High School Football
New schedules present challenges for Coweta teams
by Chris Goltermann
Upon the release of this fall’s high school football schedules by the Georgia High School Association, local fans are in for their share of good news and bad news.
First the good.
It wasn’t quite as hard to find non-region opponents this time around for East Coweta, Newnan and Northgate, all of whom have more division opponents. If that didn’t seem a near impossible task during the GHSA’s last reclassification period in 2012.
Now the bad.
All three will have to be at their best to open the season in what should be a doozy of a start to 2014.
The lineup of non-region opponents is enough to make practicing in the intense heat of August feel even less comfortable.
For Class AAAAAA schools East Coweta and Newnan — both of whom return to an expanded Region 3 that gains three Cobb County schools and drops Tri-Cities — the list includes Carrollton, Marietta and Sandy Creek for the Cougars.
The three non-region opponents had a combined record of 32-5-1 last season. The Aug. 29 opener at Carrollton’s Grisham Stadium is the first meeting between schools 2007 after playing annually for a six-year span.
Coming off last year’s trip to the Class AAAA state title game, the Trojans enter the season under new head coach Ed Dudley, who was an assistant and defensive coordinator at the school in the early 1990s.
The Cougars played both Marietta and Sandy Creek the past two years while renewing their series for both 2014 and 2015.
“The way I look at it, it gives you a chance to see where you’re at early in the season,” Newnan head coach Mike McDonald said. “And it gives you a chance to start the season off in the right way by winning those games. It’s a tough schedule. We made a lot of calls.”
The Indians, meanwhile, didn’t get let off the hook either while entering their first year under new head coach Tommy Pardue.
Pardue, who led LaGrange to 161 victories over 17 seasons before spending two years at the University of Kentucky as an assistant, equally knows his first three games on the sidelines in purple and gold will be challenging.
East Coweta opens the season on Aug. 29 at Garland Shoemake Stadium against an upstart Arabia Mountain program coming off a 7-3 season, its best in its first five seasons. It continues with a trips to Harrison and Whitewater.
“I couldn’t do anything about the schedule,” Pardue joked. “I inherited it with the job.
“No, it’s three good football teams. Arabia Mountain was 7-3 last year and they should be very strong. Harrison, from what I’ve heard, has one of the top junior quarterbacks in the state. Whitewater’s strong every year. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
If that doesn’t sound ‘scary’ enough, here’s another screamer — How about a Newnan-East Coweta game on Halloween?
That’ll be the case this fall, where the annual meeting between the Cougars and Indians will come a week prior to the end of the regular season where the programs had been scheduled to play on a yearly basis since 2001.
Both schools will begin spring practice on May 5. Pardue said East Coweta will wrap up the two-week period with the annual ‘E’-Night game on May 16.
“I’ve been tickled to death so far. A lot’s been going on with a new fieldhouse and that’s been great,” Pardue said. “It’s been a whirlwind getting things ready, meeting as many of the players and getting to know them a little bit more during their spring seasons.”
Northgate also begins the spring practice period on May 5 with many of the same challenges the program faced during the previous two-years in Region 4-AAAAA.
Again, the Vikings will have to find a way to finish among the top-four of a large 13-school region if they want to advance into the state playoffs.
Gone are Whitewater and Creekside — two of the toughest opponents in last year’s 4B-AAAAA subregion.
Northgate shifts to the A-Subregion side in a larger seven-team division. While rejoined by Fayette rivals Starr’s Mill and McIntosh, the schedule now includes four subregion opponents from Clayton — Morrow, Mundy’s Mill, Drew and Forest Park.
The final week of the regular season will again include a region play-in format with crossover games between subregions.
The 4B-AAAAA division consists entirely of six schools from Henry County — Woodland, Ola, Union Grove, Dutchtown and region newcomers Stockbridge and Luella.
The Vikings’ non-region schedule to begin the season provides equal challenges. Northgate opens with back-to-back home games against Shaw and Troup, both out of Region 5-AAAA.