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Trying Time For Coaches

“I think this is the most trying time in the history of coaching high school football.”
That’s what Jeff Davis High Head Coach Lance Helton said of the preparation for the start of the 2020 football season, scheduled for Sept. 4 as the Yellow Jackets travel to Lincolnton to face the Lincoln County Red Devils.
“COVID is the biggest opponent we’re all facing right now,” Helton said. “With the cleaning, social distancing, taking care of each kid, each kid’s family, the coaches and their families, even what I’m experiencing with my own family, it’s a trying time.”
“Our No. 1 concern we must have is safety,” he continued. “And how do you build team camaraderie, mental toughness ….. it’s rewarding but it’s trying at the same time.”
Helton said he has 76 players on this year’s roster, up from 62 last season.
“We’ve got the biggest freshman class we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Helton said, “which is an indicator we’re going in the right direction. But we also have the smallest senior class since I’ve been here with less than a dozen seniors.”
The scheduling of Lincoln County as the season’s opening opponent was a last minute decision. The Jackets were originally scheduled to play Rutledge High School of Bibb County. But the Bibb County School System postponed the start of all fall athletics igniting a chain reaction of searches for new matches for Sept. 4.
“Playing in Larry Campbell Stadium is going be a feat in itself,” said Helton of the Red Devils home field named for its former legendary head coach. “It’s one of the toughest venues you can play in.”
While Lincoln County is a Class A team, it’s football history is the stuff of legends. The football program has the third most victories in Georgia history regardless of classification, behind only Valdosta High School and LaGrange High School.
Helton has long believed that any program that desires to be successful in post-season play, has to be able to win on the road, and a win in Larry Campbell Stadium would be substantial.
“I guarantee you, if we go up there and win, there won’t be a team in the state talked about more than us,” Helton added. “Our focus right now is to prepare our kids and give them a chance to win that game.
Since the departure of Campbell, whose last year as Red Devil Head Coach was 2013, Lincoln has fallen on some lean years — by Lincoln County standards. Last year they were 9-3, losing in the second round of the playoffs to Marion County, a team that went all the way to the Class A finals before falling to champion Irwin County.
In the first season after Campbell retired, the Red Devils were 7-4, then improved the following season to 9-2. But from there, the records dropped to 7-4-1, 7-5 and 4-6 before last year’s 9-3 season.
The school is looking to restore its old glory with the hiring this year of former Vidalia Head Coach Lee Chomskis who led the Indians to a 101-45 record over 13 season, with 10 playoff appearances — eight in a row from, 2012-2019. In 2005 and 2006, Chomskis served as an assistant coach for Campbell at Lincoln County, as the Red Devils won back-to-back state championships.
Yellow Jackets fans can get a preview look at the 2020 team this Thursday with a 6 p.m. intrasquad scrimmage at the stadium.

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