By GARY GRIFFIN, Staff Writer
The Ware County Gator football program is into Year 3 of the head coach Franklin Stephens era and the Stephens regime is still implementing its “plan.”
The program is growing on schedule. … “Sort of,” said Stephens this week. There are, however, some issues. The key one at the moment is the Gators aren’t eating enough.
“We’re sort of on schedule,” Stephens said when asked to assess the state of the football program. “But we have got to do something about speeding up the physical makeup of our kids. Physically, we don’t look like our opponents. Glynn Academy, Coffee, Lowndes, Grady, Northside … they all are much bigger than we are.
“We’ve got to get our 150-pounders up to 180, our 180s up to 200. We need to bring them all up by 20 or so pounds. It comes down to nutrition. They aren’t eating enough. We can work as hard as we want to in the weight room and we’re not going to grow if we don’t eat enough food.”
Stephens said the Touchdown Club is “aiding us in this,” feeding the team a couple of meals a week. “But it can’t happen fast enough,” he said.
Stephens cited other programs — Colquitt County, Coffee — that feed their football players twice a day. Sources indicate that Colquitt has a kitchen/dining area in its field house and employs an athletic dietician.
“Plain and simple: we aren’t eating enough food,” Stephens said. It’s not that they aren’t getting the right kind of food, it’s that they aren’t getting enough food.
“They burn so much energy,” Stephens said. “They need to re-fuel with meals. You just don’t realize. They train in the weight room early in the morning … they’re burning energy that needs to be replenished. They practice in the heat of the day, they are burning more energy.”
The lack of enough food is one issue impeding the Gators from competing for a state championship. It’s not the only one.
“Academically, we have needs,” Stephens said. “Progress reports came out today (Wednesday). We have several, several with marginal grades. We can preach to them about this all day but it will not do any good until they commit to it.
“They need to open their eyes and focus. Football can prepare them for future life if they will allow it to. It comes down to, what are our guys doing to better themselves that’ll carry them through the duration of life. We can present a plan but they are the ones who have to accept it.”
While his football athletes lack the size to keep up with the opposition, and some of them lack the drive to perform in the classroom … they also are delinquent as a group in one other area: team speed.
“Our overall speed is not what it needs to be,” Stephens said. He acknowledged that, while the adage asserts that “you can’t coach speed,” there are measures and techniques that will improve an athlete’s acceleration.
Largely, though, speed is an intangible that … “you either have it or you’re chasing it,” Stephens quipped.