Heard County won its first state championship in 2018 with a 27-6 victory Rockmart in the Class AA final. That avenged a 33-0 regular-season loss from three months earlier. Today's interviewee is Heard County coach Tim Barron, in his 18th season with the Braves.
Tim Barron, Heard County head coach
1. In 2018, you lost two games by 30 points to teams in your own classification and still won the title. How were you playing so much better three months later? "It didn't happen quickly. We didn't get better from just one game. Obviously we played two really good opponents [Rockmart and Hapeville Charter]. They identified weaknesses, whether it was personnel or schemes or playing people out of position. We got humbled. It was painful. We had to go back and look to move some kids up. Next week, we weren't a lot better, but we got a little better every week. And by the end of the year, it wasn't as hot. We had a lot of kids going both ways. That helped. We knew we were talented, but we just weren't a good football team at that time in the year."
2. Are there pros and cons to playing such a strong early schedule? "Every team is different. You have to have a pulse on your team and what they can handle mentally and physically. We're playing the same schedule again [Hapeville and Rockmart, plus LaGrange and Central of Carrollton in non-region.] We're not as athletic as we were, but ultimately, I think our kids can handle it. If they can stay together through the non-region, by the end of the year, we can be a good football team."
3. Who is the team to beat in 2019? "Obviously there's a big drop-off between what we were a year ago. We graduated a big senior class. Hapeville Charter is extremely talented. Callaway is extremely talented. Rockmart is talented. Fitzgerald is going to be dang good. I'm really impressed with the coaching staff at Fitzgerald, and they return a lot. I don't follow Dublin that well, but I think they'll be good. AA is going to have some good football teams. For us, we're going to have to be good up front on both sides. That's what we're wanting to happen. For us to be successful and turn into a good team by mid-season, we need that to happen. If it doesn't, we're going to have some struggles."
4. Which player off the 2018 team will you miss the most? And which are you most grateful to have returning? "To narrow down to one, that's tough. It was such a talented group. We had six guys sign D-I. That's never happened in our program. Aaron Beasley's at Tennessee. Zaylin Wood's at Maryland. Our quarterback [Alijah Huzzie] was extremely good for us. He's gone to East Tennessee State. We had a receiver [LeQuincy Shepherd] who broke our single-season TD mark. We're missing an all-state inside linebacker [Andrew Leak]. I could say this. We've been so spoiled at quarterback for so long. Right now, we don't have that one guy ahead of the others. We've got three guys battling. It's always a good, warm feeling for the offensive coordinator to know you have a veteran, so it might be Alijah Huzzie in terms of need. As far as the player we're most grateful to have, it's [defensive end] Tray Owens up front. He was really good, and now he's bigger, faster and stronger. We're excited to see what he's going to do."
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