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Miller, Shaw not enjoying rare time off

POSTED: November 24, 2010 2:58 p.m.
Scott Rogers/The Times

Gainesville High's coach Bruce Miller walks the sideline during the Red Elephants' loss to Cedar Grove last week at City Park.

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What to do, what to do?

For the past two years, the answer to that question was easy for both Bruce Miller and Lee Shaw. But this year, since both Gainesville and Flowery Branch have been eliminated from the football state playoffs, both coaches are spending Thanksgiving scratching their heads and not planning for their upcoming opponent.

“It’s been different this week,” said Shaw, whose Falcons lost to Kell last Friday during the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs. “I’ve been like a spinning top trying to find things to do.”

The same can be said for Miller, whose Red Elephants were knocked out of the Class AAA playoffs by Cedar Grove last Friday at City Park.

“I don’t want to be off,” said Miller, who at this time last year was a few weeks away from playing for a state title. “One of the heights of football season is saying you’re practicing on Thanksgiving. I’ve really missed it.”

Since 2008, both Flowery Branch and Gainesville have enjoyed deep playoff runs, with the Falcons reaching the Class AAA finals in 2008 and the semifinals in 2009, and Gainesville reaching the quarterfinals in 2008 and finals last year.

With pregame planning not in the picture, both Miller and Shaw will be able to spend today focusing on what’s really important.

“You hate to say this, but without football around, your family gets all the attention,” said Miller, who will spend today with his wife Donna, his in-laws and his grandchild in Cartersville. Shaw said football has never really interfered with enjoying Thanksgiving, but he’ll know something is missing as he spends the day with his wife Dawn.

“Thanksgiving is always a time for blessing,” Shaw said. “I’ll miss the fact that we’re not out there, but it’ll be nice to be at home with the family and I’m looking forward to Jaybo’s and Connor’s games on Saturday.”

Following the holiday, Shaw will make the short drive to Clemson to watch Connor’s South Carolina team take on the Tigers, while his wife journeys to Statesboro to watch Jaybo and the Georgia Southern Eagles take on South Carolina State in the first round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

Shaw’s sons involvement in football prevents them from being home for Thanksgiving and gives the Falcons coach more time to think about why he’s not out on the field.

“Every coach and kid wants to make it to Thanksgiving,” Shaw said. “I’m disappointed with the loss knowing we had our chance to win it.

“But I’m pleased with the accomplishments of this team, especially the senior class” he added. “They took on the mantra of upholding tradition, and they did that.”

Miller has also been reflecting on this past season, specifically the loss to Cedar Grove.

“We had a lot of opportunities and a couple times there were penalties that really cost us,” Miller said. “It was nobody’s fault, just circumstances of the game.

“We needed to play an A-plus game and we probably played a B-plus game,” he added. “But we entered the season with a lot of questions, and these guys took those unknowns and made them for sures.”

Amidst all the reflection, both coaches are also planning for the future. Each have several holes to fill on their respective rosters with Flowery Branch losing key players like quarterback Austin Brown, kicker Will Monday, offensive lineman Brandon Keller and defensive back Kyle Famiano, and Gainesville losing several integral pieces on defense, none as important as linebacker A.J. Johnson and defensive tackle Thomas Niles.

“I don’t think you can replace guys like A.J. and Niles,” said Miller, who will coach the pair one last time during the North-South All-Star Classic on Dec. 29 in Columbus.

Also on that team is Monday, whose booming kicks will be missed next year at Flowery Branch.

“I enjoy the challenge of putting the puzzle back together,” Shaw said. “When my mind’s still fresh it lets me focus on changes and the things we need to tweak.

“We know what it takes to get to the next level in AAAA.”


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