High School Football
Indians take first steps under Pardue
by Doug Gorman
East Coweta first-year head football coach Steve Pardue knows he faces a rebuilding project heading into his inaugural season with the Indians.
Gone from last year among the top players are defensive back and Auburn signee Markell Boston and starting quarterback Bryce Gemmel.
Pardue was hired earlier this year to replace Clint Wade, who retired after spending the last 22 years with the program, the last six as head coach.
The Indians’ new coach spent 17 seasons at LaGrange from 1994-2010, going 167-45 and winning the state title in 2004. He was also the running backs coach at the University of Kentucky for two years before sitting out last season.
He doesn’t feel like he ever left the sidelines.
“It really hasn’t changed,” he said “You still worry about things, but we are excited and we will be ready.”
The Indians begin the 2014 season at home against Arabia Mountain on Aug. 29.
Pardue takes over a program that hasn’t missed the state playoffs in 17 years and has beaten rival Newnan two of the last three, including last season’s 24-7 victory.
East Coweta completed their first spring practice under Pardue on Friday with its annual E-Night scrimmage at Garland Shoemake Stadium, where one thing was clear.
That is, the Indians’ defense was way ahead of the offense.
“I thought the kids played hard tonight,” said Pardue. “Our offense’s execution wasn’t really good tonight. Our defense is way ahead of our offense.”
That isn’t a big issue for Pardue.
“If you look back at the history of my teams, we are going to hang our hat on defense,” Pardue said.
The controlled scrimmage lasted 50 minutes and pitted No. 1s against No. 1s on offense and defense with series beginning at the 30.
Sophomore Devonte Brown had the offense’s only score when he rambled 70 yards for a score on what looked like a broken play.
“We have some issues on offense that we need to straighten out,” Pardue said. “Ten days ago we really didn’t know where we were at. Now, we know where we are at. We just have to get better.”
One Pardue’s biggest task is finding a new starting quarterback for Gemmel who graduates next week while moving on to play both baseball and football at Garden City Junior College in Kansas.
Gemmel finished with more than 2,000 all-purpose yards last season, rushing for 667 and passing for 1,570. He also rushed for 8 touchdowns and passed for 11.
The leading quarterback candidate coming out of spring practice appears to be sophomore Will LaGuardia.
LaGuardia picked up the bulk of his yardage running the football, including gains of 9 and 15 yards, but he connected on a couple of passes, including a 6-yarder to Reagan Thomas for a first down on the game’s first series.
Toward the end of the scrimmage, LaGuardia had his two longest passes when he he hooked up with Dexter Boyd on a 30-yard and Alex Branch for 10 yards.
Tyler Poytress and Jacob Bergstrom had the bulk of the carries early for the Indians, but the defense gave up very few yards.
Junior Jaquez Williams and Alec Jimerson were in on several tackles for the loss.
Malcom King returned an interception for a touchdown that was called back because of a penalty.
Most of Wade’s coaching staff is returning, but Pardue has brought in David Pleasants as the team’s offensive coordinator. The two have coached together since 1991.
Former Griffin assistant Rusty Easom will serve as the Indians’ new defensive coordinator.
Easom helped coach Griffin to the Class AAAA state title with a 15-0 record where his defense had five shutouts.
Pardue admits the summer is going to be important for both the coaching staff and players.
“I know a lot of coaches, so we will do some passing leagues,” he said. “But it is going to be a lot of East Coweta versus East Coweta.”