High School Sports

David Mitchell commentary: In time, Carver will win over poll voters

I’ve gotten some feedback from a few fans on the Georgia Sportswriters Association football poll, and I thought I’d address it here. Specifically, the part where Carver is ranked behind region rival Peach County.

Here’s how the argument goes:

Carver beat Peach County on the road to win the region last season; Carver advanced to the state quarterfinals, a round further than the Trojans, who got trounced by visiting North Hall, 52-10, in the second round; and, Carver returns a vast majority of its talent in comparison to Peach County, which lost its best player, wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (now with the Florida Gators).

Furthermore, these individuals argue, Carver has a stable of next-level talent on its roster, which should put it firmly on the shortlist for state title contenders.

Is that an accurate summary?

I’ll break this debate down first by stating that I understand and agree with all of these issues. They would certainly suggest, to me at least, that Carver is the better team on paper and should, as a result, be placed higher in the rankings. Hence, my No. 3 ranking for the Tigers behind Buford and St. Pius X. I have Peach County ranked two spots lower at No. 5.

There is one thing I think the voters are looking closely at when it comes to Carver, however, one difference between this year’s team and the seven that won region championships before it.

Dell McGee is no longer there.

Voters, no matter how they felt about Carver or about McGee, understood the expectation of excellence the former coach brought to the program. It had its first season with double-digit wins under McGee, it won its first state championship under McGee and it went back over a .500 all-time winning percentage under McGee.

The program had a lot of successful seasons under former coach Wallace Davis and there were a lot of good players to play there, but nothing like the seven-year stretch McGee put together.

Understandably, voters question, then, whether that level of achievement will depart along with the coach, who said goodbye a few short months after the 2012 season ended.

I understand the concerns. I don’t agree with them.

While Joe Kegler is an unknown across the state as a first-time head coach, I believe the program is in fine hands. At practices, I see Kegler asserting control over the program. I hear him call down players when discipline is required, and I see players respect his demands. I see seniors giving advice to younger players on how to present themselves when they are going to be interviewed.

In short, I see a great team environment.

Will there be growing pains? No doubt. For the players and the coaches.

It’s a different environment, so things will take time. McGee told me one time that he was a terrible coach when he first started. In time, he grew into a great success.

It’s natural to question a team and drop it a couple of notches when the only constant in its success leaves the program. I think that’s a common perception among people outside of Columbus.

It won’t take long, however, for the Tigers to prove they are still the class of the region.

Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ledgerenquirersports.