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Trojans attempting to add to their football history

Gaylesville coach Brian Knapp gives direction during a practice last summer. File photo by Shannon Fagan.

CENTRE – The Gaylesville Trojans have welcomed back a familiar face on their football coaching staff in Justin Jacobs. Jacobs, who coaches the offensive line and secondary, is going into his fourth year with the Trojans and fifth overall after having spent a year at Class 5A Greenville.

Jacobs was head coach Brian Knapp’s fill-in spokesman at Saturday’s Cherokee County football media day at Easy Street restaurant in Centre. Knapp was coaching his daughter Bristol’s 8-and-under youth softball team in the state tournament in Georgia that afternoon.

Speaking of the postseason, Knapp led the Trojan football team there as well last season. It was their first Class 1A playoff appearance since 2013 – something that sort of sticks in Jacobs’ craw.

“I joke around with the coaching staff that I was there for four years and we didn’t make the playoffs. The one year I leave they make the playoffs,” Jacobs joked. “Selfishly, I was a little upset, but it speaks highly of what Coach Knapp has been able to do. It speaks really highly of what the kids are doing. They come in every day and they work hard. We don’t make it about ourselves. We make it about the kids because that’s why we’re there. They do a great job of coming in and working and playing the game how it’s supposed to be played. They put themselves in an opportunity to be successful.”

The Trojans are attempting to put themselves in another opportunity to be successful again in 2022. They have six seniors and nine returning offensive starters (six on defense).

When Knapp came calling Jacobs back with an offer to assist at Gaylesville again, it was an offer Jacobs couldn’t refuse.

“I’m happy to be back,” he said. “It was a great experience to be with those guys (at Greenville) and to be able to coach in an environment like that. I’m hoping I can bring some of the stuff I learned in Greenville and bring it back to Gaylesville.

“Gaylesville is like home. When Coach Knapp called me and offered me the spot, I really didn’t hesitate. I prayed about it and felt like it was the right thing to do. I made the decision to come back. I’m excited to be back.”

The players are glad to have him back too.

“I didn’t know he came back. I come in the weight room one day and he was there. I was so excited,” senior fullback and lineman Briley Mitchell said. “It’s good for him to be back with us.”

“He’s a great coach. He always pushes us to our limits,” senior guard/linebacker Bailey Glassco said.

This year’s seniors are attempting a rare feat at Gaylesville. They’re trying to become just the fourth team in Trojan history to make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. The other times were 1990-91, 2006-07, and 2009-11.

They know to accomplish that feat begins with summer workouts.

“The numbers since Coach Knapp has taken over have been around the same. We still have around 30 (kids). Some days we have closer to 40,” Jacobs said. “We’ve had around 30 as an average number that have been at workouts. At Gaylesville, you just look to get every boy you can to come out and play the sport. That’s a big thing for us. We recruit our own school and get those kids to come in and help us to play.

“Coach Knapp does a fantastic job in the weight room. He does a great job working the kids out. I know it’s rough on them. We laid that foundation and keep building off of that.”

Joining Mitchell and Glassco in this year’s senior class are quarterback Tanner Eads, tight end/defensive end Keylon Higgins, lineman David Glenn, and wide receiver/defensive back Seth Lee.

“It’s a big senior class for Gaylesville, but at some point you’ve got to look for the younger guys to step in and really take that torch and pass it on, help contribute to the program,” Jacobs said.

Following a fall jamboree against Class 5A Douglas on Aug. 11, the Trojans open the 2022 regular season at home on Aug. 19 against Class 2A West End of Walnut Grove. Two weeks later on Sept. 2, they begin Class 1A, Region 7 play at Coosa Christian, then play at rival Cedar Bluff on Sept. 9.

“I feel like every year it’s a tough schedule,” Jacobs said. “You play the numbers game, and by the end of the year, you really have about 15 (kids) who play for you. That’s without injuries.

“We start off Week 0 playing West End. That’s going to be a great game for us. Then we get to region play. Our region is a tough region. You have Appalachian who is good every year. You have Cedar Bluff, which is a hard mountain to climb for us. You never know what Decatur Heritage is going to bring, but it’s going to be good. Valley Head is Valley Head. They’re hard to line up against. They have the good running back (Eian Bain), and Coosa Christian is up there with them.”

Both Glassco and Mitchell feel the Trojans are up to the challenge.

“It’s definitely going to be hard, but we’ve got some returning people. I think we can handle it,” Glassco said. “(Last season) really shows with work we can make it happen. A lot of people overlook us, which it’s easy for us to sneak up on them.”

“I know we have some tough opponents on there, but it’s like that every year,” Mitchell said. “We’ll take the challenges as they come to us.”

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