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SCHS coaches present and past featured in Football Daily

A pair of SCHS Gamecock football coaches -- one present and one past -- have been recently highlighted as part of the Georgia High School Football Daily’s feature “Four Questions.”

On Aug. 25, current head coach Ron Duncan was the interview while on Tuesday, Sept. 5, Mark Daniel, now of Rutland in Macon, was the feature. 

Both coaches spotlighted experiences in Sylvania at SCHS in many of their answers.

GHSFD asks all participants four questions. What is the real difference between winning and losing in Georgia? What player that you have coached is most memorable for character or inspiration? What is the best atmosphere for a game that you have experienced away from home? Finally, what game do you wish you could play again?

Both coaches would wish to replay quarterfinal Gamecock losses at Kelly Memorial Stadium. For Duncan, it is last season’s 35-34 loss to Callaway and for Daniel it is the 38-20 2001 loss to Cedartown.

Said Duncan, “I would like to replay the last 17 seconds of the Callaway game from last year's quarterfinals. I still have nightmares on that one and probably always will.”

Daniel of 2001, “In the second series, our QB (Willis McCorvey) fractured his ankle and could only hobble the rest of the game. He finally got injured again (shoulder) in the third quarter because he couldn’t avoid the rush. The kids played so hard, but we could not overcome the injuries. You have to have a lot of luck to make it through without injuries. I always wonder what would have happened if we were able to stay healthy.’’

The most memorable player for each was a Gamecock. 

For Duncan, it was last season’s center, Stephen Thompson. “A once-in-a-lifetime player to coach … an unmatched work ethic. He was the first one to the field and the last one to leave. I know without question, that during his four years in our program, he never took a shortcut … valedictorian … leader by example in everything he did.”

From the 2002 season, Daniel chose Tony Evans.

“In 32 years, I have coached many good players who have grown up and are doing well in life as managers, lawyers, doctors, engineers and preachers. One of the most memorable was definitely Tony ‘The Toe’ Evans … mediocre … didn’t commit … decided to quit (before junior year). After that season, he came back to me and wanted to play again so I told him he would have to make a commitment to work hard … not be a starter … did honor that commitment and even started kicking duties … couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn … he even hit the bus parked on the other side of the scoreboard from the goal post … work(ed) hard every day at practice and slowly became more consistent.”

Gamecock fans will remember Evans for his late field goals against LaGrange in the state quarterfinals and Gainesville in the state semifinals. SCHS won those games 15-14 and 13-10, respectively, on the way to a state championship.

The best atmospheres for Duncan have all been in South Carolina. They involved state championship games played at Williams-Brice Stadium while he was an assistant coach and, “As a head coach, I would say playing at Blackville-Hilda in the semifinals in 2005. The game was sold out by Wednesday of game week.”

Sixteen years ago tonight produced the best atmosphere for Daniel. Even though it was the region opener and just the second game of the regular season of the 2001, the game in Baxley with Appling County on Sept. 7 proved to be the Region 2AAA title tilt. “Legendary Coach Bob Griffith had the place extremely excited about high school football. They had it all happening there, and we had a tough rivalry going. Their band was loud and involved in playing with timing that emphasized all of their good plays. The announcer made it sound like a playoff game. Both crowds were constantly on their feet and supporting their teams, and we won a very close game with a goal line stand on the last play of the game (fourth-and-one at the one with 14 seconds left). The place exemplified everything that was good about high school football in a small town,’’ said Daniel.

SCHS won the game 10-6 with the TD coming on a fake punt shuffle pass from Willis McCorvey to Will Campbell.

What is the real difference maker in winning and losing in Georgia high school football?

“I think you must have a combination of talent, coaching and team chemistry,” answered Duncan. “I think team chemistry is the most important factor, but you can’t underestimate the role the administration plays in supporting the vision that the coach has for his program. You can have the others and maybe have a good team, but you will never be able to build a great program without that support.”

For Daniel the direction was a little darker, “There is absolutely no question that the unequivocal No. 1 reason for success in Georgia high school football is RECRUITING! Georgia coaches now have a saying, ‘If you’re not recruiting, you’re not playing for first.’ All of the money poured into field houses and weight room facilities is to help recruit. Teams are now spending Thursday nights in hotels and not going to school on Friday’s away games so they can ‘be like the college teams.’ The reason is to influence good players to come to their schools. Who wouldn’t rather play there if you don’t have to go to class on Fridays? Staying in hotels and going to the movies is a lot more fun than going to class.”

Daniel continued, “I have heard parents say, ‘It’s my son’s senior year, I want him to have a chance to win.’ So they put their house up for sale and rent in the next district. Then after football season, they move back into their house.

“It used to be about hard work, discipline, team chemistry and character-building. Now, it’s about recruiting. After Screven County beat Gainesville in the Dome in 2002, one of their parents saw our booster president at the concession stand and said, ‘My hats off to you. Y’all beat the best team money could buy.’”

Screven County High School football is in its 67th season. In that time, teams have won nearly 390 games. Between them, Duncan and Daniel have coached here for 12 full seasons plus the two games this season. Their combined records are 107-38. In 18 percent of the seasons, they have won 28 percent of the games.

Duncan is currently 48-14, while Daniel was 59-24. They have both left, and continue to leave, a positive mark on SCHS. Both have had SCHS leave a mark on them as well.