4 Questions with Fannin County head coach Chad Cheatham

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Today’s interviewee is Fannin County coach Chad Cheatham, whose team won its first playoff game since 1995 last week with a 28-21 victory over Pace Academy. Fannin also finished undefeated in the regular season for the first time since 1995 and won its first region title since 2007. Fannin County is host to Heard County on Friday in the Class 2A second round.

Chad Cheatham, Fannin County head coach

1. What has been the reaction of the community and school to the season that Fannin has had? “The reaction has been tremendous. Growing up here in Fannin and participating in several sports through 1991, this community has always and continues to show overwhelming support for athletics, academics and all extracurricular activities. Because we are a small community, our fan base thrives on the opportunity to come out and support all of our students in any endeavor. They are involved in a very positive way. They have been especially excited about the 2020 year because there have been so many obstacles and setbacks that all programs have had to overcome. Whether it be COVID, a hurricane or just recently snow, we are a community of pride and perseverance. It has been such a joy to see the outpouring of support for these young men.”

2. What’s the scouting report on your team? What could people expect to see if they came to Blue Ridge for the game Friday night? “I would hope anyone watching would see a team with great discipline and desire. A team that is willing to battle for 48 minutes regardless of the scoreboard. A team that has great love for one another and is truly a family. Certainly a team that focuses on ‘doing simple better’ blocking, tackling, effort and execution. Offensively, we try to take advantage of what we feel the defense gives us. We have a tremendous quarterback in Luke Holloway and several talented receivers in Jalen Ingram, Seth Reece, Andre Bivens and Cohutta Hyde. However, we are not afraid to run the football. Up front on offense, we are very ‘blue collar.’ EAT is the theme – Enthusiasm, Attitude and Toughness. Defensively, we base out of a 3-5-3 with multiple pressure packages but would prefer to play technique and run to the football. We want to play fast and without confusion. We are not extremely big, so we have to be runners and hitters. We emphasize tackling and pursuing the ball. Get off the ground and make a play.”

3. Your hiring in 2018 was interesting in that you appeared set to take another job. What all happened then, and what brought you to Fannin? “I had been an assistant at Banks County for two years and the job there came open. At that time, Fannin wasn’t a thought with the exception of a lifelong dream tucked away in my heart. I was going to lead at Banks County. I took the job at Banks, and we had already begun lifting preparing, etc. One morning, my mother called me and said, ‘Son. the Fannin job just came open. Do you think you would be interested in coming home?’ Obviously yes! However, I had just taken the job at Banks. I did not sleep for weeks. I wanted so bad to go home, but I knew the commitment I had made. I reached out to several coaches that I loved and respected and each of them told me, ‘Chad, you will never go wrong going home and doing what is best for your family.’ I had the opportunity to interview and was offered the job at Fannin, and Banks County was so gracious in understanding and finally I got to accomplish the dream I had longed for since I was a young Fannin Rebel. I am truly blessed. It is truly an honor to coach in your hometown, especially a town like Blue Ridge. The entire county is one big family. I am humbled each day to live here, work here and have my children grow up here. They have taken my wife in just like a daughter that has been here all of her life.”

4. When you were hired, the program had just finished its seventh straight losing season. What was the most important thing that you and your staff have done to make the team a winner? “The most important thing I think starting out was the fact that I was able to hire an amazing staff. Not only are they great football coaches, but they are wonderful husbands and fathers. It is a pleasure to get to serve them daily. The other was simple - Energy, Excitement, Positivity and Praise. We invested in these kids’ lives. not just on the field but off the field. They come to our houses, eat with our families, hang out with our children. We have fun. We laugh. But when the whistle blows, this bunch goes to work. Because here in Fannin Grit, Sweat, Love, Faith and Family is all we know!”

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