Spring Football: East Coweta shows intensity in final outing of springBy CHRIS GOLTERMANN
It might have been teammate against teammate on Friday at Garland Shoemake Stadium, but the last five or six snaps granted by East Coweta head football coach Clint Wade were treated like Hatfields and McCoys.
The Indians ended their annual spring scrimmage with a goal-line stand that provided a glimpse of the same intensity they showed last November in a do-or-die regular season finale against a rival.
It ended with those in purple celebrating a final defensive stop well shy of the end zone when East Coweta’s White Team offense mishandled the last handoff to standout running back Dee Godfrey, the only player to get past them in a two-hour dress rehearsal heading into the fall and the 2012 season.
After 10 days of spring drills, however, the time to be divided was over.
“The good thing about tonight,” said offensive coordinator Tom Gochenour, “is that the Indians win.”
Otherwise, Friday was one last chance for East Coweta coaches to drill procedures into their players with the hopes that it’ll stick until jersey numbers are called out again in August.
It was equally an final opportunity for the Indians to make an impression before putting on the pads for what Wade didn’t hesitate to describe to his players as a “heck of a schedule,” next year, afterwards asking the group if they were “ready for the challenge.”
The final stop by the Purple sealed a one score “victory,” while able to drive the ball into the end zone twice early behind sophomore quarterback Bryce Gimmel, next year’s expected starter. But the 10th grader’s inexperience equally showed in what became a give-and-take outing for most everyone involved.
Despite the final fumble, one of at least handful made by East Coweta runners both on varsity and JV White and Purple units, Godfrey continued to showcase his tremendous speed and agility while giving the White its lone score on a 60-plus jaunt down the sidelines.
The overall spirit between both lineups may have been the biggest plus seen by their head coach.
“I thought the kids showed a lot of intensity,” Wade said. “That’s a good sign. I like to see that.”
Losing 32 seniors provided an open audition at nearly every position on Friday, with both sets of varsity units getting a chance to take the upper-hand at times. All special teams were handled in dead ball situations with drives starting at teams’ own 30 yard lines.
It began with Gimmel running for a score on the Purple’s first possession and then adding a catch and run on a swing pass to Nigel Gay for another score after heading the other direction from the 30.
By the end of the scrimmage, though, Gimmel was forced to make quick decisions. Twice during his final possession, the quarterback was pummeled by defensive lineman Tristen Mann either in the process of throws or trying to escape the pocket. He finished his final set of series just 2 of 7 passing while also victimized by a couple of drops.
Godfrey did some of his best work while shadowing sophomore receiver Markell Boston on defense as one of the only returning starters from last year’s unit.
Meanwhile, sophomore linebacker Nate Julian ended the Purple’s final drive before the goal-line stand by forcing a fumble.
On offense, Godfrey provided help for White Team quarterback Hamp Morris, but he too was pressured often by the Purple Team defense.
Junior Clifton Strong looked a capable replacement for Times-Herald Co-Defensive Player of the Year Willie Holloway at defensive end, at one point stuffing a running back behind the line.
Tackle Anfernee Burks equally bottled up the middle of the field while forcing Godfrey to make most of his 100-plus yards from the outside. Linebacker Nick Frazier also had a couple of key hits, including one that forced a White Team punt. Tyler Brown added an interception for the Purple.
We did some good things tonight ... we did some bad things too,” Wade said. “But I think we’re off to a good start.”