High school football programs from DeKalb County have won several significant honors in recent years, ranging from state championships to milestone NFL Draft accomplishments.
However, several coaches from the county spoke during DeKalb County School District’s 2023 Media Day about how they want to rise to the standard recently set by Cedar Grove and Marist high schools.
Cedar Grove or Marist has played for or won a state championship every season since 2018. Other than those two teams, the most recent DeKalb high school to win a football state title was Tucker in 2011.
“I’m hoping that everyone in this room can take DeKalb County a little further in the playoffs … past the first or second round,” said Decatur head coach William Felton. “Let’s have a good representation and let people know we play real football in DeKalb.”
The 2023 offseason featured another period of high coaching turnover in DeKalb — as seven teams will feature a new head coach. Of DeKalb’s 22 coaches, seven are also alumni of schools in DeKalb.
“I just want to continue to give these athletes as much as I can,” said Redan head coach Damien Wimes. “I think it has to be like that, we have to show that to the kids. We have to teach these kids how to play the right way. Coaches who went to school [in DeKalb] have a vested interest in the school and the community, and they want to see the kids succeed.”
Wimes was one of the coaches on the move, going from Southwest DeKalb High School—his alma mater—to Redan, marking his third DeKalb County coaching stop. Clarkston (Jimmy Williams from Cross Keys), Cross Keys (Eric Quarles), ML King (Joel Kight promoted from defensive coordination), Southwest DeKalb (Marion Bell), Stone Mountain (Greg Carter from Stone Mountain Middle School), and Towers (Henry Garret from Bethune Middle School) round out DeKalb’s schools with new coaches.
Even with the coaching turnover, several DeKalb coaches said more postseason success is attainable for local teams. Especially after some teams were forced to use the 2022 season as an adjustment period. Dekalb saw several teams move up classifications in 2022, with teams such as Marist moving up two classifications.
Marist still won 10 games, including a playoff game in 2022, but head coach Alan Chadwick said he’s more prepared for what his team will see this season.
“Our challenge is 6A and the number of good quality teams in 6A. The top 10 or 12 teams in 6A aren’t just good football teams, they’ve been great football programs for years,” said Chadwick. “It’ll be the same level of play this year, but we’ve played these teams now and know a little bit more about what they’ll do.”
Despite the positive attributes heading into the 2023 season, DeKalb’s 2022 season ending wasn’t as bright.
Cedar Grove fell in the final seconds of the 2022 state championship – at least partially due to a bad call from the officials. The Cedar Grove Saints have reloaded and return their quarterback and running back, among other key athletes, from last season’s run. Head coach John Adams said last season is in the past and that the Saints are ready for another grueling schedule.
“We just came from a half-padded camp, and I was asked that a few times a day. I know everyone is thinking about it, but we moved past that. This year, we won’t want to leave anything in the refs’ hands,” said Adams. “We have really good ball players, but we have that every year. It’s about getting better each and every day and staying healthy.”
The 2023 season will also feature a few marquee matchups for local teams. Cedar Grove will lead the way with another regional schedule, including games against powerhouse such as Carver Montgomery (Alabama) and Monarch (Florida), in addition to Westlake, Collins Hill, Colquitt County, and other top teams from Georgia.
“Through the game of football, we’ve been blessed with some opportunities that the normal high schooler might not have,” added Adams – whose team will travel to Florida this season after traveling to Washington D.C. in 2022.
St. Pius X Catholic will also begin the season on a tough note, hosting Flowery Branch and traveling to Parkview on Aug. 25 and Sept. 15.
Teams will begin preseason play on Aug. 4. For the full county schedule, visit www.dekalbschoolsga.org/athletics/football or individual team websites.
More football preview articles will be published in the coming weeks online and in The Champion Newspaper.