Top story lines to watch this high school season

dshirley@macon.comAugust 22, 2013 

Howard

Howard High School football coach Barney Hester leads practice Thursday afternoon.

WOODY MARSHALL — wmarshall@macon.com Buy Photo

There are always story lines that dominate a high school football season, and this season will be no different.

Here are just a few this season to keep an eye out for in Middle Georgia:

Hester takes over at Howard: It might take awhile to get used to saying “Howard head coach Barney Hester” without letting “Tattnall Square” slip into that phrase. But after a long successful run at Tattnall, Hester is looking to put his magic touch on the Huskies’ program.

It would be a long shot to consider the Huskies playoff contenders right off the bat because they have to be competitive first. Howard hasn’t won a game since the middle of the 2010 season, and it has lost 24 straight. Hester’s tenure opens at East Laurens, which is his alma mater, and he will get the Huskies turned around eventually.

Other new coaches: Hester isn’t the only coach taking over a new program. Clint Morgan has replaced him at Tattnall, while Mark Farriba has returned to Stratford. Also, Joe Dupree returns to his alma mater at Southwest after a year as the head coach at Henry County, while Von Lassiter takes over at Houston County and Erik Soliday is at Perry.

Morgan has some pretty huge shoes to fill at Tattnall, but he can’t try to be Hester. Morgan has to just do what has been successful at other stops in his coaching career. Farriba had a strong run at Prince Avenue Christian and is back with the Eagles, taking over for Rodney Collins. Dupree replaces Carror Wright, who stepped down as Southwest’s head coach and took a position at the GHSA.

Traditional powers: As usual, Northside, Warner Robins and Peach County should be right in the mix for a long playoff run.

Those teams don’t typically rebuild; they just find new players to fill in holes and keep winning. But all three have plenty of new faces this year, and it will be interesting to see how the new players adjust to stepping into key roles. Northside has just four returning starters on both sides of the ball, while Warner Robins has four back on defense and seven back on offense. Peach County has just four back on offense and two on defense, so all three coaching staffs will have some work to do.

But with head coaches like Kevin Kinsler (Northside), Bryan Way (Warner Robins) and Chad Campbell (Peach County) leading strong coaching staffs, those programs know what it takes to get those new players in place and keep on rolling.

Final year in the GISA: Mount de Sales, Stratford and Tattnall all made the decision earlier this year to leave the GISA and move to the GHSA. But that move won’t take effect until after this school year.

That means all three teams have one more season to go through the GISA, and there is added intrigue to their seasons with Mercer hosting the GISA championship games this fall. Can they get there? We’ll see. But it certainly would be exciting to see a Macon team or two Macon teams playing at Mercer University Stadium for a championship.

Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or dshirley@macon.com

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