For the third year in a row, the Warriors open up their season with a win over Lumpkin County.
Tonight is a great night to be a fan of the White County Warriors. The Warriors defeated their rivals, The Lumpkin County Indians, in a blowout by the score of 49-6.
There was never a moment of doubt that it would be a White County victory. Lumpkin had the ball first, and in what would be a recurring theme for both teams, QB Tucker Kirk would fumble the ball a couple plays in, and White County junior Heaven Gholston recovered. Zion McMullen would score his first of three touchdowns on the drive, giving the Warriors the lead.
Two weeks ago, the Warriors struggled in a scrimmage against Stephens County. Tonight, those struggles were in the rear-view mirror.
Throughout the game, the White County offense was too much for the Indians to handle. QB J. Ben Haynes had two rushing touchdowns to add on to Zion’s three touchdowns. One reason for this was the much improved offensive line. There were very few moments throughout the game in which Haynes was under pressure. His passing was much improved, and Warrior fans got to see his talent on full display.
Also, White County’s defense completely shut down Lumpkin County’s rushing attack. The defense had multiple tackles for loss throughout the night, along with a couple of forced fumbles. Coming into the season, lots of questions were being asked about the defense. Many of our best players from last year’s defense graduated, and many fans were nervous about what to expect from the defense. Tonight, they were able to completely shut down Lumpkin’s biggest strength, leaving them reeling all game long.
At the end of the first half, White County had a 31-0 lead. Zion would score his final touchdown on the first drive of the half, but the suffering wasn’t over for Lumpkin. On their next offensive, a high snap would result in the Warriors scoring a safety, as they extended their lead to 40-0. At this point, it was smart for Coach Cokely to put in his 2nd string players. They would continue to torture the Lumpkin County defense throughout the 2nd half, including backup QB Riley Stancil scored his first ever touchdown at the varsity level late in the 4th quarter.
There is still room to improve for the Warriors.
There are some slight future concerns for White County. Just like last season, the passing defense left a lot to be desired. Lumpkin County is not historically known as a team to pass the ball for lots of yards every game. However, there was multiple occasions where they gained ten or more yards on pass plays, a couple of those being a third down. As a matter of fact, the one touchdown that Lumpkin scored was through the air, attacking White County’s biggest defensive weakness. A team that specializes in passing the ball could cause real concerns for the Warriors if they don’t fix these issues. Also, the Warriors had an abundance of penalties called against them, many of them holding calls.
The Warriors are now 1-0 on the season, and they play against another rival next week. They will be on the road to play against the Habersham Central Raiders. Even though White County dominated tonight, they will need to continue to improve if they want to have the same success throughout the season.
Over the last week and a half BKP and I have been going from school to school interviewing head football coaches for our North Georgia Coaching Series. Now if any of y’all know BKP, you’ll know what I mean when I say that he’s been doing most of the talking and I’ve been doing most of the observing. But this doesn’t bother me, it gives me a chance to learn more about the programs I’ll be spending a lot of time with this fall.
With that being said, there’s one thing in particular I’ve been noticing in our interviews, and that’s how much these coaches truly care about their players and their programs.
Now me saying that might make some of y’all think, “Well, duh. That’s what they’re supposed to do.” Well, maybe. But I like to think I’m pretty good at picking up when someone is just putting on an act for appearances. And I can say with all sincerity that none of these coaches are doing that.
Obviously when BKP and I go into these interviews, he asks questions about what the teams have been doing during the summer and how they’re planning to prepare for the regular season. But he also asks the coaches if they can highlight a few players that have really stood out. This point in the interview, I believe, is where a coach who didn’t care would possibly just say a couple names and move on.
But these coaches not only name the players, they tell us about why they stand out. And it’s a sign of the hard work of these athletes, but there’s also a sense of pride from these coaches as they name them. A couple of coaches have mentioned that it’s hard to name just a few, because all of their players have worked hard. And it’s not that the rest of the team doesn’t matter or that they don’t care about them, but the ones that they mention they do so without hesitation because they’ve been there with them through the summer truly coaching them. There’s no so-so about the commitment these coaches make- they’re all in.
Another thing that has amazed me about these coaches, not just in the interviews but learning about them off the field, is how much they care about their community as well. A couple of them, such as Chad Cheatham at Fannin County and Chad McClure at Hayesville, are natives to their communities. It’s home to them, and they’re not going to be just halfway in their commitments to their programs.
When Coach Caleb Sorrells of the Lumpkin County Indians was first named as head coach, the school hosted a meet and greet for him. It was one of the first stories I covered in this position.
In his address to the parents, Sorrells promised to not only invest in the team as players and athletes, but as men who would one day be employees and fathers. I remember being caught off guard at first because I was expecting him to talk about plans for the future of the program, the summer schedule and what not. He did talk about these things, but I believe by telling the parents that he was going to invest in the players as men showed that it was going to be a priority.
Although I know more about the commitment that Sorrells has made because I’m positioned in Lumpkin County, he’s not the only one in the area who gets involved in the community and works to build up the athletes’ character.
Tim Cokely with the White County Warriors has an entire wall of his office decorated with signs of good character qualities to instill in the team. Chad Cheatham, who I mentioned earlier, referees basketball in the football off-season just because, and the community loves him for it. I’m sure that many of the other coaches in the area do similar things and I just don’t know about it yet.
These are commitments that we see played out by coaches in movies and don’t always think to look for in real life. And because I grew up in Gwinnett County, population one million, if there was this sort of commitment by coaches I didn’t always see it because there were so many people. I love living up here in North Georgia in a smaller community where an act of kindness, especially where sports are concerned, rarely goes unnoticed.
We think about football as a sport that instills a since of discipline, but why is that? Because there’s a coach that sets that standard and inspires the team to do the same. As a community we love football and we love our team, and we can thank a coach for that.
This past Friday we continued our discussion about rural Georgia with 51st district (R) State Senator and Lumpkin County’s economic development director, Steve Gooch. Our three areas of focus: rural Georgia economy, broadband access, and health care. Although the district doesn’t want to see something in the line of the KIA plant they most certainly would be open to small companies offering high paying, high tech jobs. In order to attract these types of companies; the area must provide good schools, fast internet, and quality health care. We discussed Piedmont Mountainside new stand alone emergency health care center in Gilmer County; a model for quality health care in rural areas. When our discussion turned to high speed internet for the area, Gooch was unable to say they “moved the ball” concerning Senate Bill 232, Facilitating Internet Broadband Rural Expansion (FIBRE) Act.