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June 7, 2013

Aligning the stars

Gann relishes coaching standouts

David Gann worked many high school football games as an assistant before finally experiencing one as the head coach last August.

And after three consecutive years as an assistant in The Stump on Sports Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Football Classic, the North Murray coach has moved up to the top job for the showcase of recent high school graduates from southeastern Tenn-essee and northwestern Georgia.

Gann will lead Team Georgia into the 10th annual Classic at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Spears Stadium on the campus of McCallie School in Chattanooga. Tennessee won 7-3 last season at Ringgold High School’s Don Patterson Stadium and holds a 6-3 series lead.

Gann had most recently been an assistant at Ringgold before getting the job at North Murray a year ago. He led the Mountaineers to a 5-5 record in 2012, the best in program history, after the team went 1-19 over its first two varsity seasons in 2010 and 2011.

Gann coached in this all-star contest as an assistant in 2010, 2011 and 2012. The first and last were with Ringgold head coach Robert Akins, his former boss, as Georgia’s head coach. The middle year — when the Peach State won 31-21 — was for Dade County’s Bradley Warren.

“It’s a great experience,” Gann said Thursday during practice at Don Patterson Stadium. “One of the hardest things to do is try and round up the kids. Once they graduate, they scatter. We’ve been fortunate enough to round up the crew we’ve been able to.”

North Murray has four players on Georgia’s roster: safety Tino Hernandez, offensive lineman Wes-ley Ross, defensive lineman Isaiah Jackson and kicker Izzy Hernandez. Southeast Whitfield has three. Former Raiders offensive lineman Jared Davis, running back/linebacker Easton Ridley and wide receiver/defensive back Kevin Torres are on the team. Northwest Whitfield linebacker Jarrod Farmer is also on the roster.

Dalton wide receiver Brandon Painter was a late addition for the Peach State, practicing for the first time on Thursday.

The Catamounts also had two other players invited — wide receiver Brandon Dale and defensive end Laighton Reese — but both had conflicts, Gann said.

North Murray’s Hernandez said having three former teammates as well as his former head coach makes it easier to prepare for Saturday.

“It makes me feel more comfortable with the team,” he said. “It makes me feel like I have my old team and we’re just joining with a new team.”

Local coaches helping Gann are North Murray’s Courtney Braswell, Don Murray, Ryan Otting and Jason Poteet; and Southeast’s Allen Jackson and Todd Murray. Gann said they have been important assets.

“Luckily, we have a good group of assistants that are able to take care of a lot of things,” Gann said.

Gann, a former all-state offensive lineman at Ringgold, spent five years as an offensive coordinator for the Tigers under Akins. He also had assistant coaching stints at Southeast, for five seasons before that, and at Northwest from 1996-2001.

Since becoming North Murray’s head coach, it seems his head coaching gigs have become abundant. He also led the North Georgia All-Stars in the D.L. Scott Coalition Bowl last December at the Georgia Dome.

“Now it’s kind of like I should be careful what I wish for,” Gann said. “The toughest part is trying to organize it and set it up and make sure the players cane make it out. Some of these kids live so far away. That’s kind of the difficult part about it.”

Boyd-Buchanan head coach Grant Reynolds will coach Tennessee’s team. Reynolds also was an assistant for Akins, who coached at Chattanooga’s Boyd-Buchanan High School for 10 seasons before going to Ringgold. Reynolds also was Akins’ assistant for the all-star series’ second game.

“Those two guys were great assistants, Grant on the defensive side and David on the offensive side,” Akins said.

“... It’s really gratifying to see those guys coaching in all-star games and really growing.”

Reynolds coached Tennessee’s all-stars in 2010 and won 17-0. If he wins, he’ll be the first coach to win twice in two tries.

In addition to the football game, the Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Classic series features games for girls and boys basketball (6 and 8 p.m. on Tuesday at Notre Dame High School in Chattanooga); girls and boys soccer (1:30 and 3:30 p.m. on June 15 at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga); baseball (6 p.m. on June 17 at Ridgeland High School in Rossville); and softball (6 p.m. on June 19 at Frost Stadium in Chattanooga).

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