One would like to get back on track after a rare misstep. One would like to continue in the upward path it’s been on the past two years.
The first is Northside, the second Veterans.
The Eagles, now led by Head Coach Chad Alligood, will be out to erase the memory of last year’s 3-7 record. The Warhawks will be trying to improve upon a 9-3 record and drive deeper in the playoffs than the Sweet 16. (Winning region over Warner Robins wouldn’t be such a bad thing, either, coaches and players would surely say.)
Both will begin their quest Friday against each other, 7:30 p.m. in McConnell-Talbert Stadium.
It hardly has any bearing on the present – many suns have set since – but the two have only met twice. That was during the 2012 and 2013 season. Northside won both: 42-0 the first time and 49-0 the second.
This time around both Alligood and three-year Head Coach Milan Turner both admit – as they’re quick to point out it’s the same for “every” coach – they’ve been battling the unseen opponent: Covid-19, of course.
“Nothing’s been normal,” Alligood said. “That’s probably been the biggest thing you have to get used to. It’s nothing the coaches are used to. The players who’ve been in the program. You’ve had to adjust pretty much day to day.
“When you pick a plan. You think it’s good, then something happens and you have to change it.
“So, it’s really teaching all of us how to deal with adversity, move on. And there are things you can’t control, but there’s no sense in whining about it, you just go on and move on from there. We may have (actually) learned how to do some things more efficient if we wouldn’t have had all of the shutdowns and stipulations, some of the things to go by.”
Turner, of course, echoed those feelings, adding it all began back in March when schools began to shut down.
“We knew there would be no spring, and before long we weren’t even sure what the summer would hold, let alone the fall season.” (That’s where Zoom meetings, posting workouts online, online player and coach meetings, etc, came into play, he said.)
As far as Friday night, where all of those challenges might show up the most, both said, is in “who” takes the field.
“With students getting quarantined (Turner also said he is experiencing the same, and again both added that’s the norm throughout the state). Things going on with the team, day to day. You’re really not sure who’s going to show up for the practice.
“And so that presents probably the biggest obstacle we’re dealing with. We’ll have some kids not play Friday night because they’re quarantined.
“So it’s just a day-to-day deal. That’s why every kid has to be ready to play. Because when their name’s called, nobody’s going to care in the stands. There’s a Northside helmet on the field. The expectation’s going to be the same … Not only do you have to be two-deep, you’ve got to be three-deep.”
The good news is you won’t find a single soul not excited to play. This year, between the two also brings a deeper connection, as well as the already deep respect. Alligood and Turner both profess they are good friends and several on each coaching staff have crossed paths and worked together in the past. (I.e. Turner’s son was Alligood’s offensive coordinator at Washington-Wilkes and Tyler Kinsler, who was on the Eagles’ staff for 10 years, is not at Veterans as defensive backs coach.)
“Veterans is going to be really well coached and ready to play,” Alligood said.
“First of all,” Turner said, “it doesn’t’ get any bigger than Northside in terms of a school with tradition. They’re one of the winningest programs in the state, one of the most decorated.
“They’re a program that has a lot of things already going for them, having already established that tradition over there … So he’s going to continue to push that with his kids and who they are.
“So I know they’re going to come into this game well-prepared and bring a lot of talented men.”