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Mike Pfiester reflects on his first season at Long County and future of Blue Tide football
Pfiester watches his team during game against Butler - photo by Gerald Thomas III

LUDOWICI -- Sometimes you go into things not knowing what to expect.

But Mike Pfiester was up for the challenge of taking over a struggling Long County Blue Tide football program.

In his first season at head coach for the Tide, they would go 5-5 in the regular season before falling to Southeast Bulloch in the first round of the GHSA 3A playoffs.

This would be the first playoff appearance in program history for the Tide.

“It was definitely a challenge,” Pfiester said. “I think when we got here, going through the schedule I thought we could win five games and if we did that, we ought of make the playoffs and we were able to. From a result standpoint, we met our expectations. We wanted to play 11 and we did. And there were some challenges out there. We played six teams on our schedule that were playoff qualifiers. Our kids learned the expectations and adapted, and they rose to the challenge. They hadn’t been challenged that way here and they did a good job responding.”

Everyone in the state may have been surprised by the quick turnaround of the Tide but Pfiester knew the capabilities of his first team.

“I think when I got here some folks maybe thought I was crazy, but you don’t just take a job to just take it – you want to do well,” Pfiester said. “Here the expectation for me was to make the playoffs. When we won that game at Brantley that night that was the first time that Long County had beaten Brantley since 2008 so it was a big deal for a number of reasons because that’s our most common opponent. It didn’t quite secure the playoff spot. I know some folks ran with that. I kind of felt awkward about it because it wasn’t for sure but with a five-team region, you felt really good about it. Then having Tattnall in the last game of the season and getting that win to secure the three seed was a very very big deal for us because in a five-team region there’s been years where teams have gone 1-9 or 2-8 and they win that one region game, and they make the playoffs. And that’s great but I didn’t want to be that team. Winning those two region games and being the three seed was significant for us. It was huge.”

For the 2021 season, the Tide had a dozen players receive All-Region 1-3A honors: four on the first team, four on the second team, four with honorable mentions.

Seven of the all-region players are returning, five are graduating.

“One thing I talked about at our banquet on Sunday was our seniors – they’ve been through a lot here,” Pfiester said of his Class of 2022 players. “They had three years of not great experiences football wise. But the ones that stayed with us had a good run and I think they raised expectations. It’s not just the winning on the field. I want those guys to know that those expectations carry in the weight room and the classroom. And the seniors started to get that figured out a little bit. So, Dwayne (Rowe), I think it was his third time being first team all-region I believe. It’s a big deal for him to get that honor. Kyle Young, senior offensive lineman – I don’t know if he’d been recognized at any way before, but he was a big reason why Ahmari (Douglas) was able to have the season he had. Kyle played right tackle for us and every game he was available he started and played every play. He missed one game with quarantined early in the season. But other than that, he was locked in and played well. Quintin Golden was first team all-region and will be back as a defensive back. He came on later in the year and made significant plays. Ahmari led the region in rushing in the regular season. I think he was the first back since 2014 here to rush for 1,000 yards. Stephen Wyatt was second team all-region and our defensive player of the year and he’s just a sophomore. We have a lot of things to look forward to and those guys deserve it.”

Dwayne Rowe
Dwayne Rowe (2) lines up for a play against Butler - photo by Gerald Thomas III

Ahmari Douglas
Ahmari Douglas runs through Butler defenders - photo by Gerald Thomas III

There’s some recruiting buzz around Blue Tide football with Rowe headlining them with two offers from Middle Tennessee State and the University of the Cumberlands.

“Right now, it’s an odd time for recruiting for high school kids with the transfer portal stuff and the early signing period,” Pfiester said. “But right now, Dwayne’s in the middle of that process. He’s trying to figure out what’s the best fit for him. They still have that traditional signing day in early February so he’s going to take some visits in January. Citadel was in here the other day and they’re very very interested. Mercer stopped by this fall. He’s definitely going to have some options.”

Douglas and Josiah Ansorena-Smith are also getting looks.

“Ahmari is only a sophomore but after his season that year is critical,” Pfiester said. “This offseason is going to be big for him in terms of recruiting. Josiah Ansorena-Smith is another season who went to a recruiting fair up in Atlanta to one of the combines and performed well. Sometimes you got to get out your comfort zone and travel and go somewhere they’re not used to. But I think we got some guys that will have some opportunities, no doubt.”

With his first season under his belt, Pfiester will look to change some things for the 2022 football season prep.

Other coaches and players are affiliated with other sports, so they won’t have the usual spring circuit.

“We’re going to make some changes,” Pfiester said. “This past spring, we had to do it to just install stuff and get to know the kids. But it was difficult. We have so many coaches that are coaching a spring sport. There were many days we did spring football with two or three coaches. It’s just really hard to manage and a lot of our kids, our best players are playing baseball or running track. So, we’re not going to do spring here this year. We’re going to do some offseason conditioning. In March we’ll start doing some after school stuff with kids that are not involved in another sport. But we’re going to hold off with spring and that allows us to do a second fall scrimmage. So, I anticipate our summer being a little more involved than it was last. We’re going to do a couple padded camps this summer to make up for spring. And that extra fall scrimmage will be huge for us. We’re working on a jamboree south scrimmage with a couple of other teams. Nothing is final yet, but we got some really good teams that we’re trying to match up with in that first scrimmage to figure out where we’re at. I think that’ll be really good for us to have all our guys available. We’re still going to scrimmage McIntosh for our regular scrimmage. So, I think that summer and fall work will be beneficial for us.”

The Tide will be on the move in a new look region going from a five-team region to an eight-team region.

Featured with them, will be their border neighbors Liberty County along with Savannah 3A schools.

“It’s been a wild ride,” Pfiester said of the new realignments. “They came out with the new classifications awhile back and they got all the way through the process. The regions were all locked in then all of a sudden out of the blue a couple weeks ago they met again and changed some stuff. Honestly, it’s probably better for us. It’s a bigger region. There are eight schools in there that play football. It’s not quite so top heavy like it was with the Pierce and Appling situation we just came from. But those guys dropping down left a void. It wasn’t enough teams left of our region because Brantley also dropped down and so did Tattnall. We were the only team left from our region last year that were still in triple A, so we had to go somewhere. I think it’s good from a competitive standpoint being with the Savannah schools. Obviously, there’s a private school factor. That is what it is. I’m going to let someone else figure that deal out. We’re going to show up on Friday and play whoever they tell us to play. I’m looking forward to the challenge and I think our kids are looking forward to it. It’s going to be different having to travel east and north instead of going south all the time. But we’re going to maintain Tattnall and play them in a non-region game. But I think the region will be good for us and I look forward to competing with those guys. There’s some good football there.”

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