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Hall County coaches largely pleased with GHSA's recent rule changes
West Hall's Lotti 'ecstatic' on prospect of spring football game in 2017
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East Hall's Tylor Brown (10) goes up for a shot while being guarded by Lumpkin County's Matthew Hayes (14) Tuesday at East Hall High School. - photo by Erin O. Smith

What you need to know from the GHSA's recent rule changes

Starting in 2017, schools may play a spring football game in place of their last (10th) spring practice.

The quarterfinal round of the state basketball tournament will return to the high school gyms of the highest seeded team.

All golf state tournaments will now be two-day, 36-hole events starting next school year.

Starting in 2017, slow-pitch softball will be reinstated as a varsity-only state championship sport to be played in the spring. Girls can play slow pitch and fast pitch for their schools.  

Area football coaches are largely pleased after the executive committee of the Georgia High School Association passed a proposal this week which allows high school football teams to play spring games against each other beginning in 2017.

Under the proposal, which passed unanimously, teams would be allowed to play a spring game in place of their last (10th) spring practice.

West Hall coach Tony Lotti said Thursday he was “ecstatic” about the move, saying it would be a welcome motivation for athletes who would otherwise be left without a true game atmosphere from January through July.

“It’s a long offseason,” said Lotti, who has positive memories of playing for Morrow High each spring against Robert E. Lee High (now Upson-Lee High). “It’s a good way to see what you have as a coach.”

Moreover, it will give a chance for new Spartans defensive coordinator Eric Bona to get an idea of what his new team has to offer. Bona recently joined Lotti’s staff from Central Gwinnett High after former defensive coordinator Jay Reid took a position at Hart County.

East Hall’s Bryan Gray agreed, saying that he was campaigning for the spring game. Gray said he hopes to put together plans to play a local school in order to drum up excitement for the fan bases.

“When you’ve got kids going into a 10th practice without a game in the spring, with finals coming up, all the distractions, kids for the most part aren’t giving you 100 percent effort,” said Gray. “But when you add this, it really builds the excitement. I’m much more excited, myself.”

Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said he had mixed emotions on the new move, saying he was fine with the prospect of facing other teams, but said that he could better evaluate his talent by playing split-squad games in a controlled environment.

The longtime Red Elephants coach said he believed that most coaches will either play against local talent or use the spring game as a way to practice against statewide talent.

“I don’t mind us going against each other in a divided-up spring game, especially if you’ve got a quarterback or some young players who haven’t played at the varsity level yet, it gives them a chance for more playing time.”

If schools choose to bypass spring practice, they can play two preseason games against other teams in August. Teams who choose to have a spring game in 2017 may also play one fall preseason game.

Other football proposals which passed included one which limited schools to attending no more than three team contact camps per summer (no more than eight days total), effective this summer.

Gray said he would prefer that teams be allowed to attend as many camps as they wanted, saying that he felt it decreased the chance of injury when players wear shoulder pads in practice, rather than wearing T-shirts and helmets.

“I’ve never seen a reason why more gear isn’t a better option,” said Gray.

The Vikings coach said he agreed with a passed proposal which limited preseason contact limits to “thud,” which allows players to make contact with each other, but not engage in any takedowns.

HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL QUARTERFINALS RETURN TO HIGH SCHOOL GYMS: The executive committee of the GHSA also unanimously passed a proposal to return the quarterfinals of each state basketball tournament to the high school gym of the highest seed, rather than play the games at a neutral-court college arena.

East Hall boys basketball coach Joe Dix said he would prefer that state tournament quarterfinals remain held on neutral courts. He felt that under the alternative, a No. 1 seed could be penalized by having to travel should two No. 1 seed teams meet in the quarterfinal.

Top-seeded Laney travelled from Augusta to play Dix’s top-seeded East Hall in the spring of 2015.

“It came down to a coin flip and Laney had to travel three hours to come to us,” said Dix. “I don’t think it was fair.”

The GHSA office recommended the change due to the expansion to seven classifications and eight state finals (16 overall with boys and girls finals) in order to ease the logistical problems.

STATE GOLF TOURNAMENTS TO BE TWO-DAY, 36-HOLE EVENTS: Gainesville boys golf coach Bryson Worley praised the executive committee’s decision to make all state golf tournaments two-day, 36-hole events.

Worley said it was “pretty embarrassing” for Georgia to have single-day, 18-hole tournaments, which he says is the case in only a few states across the nation.

“It’s the equivalent of giving a football team a half or playing just a one-game series in the state championship of baseball,” said Worley. “The more rounds, the better.”

Worley was also happy with the passed proposal which will allow coaches to coach their players during the play of any hole as long as there is now slowing of the pace of play.

“It lets us be golf coaches and not spectators between holes,” said Worley. “This is the biggest thing we’ve been able to do in a long time. I can’t believe they’ve both been passed. It brings us into the modern era.”

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