Recently I’ve started watching the show Friday Night Lights again. Let me just say- this is partially important because I’m not a big TV show person. I don’t have the patience to sit through an hour-long episode nor do I usually have the time to keep up with a series. But I figure with pre-season football kicking in and the fall season quickly approaching, revisiting a show that revolves around high school football is one of the best ways to get me hyped up for what’s to come.
Watching this series has also made me think about a couple of things. For one, why do we as a society rally so much around a sport that’s played by boys no older than 18-years-old? Second, do we put too much pressure on athletes who play the game? And finally, is the hype and the pressure truly worth it?
I think the answer can be summed up pretty easily- yes. And why? For love of the game.
But the love of the game is different for each of us. We’re not all going to attend every single football game or spend thousands of dollars to sit in Sanford every Saturday. We all have our limits, and in my opinion that’s perfectly okay.
I like to say that there’s something about having a team that you love that will get inside of you and never leave. I find it fascinating that there are towns across America like Dillon, Texas that will show up in the thousands to support their Panthers. Coaches and players are local celebrities, and you get your butt in the stands every Friday night just as religiously as a pew on Sunday morning. I came from a high school of nearly 4,000 students and a county of almost one million people, but the same spirit that rallies much smaller towns across the country still pulses through mine.
Yes, oftentimes I’m afraid that means we put too much pressure on the athletes who play the game. In my own personal experience, at the high school level we had so many students that it was nearly impossible to know the daily goings-on at the field house. But it was that age-old cycle of that when we would win, the coaches and players would be praised. One loss and the attitude switched faster than the direction of a twister.
But one of the many great things about this country is we have the freedom of choice in many of our decisions. Even though the athletes and coaches who play these games catch a lot of grief, they still have the choice to walk away. Some do. But for those who don’t? I’d venture to say it’s for love of the game.
When it comes to putting pressure on athletes, especially young ones, I believe the relationship is a two-way street. They should know what they’re doing, but despite all the love we have for the game, we need to understand when enough is enough. I’ve heard the term “daddy ball” thrown around a lot before, and it makes me sad to think that there are parents out there who try to live through their children. It’s important to love and support them, but even more important to let them develop their own love for their game.
Finally, like I mentioned earlier, everyone’s love for the game is different. My Papa Skip, who I probably talk to the most about sports, has a different appreciation for them than I do. I’ll use UGA football as an example. He attended classes at UGA- I never have. He still goes every year to the UGA/Florida game in Jacksonville- I’ve only gone once. He pays each year to have season tickets for the home games- I CERTAINLY don’t do that, although when he doesn’t want them I get first dibs (thanks Papa!)
The point I’m trying to make is while we all may say we love sports, we each love them differently. We each have a certain line we’re willing to cross. But at the same time, come Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday or playoffs, we rally behind our team. And we each get our butts in the stands. Why? For love of the game.
Union County High School is losing a great athlete, but Army-West Point is welcoming him with open arms. Senior quarterback Cole Wright signed with Army last week in a ceremony held with friends, family, coaches and faculty. The four-year letterman threw for 1,938 yards last year, completing 136-of-247 passing attempts with 19 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions.
After signing his letter of intent, TeamFYNSports sat down with Wright to discuss his career at UC and his future as a D1 commit.
TeamFYNSports: What are some of your accomplishments?
“I have maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout high school and I was named 7-AAA Offensive POY in 2016 and 1st team All-Region in 2017. I was All-State honorable mention in 2016 and 2017. I reached 7000 total yards and 70+ TD’s in two years at QB
TeamFYNSports: How long have you played football?
“ I have played since I was five years old.”
TeamFYNSports: Who have you tried to model your game after?
“I have always loved Tom Brady and his winning mentality and competitiveness. Obviously I’m a different style QB, but I try to imitate his leadership ability and drive.”
TeamFYNSports: What’s your biggest highlight of playing football so far?
“Senior Night would definitely be the highlight of my career. After the game I looked across at my best friends who I’ve grown up playing football with and realized these guys were my brothers for life. It’s a great feeling knowing you’ve created bonds that could never be broken.”
TeamFYNSports: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced, and how has that made you the person you are today?
“My biggest problem was worrying about negativity from outside of my circle. There will always be people saying, “You’ll never make it” and to that I say we’ll see. Once I focused on the game I loved and blocked all of the negativity I started to play better. This helped me grow not only as a football player but a person as well.”
TeamFYNSports: What’s a typical day for you training wise?
“I’ve been on a new West Point workout schedule for the last month and it’s intense. I’m also running track for speed and stamina. I’m working on gaining some weight before I leave, so I’m consuming a large amount of calories per day.”
TeamFYNSports: How have you trained? What have you done differently that has separated you from other quarterbacks?
“I started Speed and Agility freshman year and didn’t miss a day in two years. Joe Mancuso and I would go and throw and I’d learn as much as I could from him. I’m a very coachable guy so I would take little tips and advice from every camp and then try to execute them when I got back home.”
TeamFYNSports: How big of a influence did your parents or coach have on you to continue your playing career at West Point versus any other school?
“My dad was probably my biggest influence. No one in my family has ever had this opportunity to attend an Academy. My dad and I are all about leadership and history; when we toured the campus we both fell in love with the place. West Point offers the combination of a high level education, a chance to play D1 football, and leadership training that can’t be matched at any other school.”
TeamFYNSports: What other schools have offered you?
“No other schools have offered. Kennesaw State, Furman, GA Tech, and Georgia Southern were interested but after I committed they went cold.”
