Long County won its final game of the year Friday, manhandling Metter High School.
The Blue Tide jumped out to the lead and were ahead 42-7 at the half. They never looked back in the 49-7 victory. Blue Tide players who scored included Jaleel Braggs, Luke Golden, Deonte’ Ellis, Vanda Vareen and Jeffery Hall.
“The kids came out ready to play, they did exactly what we told them to do and it was evident on the scoreboard,” Long County head coach Ron Flott said.
With the win, the Blue Tide posted its best record in school history finishing 5-5. The team also posted its best finish in the 2-AA Region standings, finishing sixth with a 4-5 record. Flott said his team was only a play or two away from making the playoffs. “We kept getting better all year. Every week you could see improvement. If not for two holding (penalty) calls against Toombs (County) and McIntosh (County) we might be in the playoffs now,” he said.
Flott attributed the success to a cultural change embraced by the players and the community.
“The kids bought into smash-mouth football and that was big. Also we have a process that was bought into with the whole program.”
Flott said he and his coaches stressed players doing well with class and to being good citizens.
“We want them to be the best student that they can be, the best citizen that they can be. Then if they are doing those two things, they can focus on football.”
The coach also said coaches didn’t stress winning as much as individual responsibility.
“We wanted them to play football from the snap to the whistle. We told them to do their job, and not to worry about anything else. If everyone did their job to the best of their ability, then at the end of the game we would see what the score board said, and that would take care of itself.”
Flott said another improvement was in the team’s weightlifting and strength conditioning. He said several area coaches commented on the players’ physiques, how they appeared to be in better shape than in the past. He said this improvement also affected players’ confidence.
“That’s huge, when you can put your hands on another player and then control that player it’s a real confidence booster,” Flott said.
Looking toward next year, the team will need to replace several key players. It will loses 11 seniors, including Josh Berry, Golden, Hall and Jacob Turner. Key returners include Vareen, Nick Stock, Matt Holtz, Malik Williams, and Evan Strickland.