This is the 11th in a series of stories previewing football teams in the Bi-City area. Coming Wednesday: KendrickWhen Brad Dehem took over the head football coaching position at Brookstone School, he brought with him a new offense, a new defense and a fresh look at how to win games.
It wasn't that what former coach Blair Harrison had been doing wasn't working.
The Cougars had done fine during the past decade, contending for the region each year, winning eight-plus games and making trips to the playoffs.
It was a very good football program, and the expectations will remain the same.
"The coaching styles are a little different as far as how practices are run," said Madison McCluskey, who plays defensive back and tailback for the Cougars. "It's a lot different as far as that goes, but the goals are all the same. We want to win. We want to win the region, and we want to go deeper in the playoffs."
To do that, Dehem said, it has required the players to adjust quickly to new schemes on both sides of the ball, particularly on offense, where the team has switched from a wing-T to a more balanced pro-style set.
Dehem said it taxes his offensive line, which must learn new techniques and assignments, his wide receivers, who aren't used to running as many routes, and, especially, the quarterback.
The quarterback must learn new offense, Dehem said, and understand how to run it better than anyone else on the field. But the coach believes Brookstone has the right guy to do it.
Duncan Fletcher will return under center for the Cougars. At 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, the senior has the size and athleticism to handle the offense on the field, but Dehem has been most impressed with Fletcher's understanding of the game and his ability to lead his teammates into new territory.
"He's just done fantastic," Dehem said. "I've never had a quarterback pick up the offense as fast as he has the first time. I'm trying to find ways to challenge him, to motivate him to keep getting better as well. He's got good legs, and he really understands the game. He's just a smart player."
Fletcher credited his teammates and his new coach for how he's been able to adjust to the new offense.
"I feel like the whole team has really kind of adapted pretty fast, and that helps," he said. "It's not just me. And Coach has been real patient with me, helping me learn everything I need to learn, giving me extra time. Now, I feel like I'm really starting to get more comfortable with everything."
Dehem would like to see Fletcher progress to a point where he can check out of plays on the field, he said.
The Cougars also get plenty of leadership out of Fletcher and McCluskey, but Dehem said it would be a disservice to the rest of the senior class to limit it to those two.
The coach said that he expects a lot on offense out of senior wide receivers Tim Kennedy and Drew Lingo.
The two didn't do a lot of route running when the team utilized the wing-T, but Dehem and Fletcher spoke highly of their ability.
"They aren't burners, but they're really good route runners and have great hands," Dehem said. "If you run a good route, you can drop your 40 time by a tenth of a second."
The team's experience is evident up front, as well, with nose guard Jack Norman and outside linebacker/guard Jackson Mansour, both seniors. Junior Nick Sargent, a tackle on both sides of the ball, also has plenty of experience.
The defense will have new starters at inside linebacker with Grant Janke and Nate Wilkey.
"They both play really fast," Dehem said.
McCluskey, a member of the Ledger-Enquirer's Dandy Dozen, will be the leader on the defensive side of the ball in addition to his running back duties on offense.
Dehem praised the defensive back's overall skill.
"He's quick, smart and he's just got a nose for the ball," he said.
The team has 47 players, 15 of which are seniors.
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571
Head coach: Brad Dehem
Region: Region 4-A
Last season's record: 8-3, 8-2 in Region 4-A
Last season's playoff record: 0-1SCHEDULE
Aug. 31 vs. Columbus High 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 7 vs. Mount Para Christian 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 21 at Wesleyan 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 28 vs. Dooly County 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 5 vs. Pacelli 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 12 at Hawkinsville 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Schley County 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 26 at Marion County 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 2 vs. Central-Talbotton 7:30 p.m.
Nv. 9 at Greenville 7:30 p.m.