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Class AA blog: Checking in with Vidalia

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When Lee Chomskis resigned from his post as head coach of the Vidalia Indians in January after 13 seasons to take the job at Lincoln County, he took with him a 101-45 record, two region titles and 10 postseason appearances. The program is accustomed to winning so, naturally, the next person to come in will be expected to continue that tradition. Expectations are high.

Fortunately for Vidalia, Chomskis’ successor appears to fit the bill. Jason Cameron is a young, up-and-coming coach who comes from Jenkins, where he posted a 33-7 record in three seasons. In his short time there, the Warriors won two region championships and made deep playoffs runs, reaching the quarterfinals in 2017 and 2018 and the semifinals last season.

Only 34, Cameron saw the Vidalia opening as an opportunity to take the next step in his coaching career, which began as an assistant when he was just 21.

“Jenkins is a great place,” Cameron said. “Coming from New Jersey, that was my first home here from a teaching and coaching perspective. I grew so much there and I’m indebted to them.”

Cameron was a multi-sport athlete in high school, where he played football, basketball and baseball for Cliffside Park in New Jersey. He played quarterback at Cliffside and went on to play baseball and basketball at William Patterson University (Wayne, N.J.). Fresh out of college, he returned to his alma mater and began coaching.

“I wanted to change kids’ lives,” he said. “Wins and losses come and go but coaching has a lasting impact on kids. That’s what drew me to coaching.”

Cameron coached four seasons at Cliffside, working his way up to offensive coordinator before moving to Savannah, where his wife is from. At Jenkins, his mother-in-law served as athletic director and he was brought onto Tim Adams’ coaching staff in 2015. After the 2016 season, Adams left his post at Jenkins — like Chomskis — after 13 seasons. As a result, Cameron was promoted to head coach for the first time in his career.

In Adams’ last season at Jenkins, the Warriors finished 10-2 and advanced to the second round. In Cameron’s first season at the helm, they made history, going 12-1 and advanced to the quarterfinals — they furthest the program had gone since reaching the semifinals in 1966. The 12 wins were the most in a program that dates back to 1957. Last season’s Warriors went 12-2 and reached the semifinals, where the Indians haven’t been since 2003.

For the second time in his career, Cameron is in a position to take over for a team replacing a head coach of 13 years, with the hope of taking the team further than his predecessor.

Can Cameron go 2-for-2?

“The sky is the limit at Vidalia,” he said. “There’s great community support, a great athletic department and and a great feeder program. We have a great core coming back and a great 7th and 8th grade class coming up, so we should have sustained success ahead of us as long as we work hard.”

Through no fault of his own, his tenure at Vidalia is off to a difficult start. The school year has been canceled along with all GHSA sports activities including spring football, which is crucial for a first-year coach.

“My first official day was the day they postponed school,” Cameron said.

Not being at school with the students has cost Cameron time building relationships with his players. That, he said, has been the biggest challenge thus far. Further, he didn’t get the chance to evaluate his players before school let out. The closest he got was seeing some of his two-sport athletes make a playoff run during basketball season.

Other than that, he has studied game film and individual player highlights.

“I watched every game from last season and some twice,” he said. “And you can only watch so much Hudl. Eventually you have to see them in person and have them see what you’re expecting them to do.”

Under Cameron, the Indians will be shifting from a Wing-T offense to the spread, and will play in a more up-tempo scheme. But before the install and evaluation processes, the team must catchup on another key element of the offseason: conditioning.

“The weight room is the biggest thing the kids are losing out on this time of year,” he said. “Eight weeks off, and that’s if we can get back in there in July. Twelve weeks if August. We’ve got to work on getting stronger first.”

The Indians return to Region 2, which last year was so competitive it nearly entered unprecedented territory in GHSA history. On the final week of the regular season, Jeff Davis came within five points of beating Metter. Had the Yellow Jackets won, there would have been a five-way tie for first place between Jeff Davis, Metter, Swainsboro, Toombs County and Vidalia, meaning there wouldn't have been enough playoff spots for each first place team. It's still unclear how that would have been sorted out.

Metter was reclassified to A-Public, but the six-team region — which also lost Bryan County — is still expected to be competitive.

“It’s a great region with competitive rivalries and if you don’t show up to play, you’re going to get beat,” Cameron said. “That’s exactly the type of region you want to be in.”

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