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Barney Hester believes the one true measuring stick for his Howard football team will come on the scoreboard.
No amount of progress and no moral victories will serve as barometers for growth more than the score at the end of each game.
“It’s always wins and losses,” Hester said Thursday. “You can be competitive and be beat down mentally from just being competitive. I think wins are what we are judged by.”
Hester now has 30 days left to get his Huskies ready to embrace that test when they open at East Laurens, Hester’s alma mater. The Huskies and other GHSA programs were allowed to strap on their full pads Thursday for the first time.
Hester left one of the most secure jobs in Middle Georgia to join a Howard program that has lost 24 straight games and is 5-45 overall in five seasons of existence.
He left behind a GISA juggernaut at Tattnall Square, having won more than 300 games and 11 state championships with the Trojans.
He said he hasn’t thought twice about his decision to leave Tattnall and has embraced the sizable challenge of taking over a beleaguered program.
The Huskies have shown some progress, he said.
They went to a passing camp at Auburn early in the summer and returned home winless. The Huskies then won two games at a passing league at Northside a few weeks ago.
“Even though it’s a passing league, you want to see you guys out there competing and showing signs of progress, and those are both coming,” Hester said.
Across town, Joe Dupree also inherits a program with some recent struggles, but his arrival comes under much different circumstances.
Dupree, a Macon native, finally landed a head coaching job at Henry County last year after serving as an assistant coach at Rutland and Westside. His stay in McDonough was short. The job at Dupree’s alma mater Southwest opened, and he couldn’t fight the temptation to return home.
Southwest rose to prominence as a basketball power and always has struggled to sustain momentum in football. The Patriots won two games last year and five total the past two seasons. The program has one winning season since 1989.
Dupree, however, returns optimistic that Southwest can become more than a perennial rebuilding program.
“Our goal, starting with day one, is to go forward every day,” he said.
The practice field at Southwest is in the same location as it was when Dupree lit the city on fire with his playmaking ability at quarterback and earned All-Middle Georgia Player of the Year honors and a scholarship to Georgia.
He will try to connect with his players in an elemental level: He played there. He walked these same hallways. He succeeded there. His new players can succeed there.
Dupree knows he’ll face a certain pressure because he’s returning home. He said he didn’t expect any sympathy if the Patriots struggle, and that progress will be determined very easily.
“I agree with Barney 100 percent,” Dupree said. “You measure where we’re at on the scoreboard. We know they’ll be competitive, or we wouldn’t put them out there. But you measure with wins and losses.”
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Middle Georgia’s new head coaches
Covenant -- Wes Tanner
Gatewood -- Jeff Ratliff
GMC -- Steven Simpson
Houston County -- Von Lassiter
Howard -- Barney Hester
Perry -- Erik Soliday
Putnam County -- Kyle Gourley
Southwest -- Joe Dupree
Stratford -- Mark Farriba
Tattnall Square -- Clint Morgan