Middle-school teams meet in jamboree
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
They packed Callaway Stadium to watch the stars of tomorrow get after it.
The middle-school teams from Callaway, Valley, Gardner Newnan and Long Cane got together on Saturday morning for a jamboree, giving those future high-school players an opportunity to get on the turf at the stadium and show what they can do.
The jamboree served as a springboard into a new season that is getting underway soon for the local middle-school teams.
Each one of the schools had a seventh-grade and an eighth-grade team participating, and every team played two 20-minute scrimmages.
To help speed things along, the field was divided in half, allowing two games to be played at once.
For Callaway coach Kerry Woodard, the most beneficial aspect of the day was the opportunity it afforded each player to get some game experience.
“I love to do this,” Woodard said. “Going into it, I know that every kid is going to get to play. I don’t care who wins. I want everybody to get to play, and today, everybody got to play in all four games, two seventh-grade games, and two eighth-grade games. And that might not happen (in the season).”
Long Cane coach Torre Pike, whose team won a league championship in 2016 and finished second last season, said it was “great to have everybody show up” for the jamboree.
“It was a big crowd today,” he said. “And I know there’s a lot of excitement surrounding our program, especially in West Point. We’re West Point loaded this year. We’ve got a lot of kids from there this year.”
Troup High head coach Tanner Glisson was on the sidelines watching closely as the Long Cane teams played, and he gave the players a pep talk after the final game.
Pike said he and Glisson work together closely to make sure the transition from middle school to high school is as smooth as possible.
“We’re like grades seven through 12,” Pike said. “We run Troup’s offense, Troup’s defense. It’s nice. And Tanner does a great job, getting us information, and whatever help we need.”
Pike lost to Valley in last year’s league-championship game, and he believed his team’s lack of depth was costly in some games, but he doesn’t expect that to be the case this season.
“I feel like this year, with how much depth we have, we’ll be a lot better off to handle those teams,” Pike said. “Because that’s where they’ve hurt us in the past, with people going both ways. They’ve have more depth than us.”
Gardner Newman head coach Scooter Weathers said Saturday’s jamboree was valuable because the players “are tired of hitting each other.”
“We’ve been doing this since June,” Weathers said. “They’ve had to adapt to what we’re doing, and we’re going every Tuesday and Thursday in June and July, and we had about a two-week camp. So they’ve adjusted very well.”
Weathers said he and the other coaches have worked to build up the roster, and that effort has paid dividends.
“We’ve got our numbers up,” he said. “We’ve got 80 players now.
“That was one of the first things I wanted to do was walk the halls looking for players. And we’ve got the numbers back it used to be.”
Weathers added that “everything we’ve done, we’ve done as a team. They’ve bought into what the coaches are saying, and you saw it today. It’s a big improvement. But we’ve got a long way to go.”
OF NOTE: For more photos from Saturday’s jamboree, check out Facebook.com/LDNSports