TeamFYNSports: What are your plans once you get to college? What are you going to major in? What position(s) do you plan on playing?
“Once I get to West Point I will begin my tough journey to become the greatest version of myself. I know it will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life but I will stay mentality strong and prove the doubters wrong. I plan on majoring in aerospace engineering but I am not completely locked on that specific one. I am on the board as a Wide Receiver right now, but I will remain open for whatever position I am needed.”
TeamFYNSports would like to wish Wright the best of luck as he closes one chapter and opens another, with a bright future ahead of him.
By Isaiah Garrett, TeamFYNSports Reporter
On Tuesday, Dec 5, the Union County Panthers held their annual banquet and award ceremony. This event was hosted at Antioch Baptist Church in Blairsville, and it was the first time Antioch had ever hosted the banquet. Organized by the Union County Quarterback Club, the event proved to be another success thanks to the hard work and participation by everyone involved.
The night got kicked off as players and families were fed steak and spaghetti dinners.
Head coach Brian Allison followed up the meal by starting the awards ceremony and introducing all of the coaches on his staff. The awards, which are selected by the coaches, are each given to the hardest working player at that position (and to whom contributed the most on and off the field to the team). The receivers “caught” their awards first – no pun intended.
Outside receiver coach Paul McBride presented his award to Sawyer Drake. Drake had 38 receptions for a team-high 63 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Inside receiver coach James Avery selected senior Austin Pattee for his reward. Pattee led the team with 43 catches.
Quarterbacks and running backs coach (and offensive coordinator) Howard Mccombs was the next to present his award, and everyone in the room knew exactly where it was going. Senior quarterback Cole Wright had an outstanding season. Wright will continue his playing career at the United States Military Academy, also known as Army or West Point, where he plans to enroll next fall. Wright finished the year with 3,081 total yards of offensive and a combined 36 touchdowns.
To close the Offensive awards out, junior lineman Coleson Daniel was presented with the Offensive Line award, presented by coach Neil Setzer and Parker Daniel. Without the effort and consistent blocking up front, the offense would not have performed as well as it did this year. Coleson Daniel was a huge part of that effort.
Defensive Coordinator and defensive backs coach Robby Roxbury was first to kick off the defensive awards, and senior cornerback Sean Dobbins was presented with the defensive backs award. Dobbins finished the season with 50 total tackles.
Senior lineman Matthew Beise was awarded the defensive line award by coach Gabe Miller. Beise finished the season with 48 total tackles.
Inside linebackers coach Greg Chambers awarded senior RJ Banton, who led the team in total tackles with 108 tackles.
Outside Linebackers coach Wade Hodges awarded senior and 3-year varsity starter Cole Dockrey with the Iron Panther award. This award is given to the player who contributes on both sides of the ball, displays the highest work ethic on and off the field, and is a leader in more ways than one. Dockery finished the season with 50 total tackles, 372 yards of offense, and a touchdown.
It was a night of celebration as players, coaches and family members gathered to reflect on the performance by the Union County Panthers varsity football team one last time this year.
The Mountain Football League playoffs have finally reached their final destination for 2017: Super Bowl Saturday. This weekend, several of North Georgia’s finest young athletes will meet on the gridiron at Fannin County High School, battling to take home the league’s top honor of Super Bowl Champions.
Here are the results from last weekend’s final round of the playoffs:
6U: Fannin defeated Gilmer 22-0. Will play East Hall in the Super Bowl. East Hall defeated Chestatee 34-0.
7U: Fannin defeated Dawson 32-0. Will play Gilmer in Super Bowl. Gilmer defeated Pickens 46-0.
8U: Union defeated Fannin 20-0. Will play Chestatee in Super Bowl. Chestatee defeated Gilmer 25-19.
9U: Chestatee defeated West Hall 34-8. Will play Pickens in Super Bowl. Pickens defeated Dawson 26-0.
10U: Fannin defeated Gilmer 29-0. Will play Dawson in Super Bowl. Dawson defeated Union 12-0.
11U: Chestatee defeated Fannin 20-7. Will play Gilmer in Super Bowl. Gilmer defeated Dawson 7-6.
Follow us on Twitter @teamfynsports next weekend (or on Facebook) as we will have complete Super Bowl coverage from the sidelines on Saturday.
Updated Game Times:
6u Super Bowl
East Hall vs Fannin 10Am
7U Super Bowl
Fannin vs Gilmer 1145Am
8U Super Bowl
Union vs Chestatee 1:30pm
9U Super Bowl
Chestatee vs Pickens 3:15Pm
10U Super Bowl
Dawson vs Fannin 5pm
11U Super Bowl
Gilmer vs Chestatee 6:45 Pm
Saturday (Oct 15) marked the final week of regular season football for the Mountain Football League. The MFL consists of Chestatee, Dawson, East Hall, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union and West Hall; and age divisions begin with 6u (under 6-years-old) and go up to 7th-grade. Parents and coaches of youth athletes are encouraged to please send your photos, stats and game stories to Jason@fetchyournews.com so that we can highlight the youth players throughout the post-season!
This week’s #TeamFYNSports Sports Writer Player Of The Week is Running Back Chayton Schafer.
The Junior had an impressive game Friday against the Hayesville Yellow Jackets on the road. His name was called from the Press Box several times due to his ground-leveling tackles! He also returned a fumble for a TouchDown!! You can catch Mr. Schafer and the rest of the Panthers at home on September 8th, when they take on the Andrews Wildcats at 7:30PM!
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