It’s a special time of year

Published 11:47 am Wednesday, July 31, 2019


Daily News

It’s starting to feel real.

If you step outside, there’s little doubt it’s still summertime.

On the best of days, the heat is a nuisance, something you have to deal with, sort of like taxes, or the stress of watching Luke Jackson trying to close out a game.

On the worst of days, when the humidity seems to reach 1,000 percent, it’s like getting clubbed in the face with a mallet, or what I imagine that would feel like, anyway.

While we’re no doubt still dealing with the dog days of summer, a sport closely associated with those pleasant fall days is here.

The Atlanta Falcons will take on the Broncos on Thursday in a preseason game, and high-school football returns in less than three weeks with Callaway, LaGrange and Troup all playing preseason games.

The college season is marching ever closer as well, and on the local level the LaGrange College Panthers open against Birmingham Southern on Sept. 7.

On Tuesday morning, we got local high-school football players, cheerleaders, and band members together for a photo shoot for our preview magazine that comes out on Aug. 22, so keep an eye out for that.

Last week, I spent time meeting with football coaches from each of the local schools.

The point is, football has arrived, and I’m ready for it.

It is, by the way, such a treat to be able to sit down with the coaches and talk to them about their hopes for the season.

We are blessed in Troup County to have an outstanding group of men leading the high-school teams.

They clearly know the sport, but they care about the players and want them to succeed in every aspect of their lives, on the field and off.

When I was meeting with Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins, I realized it was the 15th time we’d gotten together to discuss an upcoming season (and we’re both impressed that we don’t seem to have aged a day in all that time).

The first time was in 2005 when Wiggins was an unproven head coach, hoping to help the Callaway program find success.

Now, Wiggins is entrenched as one of the state’s most successful coaches, but he’s the same humble and compassionate person he was 15 years ago.

Wiggins is putting together a hall-of-fame worthy career that includes three trips to the state semifinals since 2013, but if you talk to him, he takes more pride in seeing how his former players are thriving in their post high-school and college days than in any of the 126 wins he has accumulated.

At Troup, Tanner Glisson is embarking on his fifth season as head coach, and what a remarkable job he has done.

After the Tigers went 1-9 in Glisson’s first year, they’re 29-8 the past three seasons.

The first time I talked with coach Glisson before that difficult 2015 season, he knew that it was going to be a tough fall, but he nonetheless radiated a sense of positivity.

Glisson loves his job and embraces every aspect of it, and like Wiggins, there is no questioning how much he cares for all of the players he leads.

Chuck Gibbs is in his second season at LaGrange High.

Gibbs had a tough task last year, taking over a program that was at a low point after a winless 2017 season.

The Grangers went 2-8 last year, but they were competitive in nearly every game, and they were a play here or there away from having a winning record.

Gibbs’ task was to convince a group of players who didn’t know him that he knew what he was doing, and that he was 100 percent invested in their well-being.

I recall chatting with Gibbs on the field following one particularly heart-breaking loss last season, and with tears in his eyes, he talked about how proud he was of the effort his players gave him.

He so desperately wanted to see his players succeed, and it pained him to see them come up short time and time again. That is the kind of person Gibbs is.

Now, having been in this position for more than a year, Gibbs has gotten a chance to put his stamp on the program, and I know he’s excited to see what his men can do this fall.

The 2018 high-school season figures to be a hard one to top, but this promises to be another memorable fall.

Callaway and Troup are coming off seasons that ended in the state semifinals, and they both appear poised to do some big things once again.

LaGrange, meanwhile, will try to continue to climb the ladder after making some positive strides last season.

On the private-school level, Lafayette Christian is hoping to compete for a state title once again.

The Cougars won the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association state championship in 2015, and it finished second in the state last year.

Unity Preparatory Academy made it to the GICAA semifinals last season, and the team is feeling good with new head coach Drew Walston leading the way.

Flash forward to September, and LaGrange College will take the field with second-year head coach Earl Chambers at the helm.

Chambers was sort of thrown into the job last July when he was promoted to head coach after Steve Pardue stepped down.

Now, Chambers is fully entrenched as head coach, and when I’ve talked to him he’s bullish on the prospects for this season and beyond.

If you can’t tell, I’m pumped about the season.

It’s going to be a fantastic journey, and I look forward to being along for the ride.