Preseason kicks off tonight with scrimmage at EC
by Chris Goltermann
Preseason football is a lot like being on a treadmill, the first steps even and steady.
But in tonight's 7 p.m. scrimmage at home against Whitewater, the pace is about to ramp up toward a level of exhaustion for East Coweta.
How well the Indians handle themselves may go a long way toward head coach Clint Wade and his staff getting a clearer picture of the hand they've been dealt this fall.
In what essentially is a 'dress rehearsal' as Wade described it, tonight's scrimmage is as much an open audition for East Coweta players to assert themselves while vying for positions without the consequences of a 'W' or a 'L' hanging around in the standings.
'We're just trying to get people on the field and see how they react to it and respond,' Wade said. 'We'll assess that, reevaluate it and go from there.'
Preseason scrimmages continue on Friday with Newnan's trip to Griffin, also set for a 7p.m. kickoff. It will come a week prior to the season opener at home against Marietta on Aug. 23.
The Heritage School will also scrimmage Friday in the annual Bob Peck Kickoff Classic against Frederica prior to its season opener on Aug. 30 at Flint River. Northgate will host Veterans for its scrimmage on Aug. 23 before opening the year at Henry Seldon Field against Heritage-Conyers.
Trinity Christian has opted not to play a preseason scrimmage prior to its Aug. 30 opener at John Milledge Academy.
In at least the fifth annual preseason meeting between East Coweta and a Whitewater program led by head coach Amos McCreary, an Indians lineup with a host of new faces - especially on defense - will get an immediate 'benchmark' toward improving on last year's 5-7 finish.
'Overall we're getting things done and making some progress. We've just got to move a little faster and I think Thursday's scrimmage will be a big indicator of where we stand, and we've got time to evaluate and assess that.'
Tonight's scrimmage will open with three quarters of varsity play before wrapping up with a final period among junior-varsity squads without special teams.
'They're very well coached and it's just a good solid program,' Wade said of Whitewater. 'Its good because we're going to be facing a lot of talented people again this year.'
The scrimmage will also provide an opportunity for first-year defensive coordinator Ahmand Tinker to unveil a new scheme that shifts the Indians more toward becoming more 'multiple' than a previous 5-2 alignment that included 'hawk' and 'rover' positions under Wade, a longtime defensive coordinator at East Coweta before being promoted to head coach in 2008.
'We changed the terminology from what I had utilized and that's just something you've got to learn,' he said. 'It's about getting people in the right position and understanding what their roles are, their checks. It's going to provide us a chance to be successful.'
A unit that expects to include seven seniors despite key losses both to graduation and/or injury this year, will be tested tonight by a Whitewater offense that has key returners in quarterback Jay Ashley (6-0, 185), fullback Kyle Brown (5-10, 185), guard Coey Gates (6-0, 255), tackle Dylan Crozier (6-0, 305) and tight end Matt Ogle (6-4, 215), a two-way starter.
While continuing to work on the transition to a new defensive scheme and honing things offensively, East Coweta's biggest challenge of late has been combating the late summer heat that always seems to create problems in early August.
'It's just hot. The heat has just been devastating everywhere. Every coach I talk to it seems there's a heat issue,' Wade said. 'You just have to be careful and we're doing everything by the book. It's all about eating right and staying hydrated.'
The road won't get any easier for East Coweta in a non-region schedule that again includes Archer, Sandy Creek, Lovejoy and Central-Phenix City, Ala. over a monthlong stretch of Fridays from Sept. 6-27, before opening Region 3-AAAAAA play on Oct. 11.
Whitewater, fresh off last year's Region 4-AAAAA championship and a run to the state semifinals, returns 10 starters, six of which on the defense led by standout linebackers Colten Clemons (6-1, 225) and Christian Wafford (6-1, 190).
With only 15 upperclassmen, however, the Indians face another season in which they'll need some help from their younger classes.
'We're going to have to rely on those seniors, and I expect all of them to be on the field in some capacity,' Wade. 'The younger ones are coming along. Things are going to be a lot faster tonight. We'll see how they react to it.'