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Resurgent Blue Tide’s goal: #Play12
Ahmari Douglas
Record-setting running back Ahmari Douglas returns for the Long County Blue Tide after setting a new standard in rushing yards for a season at the school. File photo

Over the last two years, the Long County Blue Tide football team has made significant strides. The 2021 and 2022 seasons were nothing short of historic as they have won 11 games and made their only two playoff appearances in that stretch.

A large part of their success has been third-year head coach Mike Pfiester. One thing he has learned is that coaches should try to focus more on the things that they are able to handle on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

“Try to focus on things that you can control,” Pfiester said. “As a head coach, there’s a lot of things that go into that and there’s a lot of parts to this puzzle and a lot of them are out of your control…It’s something I’m still working on…just trying to focus on things that you can control and things that give the kids a good experience and a chance to win on Friday.”

Entering the 2021 season, the Blue Tide had won 28 total games over 23 seasons with no playoff appearances, one non-losing record and no more than six wins in a season. In Pfiester’s first two seasons, the team is 11-11 with two playoff appearances and they went 6-5 last year, their first ever winning record.

Pfiester has talked with the players about how they now have a “target on their backs” due to the success over the last two seasons. He said that it’s his and his coaching staff’s responsibility to make sure they are prepared when it is time to hit the gridiron.

“That’s something that we, as coaches, need to focus on,” he said. “To make them aware of and I think they are and I think that we need to make sure that there’s not a sense of complacency with them. The increase of success that we’ve had has been great, but you worry about the kids thinking that’s good enough. I hope they understand that it’s not good enough and there are teams that want to see us not do well…That’s our job as coaches, to use an old cliche, to take it one game at a time, but at the end of the day the most important thing is getting better each day and finding out on Friday night, if we’ve done the work and deserve to be good or not.”

While Pfiester and his coaching staff have helped lead the players to success, he always says that coaches don’t play the game. They have had some great players, including senior running back Ahmari Douglas.

In 2022, Douglas rushed for a school record 1,627 yards and 20 touchdowns, pushing him just under 200 yards shy of the 3,000-yard career mark. Douglas will be a big part of the offensive attack again for the Tide, but Pfiester also hopes the boys up front take the next step in 2023.

“We need to figure out if we have some guys on the line of scrimmage that can help us and play well,” Pfiester said. “Guys like (senior) Lem McBride on the defensive side. (Senior) Jacob Hewitt, (junior) Wyatt Walters, the line of scrimmage guys are huge. Skill wise, guys like (senior) Alex Cason we think can have a big year for us. There’s some guys in that junior class like Jaeson Carryl. Can they contribute and replace guys that we lost like Christian Glenn and Joe Saddler? There’s a lot of guys that need to step up for us to maintain the level we’ve been at.”

In 2021, the biggest goal for the Blue Tide was to #Play11, something they had never done before. They have done that over the last two years, but Pfiester wants the next goal to be checked off.

He wants his team to win a playoff game and have the opportunity to #Play12. He even stole a quote from legendary Camden County football coach Jeff Herron that Pfiester said was more than relevant to the Blue Tide’s success over the last two years.

“That’s the million dollar question. It goes back to that everyday focus and being in class and doing your best and being in the weight room and going to practice,” Pfiester said before mentioning Herron’s quote. “All his teams have been really good, but ‘they deserved to be good’ by doing all those little things”.

Pfiester asked himself a question about his team.

“Do we deserve to play 12? I don’t know yet,” he said. “It’s hard to say right now and if you tell the kids to focus on one game at a time, it’s hard for me as the coach to sit here and talk about game twelve. You’ve gotta get to 11, before you get to 12. We’ve gotta deserve to play twelve and that’s the biggest thing.”

One big challenge the Blue Tide had to overcome was playing against three private schools from Savannah as part of their new region alignment. They beat Savannah Country Day, but fell short against Savannah Christian and Calvary Day, the latter of which was and still is loaded with Division I talent.

It is clear to Pfiester and the team that if they want an opportunity to host a playoff game, something else they have never done before, that they will have to beat two of those three private schools in the region, which Pfiester knows is a “significant challenge” “That’s probably a bigger challenge than winning a first round playoff game,” he said. “We have teams in our region that are really, really talented and they operate in a different way than we do and it’s a challenge. We’ve gotta find a way to be the best version of ourselves and when it gets to Friday night, eliminate mistakes, major penalties, turnovers, all those things. We would have to play very, very well to be able to knock those guys off.”

With the team equaling nearly half of their 28 wins from the first 23 years of football in the last two seasons, it’s safe to say that the Blue Tide of old could be well on its way out. The 2023 season is already proving to be the ultimate test of where the team currently stands. The Blue Tide played in a scrimmage on Friday, Aug 4 at McIntosh County Academy and host Statesboro in a second scrimmage Friday, Aug. 11. They kick off the regular season on Friday, Aug. 18 as they host the Toombs County Bulldogs.

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