COVINGTON, Ga. — It’s been seven seasons since the Piedmont Academy Cougars tasted a state championship.
In fact, their two state titles in football came back-to-back in 2010 and 2011. Since then, the Cougars have settled for a smattering of region crowns, but head coach Will Johnson is looking to bring the culture of ring chasing back to Monticello.
“We’re trying to get the culture back to what it was before,” he said. “With our tradition at Piedmont, we’ve had two state titles and 15 region titles, so it’s about trying to get this program back to what it was.”
Following back-to-back seasons of 1-10 and 3-7-1, this summer’s workouts have been about coming together to establish that once pride-filled program culture that the Cougars boasted.
“We’ve just been getting everybody all in,” Johnson said. “I’m a big Clemson and Dabo Sweeney fan, and we’ve kind of stolen his motto of ‘All In.’ We’ve had summers in my two years here where we’ve only had maybe 15 guys show up, and they’re off and on and not there every day, and this year we’ve had 25, 30 every day coming to put work in, so that’s what’s hopefully changing the process around."
With a changing culture comes a change in team identity, and Johnson noted that the excitement around the Cougars’ football program is brewing once again.
“The guys are a lot more bought in to the new coaching staff,” he said. “They believe. They’re believing in what we’re doing, and they’re liking what we’re doing. We’ve grown, too. We were a really young team last year, and only lost three seniors, so now it’s about building and getting the outside excitement back in the program, too.”
After occupying a spot in the Class AA GISA classification since 1998, the team has moved back down to Class A, and Johnson noted one of their biggest rivals is now in their region, making their game even bigger in stakes.
“I would say Flint River Academy is one of our bigger rivals,” he said. “It’s turned into a rival over the past two years. With us moving down to the single A class, they’re the defending single A state champs, so that’ll be a fun one for sure.”
Other than establishing that winning culture once again, Johnson has his sights on other goals that he feels the team could easily achieve if they stick to the idea of being “All In.”
“I would just say we need to find a team brotherhood because when you come together, you’re going to win a lot of ball games and be successful,” he said. “If you have a lot of division, you’re not going to be successful, so I just think it’s going to be a week to week grind and hopefully we will be able to get it done.”