Creekview’s Al Morrell relishes the fact, that for the first time, his team will play a regular-season game against a county team that’s not Sequoyah. The Grizzlies, who went 5-5 last year, will travel to Cherokee on Thursday, followed by a home game with River Ridge.
“I am excited to finally be able to play some county teams,” said Morrell said, who is entering his seventh year as the Grizzlies’ coach. “Along with Sequoyah, we picked up River Ridge and Cherokee. That’s three county teams on our schedule for the first time ever. Playing other county teams so early, were going to have a great atmosphere to start the season.”
For first-year Etowah coach Dave Svehla, the challenge comes from being new to not only the school, but the state. Svehla came to Etowah after two years at El Paso-Gridley High School in El Paso, Ill., and 11 years as a coach in Nebraska before that.
“There are a lot of unknowns on my part,” said Svehla, who inherited the county’s only playoff team from the 2011 season. “I’m just excited to take the group of kids that I’ve been getting to know since February onto the field and into battle.”
Etowah finished last season 6-5, losing to West Forsyth in the first round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs.
Though Svehla is facing an entirely new set of surroundings, the change in location hasn’t fazed him.
“Football is football, no matter where you go,” he said.
Svehla is joined by Josh Shaw — previously the top assistant to former Etowah coach Bill Stewart — as the new head coaches in town.
Shaw, who took over a Cherokee team that was 1-9 a year ago, is excited to finally be able to see the game as a head coach, rather than as an assistant.
“It’s going to be a whole new perspective to me,” Shaw said of his new position. “I get to enjoy working with the entire team. But now, for the first time, the wins and losses go on my record.”
With Svehla new to the state, and Shaw new to his position, River Ridge coach Robert Braucht should feel right at home, since his team will be new to playing a region schedule.
The Knights’ first senior class will get its first chance to compete for a playoff spot, as a member of the new Region 7AAAA.
“We’re just excited that we now have something more to play for,” said Braucht, who has coached at River Ridge since the program started with a junior varsity schedule in 2009. “Before this year, we weren’t really competing for anything. Now, we finally get to play in an official region, which means we can try for state.”
Braucht, who led River Ridge to a county-best 8-2 record in 2011, echoed the thoughts of many of the county coaches when he said that his players were dying to get onto the field.
For Sequoyah coach James Teter, the coming season will give him a chance to see how much the Chiefs’ youth from last year grew from their experience of having to cope with a 3-7 record.
“Last year, we started seven sophomores,” Teter said. “It was a risk. I hope to see it pay off this year when those kids take the field.”
While each coach had a different reason as to why they were excited to get the season under way, they could all agree on one thing. No one has a clue who the best team in the county will be, but one thing is for certain — they all hope their team is the one on top.