Sports

December 12, 2013

Chris Whitfield: No reason Colts vs. Bruins shouldn't happen

No matter the time of year, there is always a reason to talk about high school football. And even though no northwest Georgia teams will compete in the Georgia High School Association’s state championship games at the Georgia Dome on Friday and Saturday, there has still been plenty to talk about and plenty more to discuss this week regarding local prep football programs.

Although nothing will be official and binding until the GHSA finalizes its realigned regions in January, area schools are already working to determine their football schedules for next season.

One of the hopes for many area fans and players has been the prospect of all three Whitfield County high schools — Coahulla Creek, Northwest Whitfield and Southeast Whitfield — playing each other. In addition to sparking local rivalries and the potential revenue-generating power of county cousins meeting, it would save on travel costs for both the schools and the fans.

However, it appears as if that will not happen in the upcoming two-year cycle of GHSA classification.

Northwest and Southeast will be in the same Class 4A region, so they will meet in the regular season during the region portion of the schedule. While Coahulla Creek and Southeast plan on facing each other on the gridiron, a north-end matchup between Northwest and Coahulla Creek apparently won’t happen soon — no matter what it could mean financially for both schools.

“The timing is just not right for us right now,” said Coahulla Creek athletic director Rhett Parrott, a graduate of Northwest. “These two schools were together and now they are split and we don’t want to press that too early. Maybe in a couple of more years that might be the right time to do it.”

Coahulla Creek opened in 2011, drawing the majority of its enrollment from students who formerly attended or would have attended Northwest. A small portion came from students previously zoned to go to Southeast.

Parrott said tentative non-region football games have been set with Southeast, Armuchee and Fannin County in home-and-home series over the next two seasons.

Northwest coach Josh Robinson, who is a proponent of all three schools playing each other, said his team has agreements to play Ringgold and Cedartown. A third game is still trying to be secured, and options have included Bremen and Central-Carroll, which are both west of Atlanta, and Cobb County’s Osborne.

Southeast coach Sean Gray said his team has tentative agreements with Coahulla Creek, Gordon Central and Murray County.

“That is three of our neighbors with two in bordering counties and the other in the county, and they should be good games,” Gray said. “It should be beneficial financially with some good gates. In your non-region games, you don’t want to play someone way off that nobody knows.”

In other words, someone like Fannin County or Bremen.

It is roughly 60 miles from Varnell to Blue Ridge and roughly 95 miles from Tunnel Hill to Bremen. It is 6 miles along Georgia Route 201 from Northwest to Coahulla Creek.

Financially, the game would be a boon to both programs. Robinson said home games with Dalton and Southeast over the past two seasons have easily cleared $25,000 in revenue that is used to help support the entire athletic program. For area high schools, most athletic funding comes from ticket sales and booster clubs.

“Everyone is looking to stay as close to their school as possible and play their games,” Robinson said. “I think that (a Northwest-Coahulla Creek game) would be very prosperous at the gate for both schools. I think we would easily exceed $10,000 in gate revenue.”

Parrott agreed that the financial incentive for the two schools to play is present.

“(A money-maker) is exactly what it would be,” Parrott said. “It would just be for financial things and not for the benefit of our kids. The schedule right now is the one we have set up for them.”

Asked at the Coahulla Creek football banquet on Monday night about the prospect of playing Southeast and Northwest, Colts sophomore Josue Dominguez was ready for any challenge.

“I’m not afraid to play them,” Dominguez said. “I think that if we put in the work in the offseason, we can beat them, honestly. I think we have the talent. We can go over there and compete with both of them.”

Unfortunately, it seems as if Dominguez, his teammates and their fans won’t get a chance to find out who the true county champion is in football anytime soon.

• The naming of former South Pittsburg (Tenn.) High School coach Vic Grider as the new face of the Coahulla Creek football program is astonishing and a hire that grabbed the attention of the rest of the state within coaching circles.

There are several impediments to getting top-tier candidates as head football coaches in Whitfield County, and that isn’t to take anything away from this community, the schools or the current coaches. It is what it is.

Coaching supplements (the money coaches are paid on top of their faculty position salary) are the same at all three schools, so there is no bargaining room on the amount of money school administrators can offer to a coach. Systems that have one high school have more flexibility with money to attract coaches with a more proven track record, but Whitfield County’s supplements are uniform.

Administrators also cannot sell future coaches (at least in football) on a glorious past with infinite resources and a steady supply of athletic talent. Again, that isn’t a slam — it is what it is.

As the new kid on the block with a multimillion dollar, state-of-the-art campus, Coahulla Creek has an appeal that perhaps Northwest and Southeast do not have. Still, the accomplishment of principal Stanley Stewart of bringing in one of the top coaches in the South is truly remarkable and commendable.

Simply put, it is an outstanding hire and one that should have the Colts fanbase energized like never before.

Chris Whitfield is a sports writer for The Daily Citizen. You can write to him at chriswhitfield@daltoncitizen.com.

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