COVINGTON, Ga. — Peachtree Academy will start this season as the reigning GICCA football champions after completing an undefeated 12-0 2018 season.
The private school may play a less traditional, 8-man brand of football, but, for the Panthers, the competition level does not suffer a drop-off, neither did the euphoria for finishing the season on top.
Last year’s championship run was an impressive one, filled with blowout wins and gridiron dominance. No doubt, the target on the Panthers’ backs will be larger. But this season, the Panthers will expect nothing less than defending their title and going back-to-back.
For that to happen, though, head coach Clint Miller will have to do his best at making sure the plethora of new players are all on one accord.
“Half our team is new to our roster; we’ve got seven new players,” Miller said. “So we're bringing back some good starters. What we're [also] trying to do is bring the new guys in and teach them our system. We teach them our culture, teach them what we're about. We got a lot of talent. We have to try to stay hungry, try to stay humble and teachable. We look good [early on]. I'm excited about what our future looks like.”
Miller wants to streamline the process of integrating new players into the Panthers’ tried-and-true system as much as possible. It’s a system that, offensively speaking, rolled up over 45 points per game while defensively surrendering a little more than a touchdown per contest.
“It's a lot of reps, so we try to practice quickly,” Miller said. “We try to do a lot of conditioning in our practice itself – [we] try not to waste a lot of time. We’re trying to teach our boys toughness and mental toughness as much as physical toughness. Pushing through when you're tired, pushing through when you hurt. And understanding how physical and how mentally tough you have to be to play football.”
Senior quarterback Marvin Peoples is coming into this season as a proven leader, but he noticed the fitness part of his game is where he wanted improvement. So he spent the summer tweaking it.
“I’ve been working, agility wise, getting my speed faster and [also working on my] footwork and making sure that my mindset is the right way,” Peoples said. “And then eating differently, trying to do more workouts, trying new things to maintain the same mindset as last year. But also be in better shape overall.”
Peoples says the change to his diet came from noticing the number of sodas and meat he was consuming.
He decided that water was better suited for the grueling amount of preparation it takes to get ready to play at a high level. Coach Miller has seen the improvement pay off for his dual-threat QB and is chomping at the bit to pair his potential with several other talented backs.
“Marvin is faster -- he was fast last year. He's faster this year,” Miller said. “I think he's bigger and stronger this year. And I think our boys are hungry. I think we have to realize that last year is over and that this year is a new year. I'm excited about the speed we got. We have four or five young men that are very, very fast. And then Marvin and Kaleb Brisbane are very big and powerful and fast. So I’m looking forward to it.”
Peoples and the team are taking notice of the local support from Covington and want to build on it for the school’s other programs.
“[The community support] has constantly been growing,” Peoples said. “We're trying to improve the school overall sports-wise and education-wise to be one of the best there is.”