Football returns to Putnam County

By Jacob McMillian

The weather is heating up to a beloved, stifling temperature. Gridirons are being fertilized and trimmed to perfection. Coaches are saving their voices for heavy doses of “constructive criticism”. Football has returned to both Putnam County High School and Gatewood Schools, and fans across the former Dairy Capital of Georgia are quite enthusiastic about the upcoming season.

The Gatewood Gators began preparation for the fall on June 5 with their opening session of summer workouts. After having reached the GISA-AAA state championship last November and succumbing to archrival John Milledge Academy Trojans, the returning Gators were more than eager to visit the weight room and to begin the arduous journey back to Mercer University. Reid Sasser, senior quarterback for the Gators, believes that his team will successfully translate last year’s success to the upcoming season.

“Our seniors last year were a huge part of who we were as a team and what we were able to accomplish; they will definitely be missed,” Sasser said. “We came up just short of our goal, but we were able to set expectations for our program that many thought were unachievable. Our seniors this year, however, have big shoes to fill in order to help meet such high expectations. We need to stay focused as a team and keep our minds on the ultimate goal.”

Head coach Jeff Ratliff also is optimistic about the upcoming season. Ratliff opened practice with an impassioned speech, declaring that contentment would not be an acceptable mindset for his team, for Gatewood has unfinished business to settle.

His players completed the first of a weekly, four-day workout regimen, designed to achieve the regimen’s signature brand: “Bigger, Faster, Stronger.”  Such workouts will continue until mandatory practices begin on July 24. Gatewood will open football camp on July 31 and conclude on August 4 as players begin practicing in full gear. The Gators will conclude the preseason with a home scrimmage against the Trinity Christian Crusaders on August 4.

Putnam County High School began its summer workout program on June 5, as well. The War Eagles will complete workout sessions four days a week, and such workouts will continue until official practices begin on July 25. PCHS will be participating in multiple padded, offseason camps, including a two-day camp at Dublin High School from June 28-29, as well as an all-day camp at Lagrange on July 14. The summer will be filled with competition as the War Eagles compete in 7on7 challenges. On June 13, Putnam will battle Glenn Hills. Furthermore, on June 22, PCHS will compete in a 7on7 tournament in Walnut Grove.

The War Eagles posted a record of 1-9 last season, its lone victory coming from a 42-10 thrashing of Oglethorpe County. However, this record can be misleading, for five of Putnam’s nine losses included deficits of 14 points or less. The War Eagles were but a lone score from defeating Hancock Central, Greene County, and Monticello. Putnam County remained in playoff contention until the eighth game of the year. In order to earn a playoff berth, the War Eagles needed consecutive victories over Banks County and Social Circle. Unfortunately, PCHS suffered a grueling 14-0 defeat at the hands of Banks County, who advanced to the second round of the 2016 state playoffs. Therefore, the 2017 squad can build upon such competitive performances to win close games in the future.

Kyle Gourley, head coach of the War Eagles, is optimistic for the upcoming season and believes his team is already experiencing improvements through workout

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