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Class in session: Trojan coaches get first glimpse
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One of Bob Christmas' most important classes takes place on Sunday in the North Hall football fieldhouse.

That is true this week more than ever as the Trojans' football coach and eight assistant coaches have their weekly film study to prepare for the Class AAA state semifinal game against Cairo at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Georgia Dome.

Sunday's film study is a thorough evaluation of the other opponent. The environment functions like a classroom setting. Christmas acts as both coach and pupil along with the entire coaching staff as students in his class.

In this class, there are no clear cut right and wrong answers for preparations. And grades aren't given out on the spot.

Game preparation by Christmas and his coaching staff will be graded in front of thousands of fans and a television audience across the state as the Trojans (13-0) fight and claw to earn a spot in the state title game.

Sunday, all nine coaches arrived at the field house early in the afternoon to meet as a group. Christmas had just returned from Atlanta with five game tapes of Cairo, following a meeting of all 20 semifinal qualifiers at the Dome where each exchanged game film with the opponent.

Once assembled in the coaches meeting room, he addresses all the changes in the team's practice schedule for such a unique week. Then North Hall's head coach gave some motivating words to his assistants to begin a long day of watching tape of the Syrupmakers.

Having seen one game film the previous day, he made his first observations to the group about Cairo. "We have a legitimate shot to win this game," Christmas told his coaching staff. "We have as good of a chance to win as they do."

Once class begins, the students divide up into two rooms. Christmas and the offensive coaching staff watch film of Cairo's defense in the coaches meeting room. The defensive coaches watch film of the Syrupmakers offense in the team meeting room.

The purpose of film study is basically two-fold: to assess what the other team's tendencies are and to try to find some weaknesses of the opponent.

At this point in the season, film is one of the only ways to learn about a team without any common opponents during the season. Finding weaknesses in Cairo, a four-time Dome qualifier, takes a little bit more acute diagnoses than some regular season opponents. The Trojans coaches try to get a feel for each of Cairo's starters. It's clear by looking at the film that Cairo is not as big as previous playoff opponents Sandy Creek and Perry.

Film study must be accurately diagnosed to give the players an accurate assessment of what to prepare to see once the game begins. Once the lights go out and the tapes start rolling in the film room, coaches begin speaking a different language. Football verbiage is a world away from conversational talk.

You have the "Y fold", "stud up", "west red", "blast block", "jet sweep", and "gut strong". And don't forget about the "three blast slot side", "slide weak", "five technique", "eight play", "seven play" and the "pro right west", just to name some of the terminology.

In the offensive meeting room, Christmas and offensive line coach Kerry Kidd go back-and-forth using the remote control to fast forward and rewind to see a play as many times as deemed necessary. And every so often, a coach will chime in with a comment to keep the mood loose.

"Man, this kid gets hit six ways to Sunday," receivers coach Dave Bishop said. "Wham."

"It's a nice thing they don't have any 6-6 receivers, just short, fast kids but they can run," Bishop said later in the study.

In the defensive meeting room, coaches are still chopping up game film. Defensive coaches at North Hall usually start breaking down the other team's offense on Saturday, but had to wait an extra day this week to do so.

The next step is to show the players the game film on Monday. After that, its time to install the game plan. Finally, every armchair quarterback that cares to chime in gets to give the coaching preparation a grade once the game is finished on Saturday.

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