Sunday night, the ballroom at the Marriott off Exit 11 was packed. Players and Coaches and staff, their families and a bunch of volunteers and fans showed up to honor the 2020 team, one of the most resilient teams anywhere, anytime. And to thank retiring head football Coach Jeff Arnette for his outstanding 11 years as the boss of the War Eagles’ football program. In fact, the caterers ran out of food before everyone was served.
“Next year”, quipped the now Head Coach Troy Morris, “the players go last.”
At the invite of Doug Thomas, I was fortunate enough to sit at one of the South Forsyth Touchdown Club’s tables, right behind the coaches table. A perfect spot to do “a lot of sitting and listening”, as Doug said. Once the dishes were cleared, new President of the touchdown club, Gee Harvey, took to the mic to get the show started.
Harvey went through all his thank yous, introduced the Coaches, then introduced the board. It was kind of him, when introducing Doug, to include me in the notes. Many approached me during the evening and asked if I was going to call South’s games again this fall, and my answer was, yep, sure am, starting with next months Blue/White Spring Game. This will be my seventh season calling games here in FoCo, and my fourth with South. When I started this thing, I tried to cover the whole county, get every school in. After three seasons, though, I hadnt seen much growth. I had noticed that every time I did a South game, there was great reception and a solid audience. So talking to Doug one day after season three, he suggested I pair up with the SoFo Touchdown Club and call all their games, home and away. The rest is history. Doug is the Game Day production co-ordinator, the guy who turns off the lights between quarters three and four at the Nest, made possible by the fancy new lights they installed at the Nest. He’s also the Stadium voice of the War Eagles. We will kick off our fourth season together when toe meets ball in August Doug’s by my side on the road. Home games, when Doug’s in the booth, Mike Newsome brings his awesome skills to the broadcast. That will be our set up come May 21, a Friday night, at the Spring game.
The evening continued with player introductions by the squad’s coaches. First up, the Freshman. Now I mentioned Doug saying there would be a lot of sitting and listening. I know that was aimed at me, because he knows I’m hard pressed to stay still. Well, his best intentions acknowleged, I still had my moment. After the last frosh got his plaque, after the applause died down, in that quiet little couple of seconds, I found my moment.
“THE FUTURE IS NOW, BOYS!”, I shouted, clearly and concisely.
Doug had his fist in my ribs before I even finished the sentence, but the words hung in the air. Once the words sank in, he shook his head and shot me a smile. A smattering of chuckles and applause, with a couple parents smiling and one telling me, with a big grin on her face, “You’re so right!” And I am. These rising Sophomores are the future of this program, as rising Sophs are in every program in America, and I was happy to remind them. Their impact on this program, and the work they need to put in to get there, started the moment they stepped off the stage.
The Sophs, Juniors and Seniors followed, then the introduction of the team captains of 2020, with one obvious exception. We’ll talk more about that during the Spring Game LIVE podcast. But I’ll say this. Ty Watkins looks the part. And his whole family are big fans of our show, so really I can’t wait. I’ve already told Coach Morris I’m anxious to see who the back up is.
Finally, Gee brought up the previous president of the SoFo Touchdown Club, Jeff Stephens, who got to the highlight of the evening. He told a few stories, then brought Jeff Arnette up on the stage.
You had to be there. This man has set more than a few records in this county. 11 seasons. 7 straight playoff appearances. Dozens of players to the next level. And yet it was never about him. It was about hs players and coaches and staff. And the parents. Coach Arnette took some time to thank the parents, and was thoughtful enough to mention me and Doug and our interview with him and Coach Morris. He said he had really laid his feelings out there, so he wouldn’t get into all that on this evening.
Fortunately, if you missed Doug’s and my interview with the two great coaches and longtime friends, here’s the link. Catch it for the first time, or enjoy it again. It’s really good.
Greg Golden and Doug Thomas’ chat with Coaches Jeff Arnette and Troy Morris
All in all a beautiful event. Many thanks to everyone involved, especially Mitzy Hutchinson, whose tireless effort brought the whole evening together.
See you LIVE May 21st!