By Alvin Richardson
Bill Malone has been around the Morgan County football program for a long time. The veteran coach, who is one of the longest tenured in Class AAA and in the top 25 longest tenured in the state, has been at Morgan since 1994. He started as an assistant coach on Kenny Moore’s staff and was named head coach in 2007. Over the span of 13 years as head coach, Malone has compiled a record of 77-62 with two region titles to his credit.
He’s seen just about everything this crazy sport can throw at you but 2020 has the potential to be the craziest year of them all.
With the coronavirus pandemic making up a huge part of the equation, Malone and his coaching staff have had to navigate all the normal stuff that coaches do to prepare for a season and figure out how to safely conduct practice and get his team ready for the campaign.
And there is no road map to guide them.
In talking with Malone this week he noted that following the 2019 season one of the priorities included finding a quarterback to replace two year starter Trent Folds. Then the pandemic hit and kept his squad from having 1) spring practice, 2) a spring game, 3) the seven-on-seven workouts (passing game) during the summer and 4) pre-season scrimmages. All those things were key to developing a new starting quarterback and thus the Bulldogs are having to make up for lost time on that front.
In the midst of the pandemic disruption Malone had effusive praise for his coaching staff and said, “More than any other year I can remember our staff has led the way in mapping out our way through these challenges. Coach Brunson (Bob) and his staff in the weight room have done an outstanding job of making sure we keep our kids safe and moving forward and that has been a key element so far.” Malone also went on to say, “Because of what we have learned (on how to navigate the safety aspects) and because of how our kids have followed their directives I’m somewhat more optimistic than I was two months ago that the season can actually move forward.”
Another interesting aspect of the 2020 season is the new region Morgan has been assigned to. The Bulldogs are playing in Region 4AAA (instead of 8AAA) for the first time since 2011 when Morgan was in Class AA. This region features historical powerhouses Burke County and Thomson and Malone described the difference. “To me it feels like the old regions of the 1990’s when we were in there with teams like Washington-Wilkes and Elbert County. It looks like this region is going to more ground-oriented and physical than what we’ve encountered most recently.”
When it comes to expectations Malone always maintains that their priority is to win the region title. “We always go into a new year with that as our number one goal but I’ve kind of added to that another goal and that is to win a state playoff game. We have been in a drought in that department and we simply have to get over that hump.” Malone continued, “We have a big senior class (over 20) and those guys have made the playoffs every year but they want to take the next step and that’s what we are looking to do.”
In terms of the team’s strength Malone thinks that the offensive line should be a good one which bodes well for a solid running game and good pass protection.
So as we enter the craziest season anyone can remember, Morgan County is poised to jump into the fray with a veteran head coach, a staff that has been together for a long time, a solid group of seniors and a brand new region in which to compete. If the coronavirus will just leave us alone.
It should be interesting to say the least.