Corey Cusick/ Times-Georgia
Months have turned into weeks and weeks have turned into days. The wait is almost over.
As the countdown to the 2017 campaign inches closer, Sean Calhoun met up with his coaching counterpart on Monday afternoon to go over the logistics of the 2017 West Georgia Kickoff Classic at University Stadium.
Calhoun won his debut as the Carrollton High School head football coach last year in this event courtesy of a 16-6 triumph over Newnan and the two teams will lock horns once again on Aug. 17 at the University of West Georgia, which will mark the start of the Chip Walker era at Newnan.
Walker is no stranger to the Carrollton program, as he comes to the Cougars after spending the previous 12 seasons as the head coach at Sandy Creek, racking up 127 wins and three state championships during that span, including a 14-7 decision over the Trojans in the 2010 Class AAA state championship game.
Calhoun said the addition of Walker and his coaching staff should make the contest even more electrifying, as the Trojans will do their part to make sure it's not a coming out party for the Cougar coach at RA-LIN Field.
"With them getting such a high-quality coach as coach Walker, he's going to have them ready to play," Calhoun said. "So we've got to have a good week of practice leading up to it. We've got to be prepared for their best shot. They're going to want to win for him as bad as our kids wanted to win for me last year."
The season opener marks the fourth consecutive year Carrollton and Newnan have matched up in the non-region portion of the schedule, with the Trojans snapping a two-game skid to the Cougars in last year's defensive struggle.
UWG Senior Associate Athletic Director Eddie Duffey noted how this year's rematch has all the hallmarks for a tremendous night of football to get the season off and running.
"We couldn't be more thrilled to kick off the 2017 high school football season here in this region of the state with what we feel like is the marquee matchup that you dream of," Duffey said. "You've got two programs like Carrollton High School and Newnan High School, both with tremendously rich heritages and traditions. It will be our pleasure to host both of these school systems and to treat them to a great game day experience as they come to University Stadium on August the 17th."
Although Carrollton will technically be the road team, Calhoun is hoping to see the fans filled with Black and Gold in order to give his team an edge under the Thursday night lights.
After experiencing the atmosphere last year, Calhoun expects his ballclub to be poised and ready to play come kickoff in what will be somewhat of a home away from home.
"I think it helps a lot just from a standpoint that it's an away game, but you were just here last year. So you're not getting caught up in playing in such a big stadium, a college stadium. I don't expect our kids to be nervous. They'll be excited," Calhoun said. "It's the first game of the year, so everything that we've been doing since January is leading up to that first game."
Coming right out of the gates against a Class AAAAAAA program will serve as a quality measuring stick for the Trojans, who have state championships aspirations after making it to Game 13 last season.
The Cougars stumbled to a 3-7 finish last year, but Calhoun anticipates a bounce-back season for Newnan this fall and another barnburner in the opener similar to last year's 10-point tussle.
"You're talking about the opportunity to play a AAAAAAA powerhouse," Calhoun said. "When you say Newnan's name around the state of Georgia, everybody knows who they are. Everybody knows who coach Walker is for everything he's done throughout his career. So for us to come out and play a AAAAAAA opponent in the first game in this venue against such a quality coach and coaching staff and the kids they've got coming back, it's an honor to be in this game. We'll be ready."
Today signifies another step toward setting the season into motion, as the Trojans will practice in full pads for the first time after wrapping up the acclimatization period on Monday morning.
"I told them now we're full pads and we're hitting. You would have thought I gave them all 50 bucks," Calhoun said. "They're so excited to hit and excited to play some football. They're just excited, period. Football season is here and school is starting back. Everything is just getting more exciting."
The next order of business for the Trojans is the Aug. 10 scrimmage at East Coweta, where they'll face another first-year head coach in John Small. Even though the exhibition affair won't reflect anything on the season's win-loss record, Calhoun wants to come out and make a good showing against the Indians to set the tone for the following week.
"Coach John Small came from South Gwinnett. I got to know him when he was over in Gwinnett County. He's actually a West Georgia alum," Calhoun said. "So we'll travel over there and hopefully we'll play well. Even though that's not on our record, you want to go out there and you want to win. Me and our staff and our kids, we're competitive people just in general. It'll be exciting to go up against somebody else."