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Commerce coach beginning final postseason run

Savage leads Tigers into 14th straight appearance in state playoffs

POSTED: November 11, 2010 1:02 a.m.

COMMERCE — For the past 33 years there have been two constants at Commerce High: a winning football program and coach Steve Savage.

After leading the 1972 team to the state semifinals as the captain and quarterback during his senior season, Savage returned five years later as an assistant coach under Ray Lamb.

When Lamb left the program in 1988, Savage took over as head coach and led the Tigers to one state championship, three appearances in the state semifinals, four trips to the quarterfinals and four trips to the second round.

And after defeating Social Circle last Friday, Savage has led the Tigers to 14 straight appearances in the state playoffs.

That journey has now come full circle. The coach plans to retire at the end of the season; an end which could come as soon as Friday night as the Tigers travel to Bremen to play in the first round of the Class A state playoffs.

Should Commerce lose the game, Savage isn’t sure how he will react to no longer being the coach of the Tigers.

“I don’t know. In a couple of weeks, maybe next week, I could tell you,” Savage said with a laugh. “It’s all I’ve ever done. It’s the only job I’ve ever had.”

Even without knowing how he will feel once his tenure is over, Savage holds no doubts that this is the right point for him to retire.

“People always say ‘you’ll know when it’s time,’” Savage said. “And for me, it’s time.”

One other constant at Commerce as been coach Rex Gregg, who has coached with Savage at Commerce for the last 31 years.

The fullbacks, quarterbacks and wideouts coach said that he and Savage are “like brothers” after working together for so long.

“I retired from Commerce four years ago, but Steve told me that if I wasn’t going to leave the city of Commerce, I was going to help him coach football,” Gregg said. “And like you learn real quick around here, the boss is the one you listen to, and he’s the boss.”

Gregg said he’ll be sad to see Savage leave the program but that his time spent coaching under him as been an important part of his life.

“Steve’s just been a joy to be around,” Gregg said.

Another reason Savage has decided this is the year for him to retire is the upcoming graduation of his son Jessie Savage.

Jessie has played for his father since he was a freshman and said that, knowing it could be his dad’s final game as the coach, there is some added pressure going into Friday night.

“I don’t want it to be his last game because I don’t know what else he’ll do,” Jessie said. “And I don’t want to be selfish about it, but I’m also thinking about it possibly being my last game and I don’t want that to happen.”

Jessie Savage led the Tigers to the 49-21 win over Social Circle last week, racking up 140 yards on 20 carries and scoring one touchdown.

Commerce runs the triple-option offense, which makes the relationship between Jessie and quarterback Cody Streetman the key to making the offense click.

“We trust each other,” Streetman said. “I’m real comfortable if I have to pitch Jessie the ball because I know he’ll get yards.”

“He’s the only quarterback I’ve ever played with on offense,” Jessie said of Streetman.

Streetman, a junior, doesn’t believe that Friday is going to be the last game for Coach Savage.

“I think that we’ve got a good chance, I don’t think this is going to be our last game,” Streetman said. “I feel pretty confident that we’re going to come through and get another game next week for coach.”

Bremen (9-1 No. 2 Region 6-A) runs much the same type of offense that Commerce does and Steve Savage believes the game will come down to who makes the fewest mistakes.

“It’s not going to be any secrets on either side of the ball,” the coach said. “They’re going to do what they’re going to do and we’re going to do what we’re going to do. They’re an option team and they’re going to run it and we’re going to run it.

“It’ll come down to turnovers.”

Commerce is 5-5 on the season, but that record could be deceiving. The Tigers have lost three games by less than seven points, including three-point losses to Class AA’s Jefferson and Class AAA’s Franklin County.

“And we lost to Athens Academy in the last two minutes,” Steve said. “We lost to George Walton 21-0, but it was a heck of a lot closer game than that. They didn’t manhandle us or anything.”

The coach added that his team is a “pretty good .500 football team” and that they’ve “played good all year.”

“We’ve been in games, just haven’t won ‘em,” he said.

Commerce will play Bremen at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Bremen Athletic Field in Bremen.

 



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