In January 2013, middle Georgia coaching legend Barney Hester–a man who had won 11 GISA titles and more than 300 games at Tattnall–took over at Howard, and he wasted no time getting the program pointed in the right direction.
Fast forward to this season. With more than a year under Hester, the team took the field Monday afternoon for spring practice. Yes, the actual season is still four months away, but spring is when the real coaching happens.
"First thing, we’re teaching some of these guys how to get in a uniform," Hester says. "Some of them had never even been in a uniform before. First day of practice in the spring, we’ve got right around 100 guys out here. We’re excited."
Several of the players were obviously new to varsity competition.
When Hester split the players into position groups for drills, he told one group of young players to go with DBs (defensive backs). One of the kids approached him after the others had left and asked if a cornerback was a DB.
"Yes, a cornerback is a DB," Hester responded.
That’s just one example of how different spring is from fall.
"Fundamentals," Hester says. "I mean, that’s what it’s all about. You’ve got to learn to block and tackle, and in the spring, you’ve got time to do that. You don’t have to worry about preparing for anybody. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish."
Their accomplishment last year was breaking a 24-game losing streak. The Huskies started the season 2-0, but their momentum quickly faded. They finished with eight straight losses.
They did, however, close with a good performance. In the seven games after their two wins, they were outscored by an average of 26 points, but in the season finale against Perry, they fell by just two: 27-25.
"Even though we lost, we kept fighting," Clifton Tucker, a two-year starter at cornerback says. "The seniors last year, they left us a foundation to build off of."
Tucker will be one of ten seniors on this year’s team, which returns most of its biggest playmakers from last season.
"We’re going to be better this year," Hester says. "There’s no doubt we’ll be better. How much it shows on the scoreboard, I don’t know yet. That will be determined by how hard we work, but we’ll be better."
Howard opens the season August 22 on the road at defending AA state runner-up Lamar County.