The numbers are up and players are bigger and stronger from a year ago. That was evident as Bryan County, after a wretched 2020 season dominated by COVID-19, is back as the Redskins began five days of conditioning drills this week.
Following the mandatory five-day acclimation period Georgia high school teams will be able to practice in pads next Monday. Bryan County Coach Cherard Freeman is looking forward to seeing what his young team looks like in full gear.
The Redskins put in a three-hour first day practice last Monday and like all coaches Freeman saw some things he liked and some he wasn’t happy with but overall he was pleased with the way things went.
“Our numbers are up although I’m a little peeved we were missing 14 players for our first practice,” the second-year coach said. “We’ve got some kids hurt, others on vacation and some are working.
“We’re a year older and that’s a plus and thanks to our weight program we’ve got kids who are 15-20 pounds heavier. They’re more confident.”
Last year Freeman was hired in late spring and because of COVID there was no off-season program or spring practice. He did not meet his players until June and when he did Freeman saw himself looking at one of the youngest teams in the state regardless of classification.
Freeman wound up starting as many as 15 freshmen as the Redskins endured an 0-8 season that pushed their current losing streak to 24 straight games.
Their best chance at picking up a win was lost when their final game of the season at winless Portal was cancelled due to the virus.
Bryan County did not have spring practice this year because several players also competed in spring sports but that did not prevent them from working in the weight room.
“We started lifting as soon as the season ended,” Freeman said. “Then this summer we’ve averaged 86 kids a day in the weight room including around 30 middle school kids.
“We’re ahead of last year in that we’re stronger but also because the kids know the offense and the expectations. The kids who came up from the middle school are also ahead because they run the same offense as we (varsity) do which means we’re able to do less teaching.”
Quarterback Sean Kelly Hill, running back Austin Clemens and wide receiver Tanner Ennis, all rising sophomores, give the Redskins three of the top players in Region 3A Public and hope for the future.
The team’s goal, Hill said, is simple.
“We just want to win one game,” Hill said. “Just one win. If we can get one win then we’ll go from there. We can’t think about wins until we get the first one.”
“It’s going to take work and some help,” Freeman said of snapping the losing streak. “We’ve got to stay healthy and it’ll depend on how fast the kids catch on.”
The schedule doesn’t help as it features six playoff teams from last year including Class A state runner-up and region foe Metter (14-1) and Lincoln County (9-5) which was in the Class A Final Four.
Bryan County opens the season on Aug. 20 when it hosts Butler which was a playoff team.
The Redskins have one pre-season game scheduled as they will host Wheeler County on Friday, Aug. 6.
Aug. 6: Wheeler County (pre-season);
Aug. 20: Butler;
Aug 27: at Lincoln County.
Sept. 3: at East Laurens;
Sept. 17: at McIntosh County Academy;
Sept. 24: at Screven County.
Oct. 1: Claxton*;
Oct. 15: Jenkins County*;
Oct. 22: Metter*;
Oct. 29: at ECI*.
Nov. 5: Portal*.
All games at 7:30 p.m.; * denotes region game.