Valdosta, Georgia - Looking around the Rainwater Conference Center on Saturday was more like looking at a High School Football Hall of Fame ceremony. The ten coaches who met in that room for Media Day have more than 600 wins combined.
But for once during this time of year, football was actually put on the backburner for a period of time. There was greater concern over the health of Colquitt County Head Football Coach Rush Propst, who is overcoming his battle with throat cancer.
Propst, noticeably thinner and a tad less energetic, cautioned the crowd in the room that taking care of yourself, and therefore your family, is the most important thing in life, not the game of football.
The former Hoover (Ala.) Head Football Coach had discovered something was wrong during the middle of last season and it wasn't until after the playoffs until he realized he had "a tumor the size of a grape."
During his fight, Propst relied on his assistants and was grateful for the work they did filling in for him. The rest of the coaches in attendance took this to heart and acknowledged their assistants, as well.
Colquitt County reached the state Region-AAAAA title game last year, but were unable to come out victorious. There isn't too much returning on both sides of the ball from that team. They even have a new Quarterback in Junior Cole Segraves, who Propst raved about.
Valdosta will have to replace their Divison-1-bound Tight End in Jay Rome, but that may be the least of its worries. They're currently undergoing a battle at the Quarterback position.
"We're excited with what we got," Valdosta Head Football Coach Rance Gillespie said. "We got a bunch of kids that are not returning starters, but as we go through the years they'll be able to play at a high level."
Lowndes may be the team to watch in Region-AAAAA. They have a stud athlete in Josh Clemons, who was on the Nagurski National Watch List at Linebacker. Lowndes, though, is looking to stabilize the QB spot, too, but it wouldn't be surprising to see them go to a system utilizing two quarterbacks.
Thomas County Central may have the toughest task replacing a ton of players on offense and defense. On offense, their quarterbck adn wide receivers are all new. On defense, just about the entire secondary is new. While they are young, they have speed and athleticism including the incumbent QB Adam Choice, who is just a sophomore.
Over in Region-AA, Brooks County and Valwood are the two teams with high expectations. Both were young and had deep runs in the playoffs. Virtually everyone is coming back for the two small town schools and they appear to be loaded with high level college football talent.
"Whenever you have a nice number coming back everybody expects you to do well," Brooks County Head Football Coach Maurice Freeman said. "We expect to do well."
Cook County may have lost 22 seniors, seven of whom were D-1 recruits, but they also bring back 22 seniors. The problem is that half of those players are inexperienced, having never played a single down of football on gameday.
"When you lose seven scholarship kids, but even the kids that didn't sign those scholarships, it's huge," Cook County Head Coach Ken Cofer said. "They were a tight-knit group as 22 seniors, and we have 22 seniors again this year, but like i mentioned earlier, the problem with that is about 10-12 of those have never played before."
Thomasville is trying to fill the Quarterback spot, as well. They normally are a strong defensive unit, but its the offense that could give them problems.
It's hard not to favor Clinch County once again in Region-A after they went through an undefeated season. But, they lost about 16 seniors from that squad, which for a small school, could take a toll. However, you can never count out the state champs.
"We'll start a lot of new guys," Clinch County Head Football Coach Jim Dickerson said. "There's a renewed sense of excitement out there and we're cherishing that excitement."