4 Questions with Brooks County head coach Maurice Freeman

Today’s interviewee is Maurice Freeman, coach of 2021 Class A Public champion Brooks County. Freeman, in his 35th season coaching high school football, has led his alma mater to five region titles and two state championships, the first one in 1994.

Maurice Freeman, Brooks County head coach

1. What was the story of your team’s 2021 championship? “The story was that we lost the state title to Irwin County the year before, then had to play them in Irwin and lost again (in the 2022 region opener), and we just wanted to redeem ourselves. We needed to beat them to prove to ourselves that we could play on and above their level more so than winning a state title. It was conquering something we were having trouble with. It just happened to be in a state championship game, which was icing on the cake.” (The Trojans also lost to Irwin County in a 2021 regular-season game, meaning they had gone 0-3 vs. their rivals in 12 months. Brooks County won the 2021 title game 56-28 as Omari Arnold, now a Georgia Southern freshman, rushed for a state finals-record 320 yards.)

2. What’s in store for this year’s team? “Our strength is defense right now. We’ve got eight returning starters on defense. They have to get us to the point where our offense catches up. Our quarterback, Jamal Sanders, will have to put us on his shoulders. (Sanders passed for 2,310 yards and rushed for 541 last season as a junior.) Our offensive line is going to be decent. Our running backs will be good in the long haul. Our wide receivers are young and inexperienced. We expect our kicking game to be better.”

3. Omari Arnold became the second 6,000-yard rusher in school history. The first was Chris Cole, who led Brooks to its first state title in 1994. Cole’s son, Chris Cole Jr., is taking Omari’s place as your feature back this season. What’s it like to coach a star player’s son all these years later, and how does Jr. compare to Sr.? “He’s got some big shoes to fill of his dad, who was a great running back. I only had the dad for one year, but he was outstanding. He also started at outside linebacker, so he really never left the field. He had great football instincts. I was 28 (years old) at the time, so I didn’t really get a chance to absorb all that and appreciate all we did that first year. I was so young. As I get closer to the end of my career, I’ve started to smell all the roses. You realize your time is coming to a close, and I’m going to smell every one. With his son, I get a chance to explain exactly who his dad was and guide him, along with his position coach and coordinator, in what he needs to be and how he needs to play. It’s baby steps. Don’t compare yourself to your dad or you’ll end up mesmerized. If you just do your job, when the chips fall, maybe you’ll be as good as your dad, but it’s an honor to coach both.” (Freeman also will coach his grandson, Jamari Thomas, a freshman quarterback. “We call him Grandson,” Freeman said. “Everybody calls him Grandson. His name is Grandson.”)

4. Class A is different than in 2021. There are no more public and private divisions. You’re in Division I with Irwin County again but also some private schools, such as Prince Avenue Christian, and former Class 2A power Rabun County. How do you feel about your new classification and how reclass settled? “I don’t care who we’re playing. I’m just happy to get on the field. We could be playing Lowndes in Game 15 and it wouldn’t matter. We’d come up with a game plan and play to the best of our ability. I don’t have a crying towel when it comes to that. We have 10 games on our schedule. If we get to play games 11, 12, 13, 14 or 15, I’m grateful. The one thing you can be sure about Brooks County: We’re going to play, we’re going to play hard, and we’re going to bring that hammer.”

Produced by Georgia High School Football Daily, a free email newsletter. To join the mailing list, click here.