My journey home each day takes me past W. Clair Harris Stadium.
The excitement level surrounding the Winder-Barrow High School football program has been extremely high when you consider the program’s history of non-success in recent years.
What is the reason for all the optimism? There are several, but it all starts with new head coach Heath Webb, who has brought not only a new offensive scheme for the Bulldoggs, but a much needed injection of confidence, enthusiasm and desire.
While that may seem like an easy task on the surface, it’s not given the makeup of high school football and the level of support programs receive. When you have been on as long of a dryspell as the Bulldogg program has been, apathy has long since set in. It takes something — or someone — of a special nature to make things right again.
Webb’s energy has been extremely contagious. In all the years I’ve lived in Barrow County (quite a few now) there has never been this level of excitement for a program which has struggled so much since the departure of legendary coach Phil Jones prior to the 1997 season.
Even during the one 8-2 season in which WBHS made the playoffs in 2003, there was not this much excitement. Maybe it was because people were in such shock the program had success or maybe it was because even with the wins the Bulldoggs weren’t considered state championship material, but that season caused barely a whisper in the community.
It’s easy to be excited before the first game is played. However, the enthusiasm seen emerging from the Winder-Barrow High School football program goes beyond a new head coach and a new offensive scheme. That has happened before.
One WBHS graduate, and someone who remains extremely close to the program today, told me recently the tide is about to turn.
“I’m telling you, things are going to be different now,” he said. “It’s a new era for Winder-Barrow football and as a graduate of the school, I couldn’t be happier.”
Webb has been going 1,000 miles per hour of late as the start of the season approaches. He’s assembled a top level coaching staff which includes several assistants who have directed their own programs.
He’s hired assistants who have worked in successful programs. Webb has said he believes his coaching staff stacks up to any in the strong 8-AAAAA.
In talking with some of the Bulldogg players recently, each one spoke of the family atmosphere that has been formed.
Not one focused on the past. Each one looks to the future, both the 2014 season and beyond.
“We stress being a family,” Webb said when I told him of the players’ comments. “You always work hard and do the right things for your family. That’s how it is going to be with our football family.”
The right buttons are being pushed and the right pieces are in place from the school administration to the head coach to the assistants to the work habits of the players.
It’s going to be an interesting season this fall. For us at the paper, it’s going to be interesting - and I think fun - to chronicle.
Chris Bridges is sports editor of the Barrow Journal. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.