and another in Hampton (7-12). Friday’s game between GMC Prep and Creekside will be played on the McDonough campus, and will serve as the kickoff to the 2020 regular season for both teams.
For GMC, keeping the Cougar QB contained will play a big role in determining whether or not the Bulldogs can begin their season at 1-0 for a fourth straight year and second time under Coach Coleman. In order to do that, GMC Prep will have to win the battle up front against Creekside’s larger offensive line. The ‘Dogs defensive line suffered one of the team’s biggest losses from last year following the graduation of Josiah Cleveland, so the unit will have a different look this season.
“I’m going to have a small, quick defensive line, but they’re tough guys,” said Coleman. “If we can eliminate the big plays, we’ll be OK.”
Those tough guys will have the tough job of not only keeping Creekside’s quarterback inside the pocket, but also forcing him to throw the football before he’s ready. If he has all day, that will put the GMC secondary in a difficult position of having to cover receivers for a long time. Coleman feels good about his skill players this year, but even the best coverage breaks down the longer a play goes on.
While the Cougars hold the edge in physical size in Friday’s matchup, both coaches are carrying similar roster numbers at around 25 guys, so conditioning could also play a big part in deciding the Week 1 contest. Coleman has not had to shut down practice or workouts any since his team started back in mid-June, but Mother Nature’s late summer storms have gotten in the way of being able to stack up valuable field time. Preparation is nearly at an end though, as it is now time — after months of wondering — to put on the pads and strap on the helmets to see which team comes out on top underneath the Friday night lights.
Kickoff between GMC Prep and Creekside Christian is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday. The address for the school is 175 Foster Dr. in McDonough. Coleman said the host school is not limiting attendance, and that masks are recommended for fans.