If there was one word to describe the 2019 East Metro Atlanta Football Media Day, it would be groundbreaking.
But groundbreaking this year because organizers helped improve on what was already an impressive, first-of-its-kind event for teams and media members in Newton, Rockdale and Walton Counties.
This year’s event featured all the Georgia High School Association schools in Newton and Walton Counties, including Alcovy, Eastside and Newton and Peachtree and Piedmont Academies of Newton County — the latter being schools that compete in private school organizations.
This year’s format was more streamlined than the inaugural event in 2018, with coaches being quicker in their on-stage remarks before heading out to the atrium of Covington’s Porter Performing Arts Center for one-on-one interviews with media members. But much like last year, coaches were appreciative to see an event like this happen in the area.
They all preached at how events like this are what the athletes deserve.
“You see the teams in places like Gwinnett come together for things like this to showcase their talent, and I think here in this area of the metro, you’ve got a lot of talent that doesn’t get the chance to get showcased like in other places,” said Piedmont Academy head coach Will Johnson. “So that really makes this special.
For Covington News sports editor Gabriel Stovall, such talk is music to his ears and confirmation that he and Brett Fowler, sports editor of The Walton Tribune — The News’ sister paper — were on target in working together to birth this event.
“It’s just a tremendous thing to see this come together, from an idea we conceived around this time two summers ago to full fruition in the form of schools from three counties agreeing with the idea that the East Metro area needs shine,” Stovall said. “It couldn’t have happened without the full support of publishers (The News’ Jackie Gutknecht and The Tribune’s David Clemons) and owner of both the Covington News and Walton Tribune newspapers (Patrick Graham), and it definitely couldn’t have happened without the support of the athletes, coaches, athletic directors parents and fans.
“We’re excited, and already looking forward to continuing this for years to come.”
Fowler, Stovall’s Walton Tribune colleague, echoed the same sentiments.
“I’m extremely pleased with how this has turned out, both this year and last year,” Fowler said. “We had a great turnout, and you could tell the coaches and players were excited to be there. We got a lot of great feedback last year on what we could do better, and talking to coaches today they could tell we listened and implemented those suggestions.
“I think things ran a lot smoother this year than they did last year, which is impressive considering how great the inaugural event was last year.”
As each coach took the stage accompanied by several of their players, they gave a quick run down of what they expected to accomplish heading into this season. Some teams are in a rebuilding mode, while others are primed for more record shattering season.
In Newton, two of the county’s three GHSA football playing schools are sporting new coaches. Longtime Newton Rams assistant Camiel Grant, Jr. ascended the ranks of Newton head coach in January after Terrence Banks departed following a six-year tenure. Meanwhile, Alcovy found Jason Dukes — a former Georgia Tech and Jacksonville Jaguars offensive lineman — to replace Chris Edgar after Edgar’s three-year run at the program’s helm.
Dukes called the event a great way to signify that football season is just about near.
“It’s like a kickoff for the season,” he said. “We’re just grateful to be among the other coaches and players and teams in the area, and we’re excited for an opportunity to bring renewed life and a change of culture to Alcovy football.”
The history in the building was present as well. Take for instance, Social Circle coach Chad Estes. Though in his sixth year at Social Circle, Estes has been around the three-county area for more than 25 years, including four-year head coaching stop at Rockdale County’s Salem High right before coming over to lead the Redskins’ program.
Several other coaches have played against each other numerous times in various settings, and some will play each other for the first time this season. When Thursday’s media day dust settled and the remaining players lined up for a group picture, the excitement in the room for the upcoming season could be tangibly felt.
And with the GHSA’s first allowable day in full pads coming Thursday, the area’s second annual media day naturally moved everyone one step closer to finally seeing the players and coaches hit the field.