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SOCIAL CIRCLE: Youth movement in full effect for 2019 Redskins
Social Circle Football
Eric Taylor is one of a pair of options Social Circle coach Chad Estes will look to employ at quarterback for the 2019 season. -photo by Sydney Chacon

SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. — When you’re at the helm of a football program that hasn’t seen a winning season since 2006 or a playoff berth since 2009, some may consider it a tough sell to get guys motivated to keep playing hard. 

Not so much for Chad Estes. 

The Social Circle football coach has been around for five of those 12 consecutive losing seasons. But now entering his sixth season leading the Redskins, the veteran coach isn’t changing his tune when it comes to motivating his troops. 

“It’s optimism,” Estes said. “It’s positivity. Things may change, but we’re going to be positive around here, just like I’ve been in every other place I’ve coached. We’re going to get those guys to work hard, and as long as our kids are doing the best we can do, that’s all I can ask, and we let the chips fall where they may.” 

Last year’s chips almost landed on the school’s first postseason appearance since Troy Morris was pacing the sidelines, leading Social Circle to Class A state playoff appearances from 2007 through 2009. That three-year run was tagged onto a run of six straight postseason showings under coach Ken Stoudenmire. 

Call it the glory days of Social Circle football. 

Since Morris left after the 2009 season, though, the ‘Skins have only had two campaigns where they’ve won at least four games — 2015 and 2018, both under Estes. Last year, Social Circle got off to a 4-2 start, only to lose its last four ball games, all in region play. 

Then in 2017, Estes’ bunch just missed the playoffs, losing 7-0 to Putnam County in a Region 8-AA mini-game that determined the region’s final playoff spot. 

It’s been those kind of close calls that Estes says has sort of highlighted his tenure at the school. 

“To be honest, I don’t think we’ve gotten many breaks since I’ve been here,” Estes said. “We’ve lost some tough ball games. I think competitively we’ve certainly raised the bar. We’re just looking for that breakthrough year. It’s coming. Whether or not that comes through this young ball team we’ve got now, who’s to say.” 

About that young ball team:

Estes will be the first to tell you that he definitely lost some studs to graduation this past spring. Think quarterback Tate Peters and wide receiver Davis Smith. Along with the loss of a few other seniors such as Ken Sheats who anchored the offensive and defensive lines, Estes finds himself operating his program in a mode that most coaches don’t like to talk about. 

“Definitely, I don’t like to use the term ‘rebuild,’” he said. “I’d rather reload. But I think at a small school, sometimes you’ll go through some ups and downs with numbers. That said, we’ve got a great young class. We’ve got a lot of freshman that are gonna be playing on Friday night. I’ll tell you, that’s not what we want. But they’re gonna be some really good players, and when they’re seniors, it’s gonna be a pretty special senior class.” 

That’s not to say Estes has no confidence in their current abilities. 

“If we didn’t think they could get the job done, they wouldn’t be playing on Friday nights for us now,” he said. “They’re good kids. Very coachable.” 

Estes does have some upperclassmen assistance available, though. Blake Barfield is an impressive senior who Estes said will lineup as an outside linebacker and an H-Back. Hunter Muse also returns as a top rusher from last year. Estes also mentioned Blake’s cousin Colt Barfield as a potentially impactful two-way player, as well as inside linebacker Ethan Ryan. 

He also mentioned junior Eric Taylor and Logan Cross as the guys most likely to fill in Peters’ spot behind center. Estes called Taylor more of a dual threat guy, while Cross is “strictly a quarterback who can flat out throw it.” He said he’s not opposed to employing a two-quarterback system. 

“I’m excited about what both those young men bring to our team,” he said. “Defenses are going to have to prepare for both thunder and lightening. Throwing and running. They’ll have to decide which 11 they put on the field, because both of those quarterbacks will probably be on the field regardless.”

Despite the youth, Estes says he’s encouraged by the team’s numeric growth. 

“I’ve been at some of the biggest high schools in the state,” he said. “And it’s most definitely challenge in a small school. You’ve gotta get all kids to buy in, not just to football, but to wrestling, baseball, basketball. When you have a limited number of athletes, you have to get those guys to play multiple sports. I like the direction we’re heading in. Could it be better? Of course. But I think once we start winning a few more, I think that’s gonna happen.”

According to MaxPreps, Estes has close to 50 kids on his roster this year. The uptick in that number seems to be a carry over from what he called one of his most productive summers with “the biggest numbers we’ve had since I’ve been here.” 

He also noted the unique obstacles that come when you’re at a smaller school. 

“I’ve been at some of the biggest high schools in the state,” he said. “And it’s most definitely challenge in a small school. You’ve gotta get all kids to buy in, not just to football, but to wrestling, baseball, basketball. When you have a limited number of athletes, you have to get those guys to play multiple sports. I like the direction we’re heading in. Could it be better? Of course. But I think once we start winning a few more, I think that’s gonna happen.” 

One piece of progress that has Estes excited is the fact that he sports a full coaching staff for the first time in his tenure. Coaches Matt Fligg, Ben Reeves, Mike Piel, Brook Adams, Eddie Barrett and Caleb Reeves gives Estes three more sets of hands, feet and eyes to watch and tutor players. 

“They’re getting a lot more individual instruction now, and you can’t beat that,” he said. “It’s huge to have those guys with me on my staff. You can’t do it all by yourself.” 

The full coaching staff, increased numbers and talented freshman class are just more signs Estes says fans should point to to stay encouraged about the program’s current trajectory. 

“I still believe something really special is brewing down here, and once it gets going, it’s gonna explode,” Estes said. “Like I said, it’s coming. We’re gonna go out and practice and prepare to win every game. If we can get the kids to do what they can do, that’ll be all we can ask for.”