SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. — As Chad Estes enters his fifth year as the Social Circle Redskins’ head coach, hopes are high surrounding the Redskins’ program. Despite four straight losing seasons, Social Circle almost turned the corner last year, missing the playoffs by only one game after losing a play-in for the final playoff spot.
This near success, combined with a solid number of veteran players returning and a playoff drought that’s lasted almost a decade has triggered the question buzzing around campus: “Could this be the year?”
“We’ve got more people showing up. Last year we didn’t even have that many coming during the summer,” linebacker Chad Branch noted of this year’s squad. Coach Estes echoed that observation.
“This is the best summer we’ve had since I’ve been here,” he said. “We’ve been gaining some ground, and I really do believe this is the year for us.”
Estes, and senior quarterback Tate Peters, gave credit to the hiring of additional coaches on the Redskins’ staff for their improved summer and offseason regimen.
“There are a lot more coaches here, so we are able to put more work in every day,” Peters said regarding the new staff. “Our coaching staff is more veteran than it has been in previous years,” Estes added. “I think that will show on the field.”
Perhaps a sense of urgency may be why there is so much hype surrounding this season. After several years of being a “slash” type player for the ‘Skins, contributing from multiple positions on both sides of the ball, Peters, has finally been given the reins to the offense as the starting quarterback, and is poised for an eye-opening year.
In addition, 6-foot-3, 365-pound lineman Ken Sheats is also entering his senior campaign, and will surely be vying for a college football scholarship. During the East Metro Atlanta Football Media Day, Estes said that Sheats can, and likely will, play — and seek to dominate — on both sides of the football.
What’s more, there’s potential explosiveness in the Social Circle offense that hasn’t been there in times past with the continued improvement of senior wideout, Davis Smith. Smith is a tall, lanky vertical threat on the outside, and is sure to reap the rewards of Tate’s powerful arm.
In Social Circle’s spring game win against Walnut Grove, Peters’ lone touchdown pass happened when he linked up with Smith on a long bomb. And while these seniors do not want to waste their final year on another losing effort, the Redskins would also be disappointed if they wasted such great talent.
Estes is not panicking, however.
“It’s all about our attitude and effort,” he said. “If we control that, we will be fine.”
With Social Circle being a relatively smaller town, Estes knows just how important the team’s success is for the community. The Redskins are often lauded for the pristine nature of their facilities — particularly the football stadium. It’s part of the image of a program that has the potential to become a small-class winner on a consistent basis.
“The community is wanting it, and the kids have been working hard to achieve it. I think its something that is certainly attainable.”, he said. “I feel like we’ve turned the corner and this could be a break out year. And the thing about this area is that once it happens, and once we start getting some wins and getting back to the playoffs and just having that success, I think it’ll be like the dam breaking and the floodgates opening up.
“There is a different attitude around the program right now. We’ve had to overcome a lot of adversity the last few years, but the kids have bought in and worked hard. I think you’re going to see it on the field this year.”
Social Circle Schedule:
8/24: at Stone Mountain, 7:30 p.m.
8/31: Cross Keys, 5:15 p.m.
9/14: vs. Banks County, 7:30 p.m.
9/21 vs. Elbert County, 7:30 p.m.
9/28 at Oglethorpe County, 7:30 p.m.
10/5 at Clarkston, 7:30 p.m.
10/12 at Putnam County, 7:30 p.m.
10/19 vs. Rabun County, 7:30 p.m.
10/26 vs Union County, 7:30 p.m.
11/2 vs. Monticell0, 7:30 p.m.
“The Battle for Highway Eleven”
While the Social Circle Redskins do not fall under the Newton County Schools brand of rivalries, we would be remised if we did not discuss their rivalry with their region 2-AA opponent, the Monticello Hurricanes.
Social Circle head coach Chad Estes explained why the “Battle for Highway 11” has become such an intense rivalry.
“[We are] two small-town communities who love football. It’s a great atmosphere when we go down there and certainly when they come up here. We have both remained small so we have a long tradition of playing each other.”
Senior Tate Peters, who has experienced the rivalry since his freshman year, is eager for round four with the Hurricanes. “We play them every year and we know all of them,” he said. “I want to beat them but we’ve struggled with that the last few years.”
Perhaps one of the most memorable moments in this series is an excerpt from last years chapter. The two teams faced off in a thrilling Friday night show down that was decided at the goal line. After a heroic drive at the end of the game, the Redskins lined up from the two-yard line with twenty-nine seconds to go. Quarterback Jackson Will lunged forward on a quarterback sneak, but before he could reach the ball across the plane, it was poked out by a Monticello defender, who recovered, sealing the win for Canes.
While this moment was bitter for the Redskins and their fans, it encapsulates just how competitive these two teams are. “It’s a good, clean, traditional rivalry,” coach Estes remarked. “I don’t think there is any bad blood but the two communities certainly love to compete.”
Last year’s ending certainly has left a bitter taste in the Redskins’ mouths, but coach Estes reminded us that it is in the past and has no implications on future matchups. He is excited for this year’s matchup because they will play it at home in their sterling new facilities, which are perhaps the nicest in the area.
Beyond the rivalry aspect of it, the Social Circle vs. Monticello matchup is important in their shared region. Last year, Monticello squeaked into the playoffs, thanks in part to their last-minute win over the Redskins. A big step on the path to the playoffs for Social Circle will be a victory against the Canes.
Social Circle linebacker Chad Branch does not shy away from the idea of a rivalry. “It’s fun to beat people you’ve known your whole life,” he smiled. “Then you get to talk junk to them after you beat them.”
This year’s chapter of the Battle for Highway Eleven will cap off the Redskins’ regular season on November 2.