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Setting up the Season: Hall County high school football coaches speak about building leaders at Rotary Club of Gainesville
Rotary Club
West Hall football coach Krofton Montgomery speaks at Monday's Rotary Club of Gainesville at First Baptist Church. Photo by Bill Murphy

High school football coaches from across Hall County gave individualized but congruent messages at Monday’s Rotary Club of Gainesville meeting about the importance of their profession in terms of developing future leaders. 

This gathering of business and community leaders at First Baptist Church’s banquet hall gave the majority of the time to 10 head football coaches in Hall County. 

While fans demand and coaches are judged on wins and losses, this meeting had a clear theme with coaches making a linear connection between lessons learned on the football field and becoming future leaders in their communities. 

Ultimately, the 2021 high school football season will be one without restrictions after last season was heavily hampered due to the nation’s COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We’re excited to seeing the kids get back to having fun after having them so far apart last season,” West Hall coach Krofton Montgomery said. 

Some were more lighthearted in the message. 

Lakeview Academy coach Lee Shaw talked about the expectations of guiding a program that lost 15 seniors off a program in 2020 that made the playoffs for the first time in school history. 

Although he’s retired, after long runs of success at Flowery Branch High and Rabun County High — guiding both to the state championship game — his passion for developing young men on the gridiron hasn’t waned.  

The second-year Lakeview Academy coach wants to build a program that makes meaningful rivalries in Hall County and can compete against the better Class-A private schools in the state.

One of Shaw’s final remarks drew the biggest chuckle from the group of about 100 in attendance.

“I’ve coached teams that went 0-10 and I’ve coached teams that went 14-1,” Shaw said. “And it’s a lot more fun to go 14-1.”

This week is meaningful with it being the first week of official practice, even though programs have been working diligently all summer in passing camps and conditioning.

Johnson coach William Harrell came straight from the practice field in Oakwood to the Rotary Meeting in Gainesville. 

He spoke honestly about the hurdles it takes to compete at a school with a largely Hispanic student population who have no background in football, but also pointed out the thrill of the challenge. 

Next week, players put on pads for the first time this summer. 

Opening day, for most in Hall County, is just 25 days away. 

Riverside Military coach Nick Garrett was possibly the most optimistic about the upcoming season, after not getting to play in 2020. 

“I saw 27 players last season go off to other high schools and play,” Garrett said. “So we’re literally starting from scratch.”

However, it comes with a silver lining for the Eagles, who moved up to the five-team Region 8-2A with Banks County, Rabun County, Elbert County and Union County.

Previously, Riverside Military was in one of the strongest Class A private-school regions in the state. 

“Playing in (Class) 2A is much safer for us,” Garrett said. “If we win one region game, that means we’re going to the playoffs.”

Regional events